RHETHORICS AS HISTORY
The section opens with Nikolay Plotnikov’s (Ruhr University, Bochum, Germany) article “From “individuality” to “identity” (history of personality concepts in Russian culture)”. The author demonstrates how in the 19th century a local personality discourse was formed and how the supremacy of creative drive and dominance of cultural elements were supposed to compensate for the deficit of theological, economical and legal definitions of “person”. This creativity-based concept of individuality proved to be held in common by Nikolay Berdiaev and the Soviet philosophy and pedagogic after the 1950s. Only after the radical transformation of the 1990s was it replaced with an understanding of the constructing forces of culture and society playing a part in forming modern identity.
Dmitry Kalugin’s (European University, St. Petersburg) work “The art of biography: portraying and justifying a personality in Russian biographies of the mid19th century” is devoted to a variety of genres of biographical narration present in Russia in the 19th century. The author looks into the biographies of the late 1850s of the authors like Nikolay Stankevich or Timofey Granovsky, who were “useless” from the point of view of the state, against the backdrop of the more standard rhetorics of the obituaries and service progress reports (as adopted by Faddei Bulgarin’s newspaper Northern Bee) and recurrences of sentimentalist biographical style (the Contemporary journal). The polemic stance taken by those new biographies towards the older examples only attracted sharper attention to the process of value construction of a personality and served as an indicator of social and moral changes that had happened in Russia after the death of Nicolas I.
GUSTAV SHPET’S ENTELECHEIA OR PHILOSOPHER
AS A VEHICLE OF CULTURE
This section opens with an article by Igor Chubarov (Institute of Philosophy, Moscow) “Gustav Shpet and Vladimir Soloviev: critical traduction”. The author juxtaposes two philosophers that belong to two different generations and historical periods using their philosophical doctrines and divergences in their Weltanschauung. Gustav Shpet’s (1879—1937) assertion of social nature of signifier and his very vision of society were quite removed from the utopian ideal of collegiality of Soloviev and his followers; they also differed in the way they understood the category of totality (“all-unity”). Chubarov uses a recently published essay by Shpet “Socialism and humanism” to demonstrate the differences between his social philosophy and that of both the adherents of “Sophiology” and the adepts of Bolshevism. Shpet complemented Platonic idealism with Nietzscheanism and important elements of Marxist approach, but his method was based on rethinking basic postulates of Husserl’s phenomenology.
An article by Maria Candida Ghidini (University of Parma, Italy) “Presentday tasks and eternal problems: Shpet and his school at the State Academy of Artistic Sciences” looks into activities of Shpet and his students within the framework of the well-known State Academy of Artistic Sciences (GAKhN) (1921—1929) during the NEP era. Despite the very briefness of its existence and an ephemeral nature of many projects the intellectual “core” of GAKhN managed to display a holistic approach to analysing artistic phenomena that was different from the Formalism of Opoyaz and traditional idealistic aesthetics as well as from “vulgar sociology”. The article briefly looks into activities of the Philosophical Section of GAKhN, and especially into that of its Commission on artistic form research (headed by Shpet); Shpet’s understanding of “inner form” and artistic activities of young followers of Shpet — Maksim Königsberg, Georgy Vinokur, Boris Gornung and others (typewritten journals “Hermes”, “Mnemosine”, “Hyperborea”).
Galin Tihanov (Research Institute for Cosmopolitan Cultures, University of Manchester). To a significant degree, this study is meant as a contribution to clearing the ground for a proper scholarly biography of Gustav Shpet, which someone might undertake to write in the future (for a first helpful attempt, see work of T. Shchedrina, 2004). To that end, I draw on previously unheeded published and unpublished sources, bringing together strains of research that have so far remained unconnected. My prime concern will be to establish the most significant aspects of Shpet’s involvement with Russian and Soviet culture (including literature, translation, and the theatre). The examination I undertake is intent on revealing his scattered talents and energy, and — in the years after 1927 — his tragically multifarious life under the political duress of Stalinism. I begin by analysing Shpet’s intellectual and political predicament at GAKhN in the late 1920s, an episode of crucial significance for his marginalisation and brutal victimisation during the 1930s. As I will demonstrate, the roots of Shpet’s instability lay back in the early 1920s, yet it was not until the Stalinisation of culture and scholarship gathered momentum in the second half of the 1920s that his position of leadership and public visibility grew untenable. After focusing on the propaganda campaign against the State Academy of Artistic Sciences and the consequences it had for Shpet, I work back chronologically to review Shpet’s immersion in Russian Symbolism and his contacts with the Imagists. In the final two sections I offer an analysis of Shpet’s career as a translator and of his theatre affiliations, both falling largely in the 1930s and shaped in no small measure by the ideological constraints of Stalinism.
OF THE 18th — EARLY 19th CENTURY IN RUSSIA
Victor Zhivov (Institute of Russian Language, Moscow / University of California, Berkeley). “Sentimental nationalism: Karamzin, Rostopchin, national sovereignty and a search for national identity”. The author discusses the origins of Russian nationalism and its dependence on developments in French and German political theories. The discussion focuses on two main figures: Nikolai Karamzin and Fedor Rostopchin. A connection is posited between their role as “athers” of Russian nationalism and their sentimentalist writings. These two facets are linked by the notion of national character: the discourse of national character is similar in a number of respects with the discourse of sentimentalist portraying. Rousseau’s writings are regarded as the principal source of this discourse. The appropriation of Rousseau’s thought is combined with its radical transformation. The two main features that Karamzin and Rostopchin ascribe to the Russian national character are devotion to the faith of the forefathers and love for the tsar; these features are considered to be the constitutive elements of Russian “nationality”. All classes of the Russian society, radically divergent in their customs, habits, and aspirations, are united by these essential traits. Karamzin’s and Rostopchin’s rhetoric could be seen as the direct source of the doctrine of Sergei Uvarov and his famous triad of Orthodoxy, Autocracy, and Nationality.
Petr Rezvykh (Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia, Moscow).
“F.W.J. Schelling in his dialog with Russian intellectuals”. This article, based on a large body of unpublished archive materials, offers a new view on the reception of Friedrich Schelling’s philosophy in Russia. Using the social and personological analysis of Schelling’s contacts in Russia and a reconstruction of communicative contexts the author attempts to demonstrate that reception had a dialogical nature. The article offers a close study of three cases of interaction between Schelling and Russian intellectuals: ones happening with the framework of a scholarly discussion (Sergei Uvarov), scientific politics (the same), religious and theological discussions of the 1830s—1840s (Karl Sedergolm) and purely private companionship (Aleksandr Turgenev).
Elena D. Tolstaya (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem). ““Alone, in the cloak of evening darkness…”: on Sophia Dymshits-Tolstaya’s text in Russian literature”. The article reconstructs the events of 1908 — the Paris contacts between Aleksei N. Tolstoy and his second wife Sophia (Sara) Dymshits-Tolstaya and Nikolay Gumilev that formed the pre-history of literary collaboration between Tolstoy and Gumilev in 1909. The author suggests that those events were reflected in a journal variant of Gumilev’s poem “Duel”, dedicated to Sophia Dymshits-Tolstaya. This poem and the first play by Aleksei N. Tolstoy published side-by-side are interpreted within the article as literary encoding of real events done in the Symbolist manner.
Apart from that the section presents the final part of the letters of a journalist, editor and philologist Nikolay Grech to a writer Faddei Bulgarin for the years 1832—1843 (Bulgarin’s letters to Grech did not survive). This collection of letters continues the publications of Grech’s correspondence with Bulgarin that began in our journal in № 40 (1999), 42 (2000) and 89 (2008). The letters were prepared for publication and commented upon by Abram I. Reitblat (The New Literary Observer magazine, Moscow).
BETWEEN AESTHETICS AND POLITICS:
THE RETURN OF NON-CONFORMISM
In this section we publish articles and materials that analyse or demonstrate those shifts in portraying political consciousness in literature that happened during the 1960s—2000s. We pay special attention to non-conformist poetry. Modern theory pays little attention to an interaction between aesthetical and political non-conformism and in the field of Russian (and Post-Soviet) literature research activity is non-existent.
Allan Reid (University of New Brunswick, Canada). “From Bartoc to Bytyrki: on the conflict of civic and lyrical positions in the early poetry by Natalia Gorbanevskaia”. This article explores the question of the conflict between civic and lyrical themes and concerns in the early poetry of Natalia Gorbanevskaia. While she has frequently been seen as a political poet, this article argues that aesthetic and personal or lyrical themes predominate in her early work, and that even where civic and political events and motifs enter her poems, they are almost always shaped and driven by the aesthetic and lyrical. The article explores Gorbanevskaia’s emergence as a poet, some salient biographical details, and some of the noteworthy influences in her formative period. These include the poets and poetics of the Chertkov circle, an often overlooked factor in the development of Russian poetry of the late 1950s and early 1960s, and the explosion of interest in Polish literature and culture amongst Soviet youth in the same period. Her creative work is contrasted with her extensive involvement in the human rights movement, and the overriding centrality of aesthetic, personal and metaphysical concerns is demonstrated with reference to a significant cross section of her poems from the period 1956—1970.
As an appendix to this article we publish several new poems by Natalia Gorbanevskaia (Paris), written in 2006—2008.
Michael Kilburn (Endicott College, Beverly, Massachusetts, USA). “Anti-political politics and anti-poetic poetics: the aesthetics of the Czech underground”. The Czech Underground was a minor but integral subculture of the period of so-called “Normalization” in Czechoslovakia, which characterized the period from 1968—1989. In this context, “Underground” signified both a discrete group individuals and a broader cultural perspective that transcended the circumstances of late socialist Czechoslovakia. This article attempts to situate the cultural practice of the Czech Underground within a broader underground aesthetic, with attention to cultural, semiotic, social, spiritual, philosophical and political implications. In particular, the author stresses the distinction between the “anti-structural” theory and practice of the Underground and the “anti-political” politics of the dissidents, which tend to be conflated in scholarship and cultural history.
“Beyond hierarchy” — that is the name given to a collection of answers provided by experts — philosophers, critics, poets — to an enquiry held by the New Literary Observer. We asked them to discuss what meanings did the terms “ethical”, “aesthetical” and “political” retain when applied to a work of art, if we took into consideration the argument about “an ethical turn” that has been going on in philosophy since the 2000s (in the works by Alain Badiou, Jacques Ranciere, and Giorgio Agamben). As a basis for our discussion we offered to the authors a poem by Elena Fanailova (Moscow) — a poet whose works created, as it seems to us, some radically new means of aesthetical understanding of political topics. Participants: Mikhail Yampolsky (New York), Grigory Dashevsky (Moscow), Victor Tupitsyn (New York), Boris Dubin (Moscow), Nikolay Mitrokhin (Moscow/Berlin), Aleksandr Skidan (St. Petersburg), Vladislav Kulakov (Moscow), Aleksei Parshchikov (Köln) and Dmitry Golynko-Volfson (St. Petersburg).