RACE THEORY, LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE
This collection includes articles of Russian and French authors analysing the notion of “race” and its ideological connotations in 19th and early 20th centuries.
Loic Rignol’s (Paris) text “Phrenology and Decoding of Race: Knowledge, Power and Progress of Mankind” treating of phrenology in France, shows that the racial theory on its beginnings did not always tend to oppress “alien” races. It could profess humanistic ideals and search for means to overcome the biological inequality between human beings, including so an unacceptable mean for the “classical” racism as mixed marriages.
Sergey Zenkin’s (Russian State University for the Humanities, Moscow) article “The Racial Themes in Théophile Gautier’s “Travel to Russia”” focuses on a particular manifestation of widespread 19th-century ideas in literature. It longs to pick out the properly intellectual and classificatory aspect of such themes, constituting a heterogeneous and polysemantic semiotic system.
Maurice Olender’s (L’École doctorale européenne des hautes études en sciences de la culture, Modène) text on Ernest Renan (“Between Sublime and Odious”) is a chapter from his monograph “The languages of Paradise”, devoted to racial concepts in philology. Along with other great 19th-century scholars Renan undertook an insightful and thereby particularly contradictory attempt to denaturalise the race phenomenon, building upon it a cultural typology whose hereditary character would consist of language and mentality rather than “blood”.
Ilona Svetlikova (Russian Institute of Arts History, St. Petersburg) in the article “Kant-Semite and Kant-Aryan” discusses some hidden sources of Andrey Belyj’s literary legacy. At the end of the 1900s — beginning of the 1910s Andrey Belyj was living through a period of anti-Semitic delirium, which left traces in his theoretical writings, as well as in his novel “Petersburg” (1913). In this article Svetlikova focuses on Belyj’s Kantianism, which was rooted in his wide reading of more or less popular literature concerning Kant. One of the traditions he came across early in his youth was that describing Kant as an Indian sage. Later on it allowed him to present Kant as an “Aryan” prophet, and then — at the time of writing “Petersburg”, his intense thinking on the theme of “provocation” and the quarrel with a Kantian Emilij Metner — as a Semitic philosopher, made yet more dangerous because of his sham “Aryanism”.
TOWARD THE GENEALOGY OF MUSES: POETICS AND
ANTHROPOLOGY OF MYTH
An article “How many muses does Hesiod’s have and what do they sing about?” — is one of the last works by Irina Kovaleva (1961—2007), a talented Classical philologist, translator and poet. Her close reading of Hesiod’s “Theogony” indicates that the text contains several mythological planes, linked to a narration presented by the Olympic or the Heliconian Muses who retell two versions of divine genealogies: the sacred one (Hesiod’s own) and the profane one as it was presented by Homer, for example. This allows the author to see “Theogony” as containing a hidden polemics with Homeric poems and to read this work as a literary text and not only as a source on mythological concepts of the archaic period in Greece.
The starting point for the analysis of Vadim Mikhailin (Saratov State University) in “Daughters of Mnemosyne: who the Muses are and why do they lie?” is the much-discussed verses from Hesiod (Theog., 27-8), where the Muses characterize lying as their primary skill to which telling truth is an additional possibility. The author’s approach to the problem is based at the concept of territorially determined nature of the archaic Indo-European behaviour modes, culture codes and therefore the nature and function of deities. Female deities — and Muses among them as the deities controlling cultural memory — are seen as controlling the transitional cultural zones like, first of all, the zone of feast, “switching” the “regular” modes of behaviour. Possible semantic aspects of some attendant phenomenae (scepter, triple numbers of minor female deities etc) are also discussed.
Ilya Vinitsky (University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia). “About Uncle Gordei and the Kike Leiba: An Edifying Anecdote From the History of Russian Literature for the Common People”.
This article explores the ideological origins and cultural implications of the distinct Russian phenomenon of the politically engaged peasant writer which was produced and secretly sponsored by the Ministry of Internal Affairs in the late 1870s. The political mission of the real or fake peasant authors, proliferated in the early 1880s, was to confront the socialist propaganda among the lower classes as well as to undermine the claims of liberal intelligentsia to represent the interests of the common Russian people. The article reconstructs the culturally meaningful polemics between Nikolai Leskov and the peasant poet Gordei Shvetsov (Uncle Gordei), a mouthpiece for the conservative ideologists of the regime and one of the most aggressive fighters with the “anti-popular” intelligentsia. The article contends that Leskov’s debunking critique of the governmental project of the commissioned literature reveals his artistic, political, and religious convictions.
Alexander Zholkovsky (University of Southern California, Los Angeles). “Nikolai Leskov’s Metatextual Mini-Masterpiece”. Drawing on relevant recent scholarship, this detailed analysis of Leskov’s 1881 short story “The Spirit of Mme Genlis” focuses on the story’s metatextual theme, its narrative structure, its cultural and mythological underpinnings, the use of the author’s invariant motifs and, his intertextual play with the memoiristic prose and literary figure of comtesse Stéphanie-Félicité de Genlis (1746—1830) as well as with the fictionalization of his own biographical and literary self.
ANTHROPOLOGY OF WAR
Vladimir Lapin (European University at St. Petersburg). “Russia’s army in the Caucasus: Privatisation of warfare”. The author uses memoirs and military documents to analyse the psychological and social transformations that the regular European-organised Russian army underwent during the Great Caucasian War of the 19th century. Under conditions of hampered communications and irregular warfare military units tended to become autonomous and came to resemble both in their mentality and in their methods of warfare those mountain ethnic groups they fought against. Soldiers and junior officers were relying not as much on the orders from the higher command as on their own initiative. They fended for themselves by raiding the neighbouring villages or by selling munitions to the locals and entered into relationships of enmity or revenge with certain ethnic groups. On occasion regiments would establish between themselves relationships of “kunak-ship” (ritual friendship), etc. The author provides a detailed description of historical and psychological background for these processes: e.g. complete demilitarisation of the Russian peasantry that had been taking place for centuries; the influence of the officers who belonged to local ethnic groups and saw their participation in a regular war as an extension of archaic ethno-territorial conflicts; the influence of the Kuban Cossack sub-ethnos that absorbed many features of the North-Caucasus-specific attitude to war.
Oksana Nagornaya (South Ural State University, Chelyabinsk). “Military captivity of the World War One as an educative process”. Those many years that soldiers and officers of the Russian army spent in the German camps of the World War One in a way turned to be an educative period. Both the way Germans organised their POW camps and their system of forced labour familiarised Russian soldiers and NCOs with a different industrial and language culture. Former peasants mastered literacy, German, new trades and new work and everyday life relationships. On returning home they tried to instrumrntalise the knowledge and skills they had gained. During the Civil War the Bolshevist government tried to use the returning POWs as personnel replacement for the army in the field and to employ their professional skills to rebuild the ruined industries. However behind the façade of official propaganda the experience of military captivity abroad turned into negative social capital in the eyes of the authorities and other social groups, and as early as the 1930s it came to be one of the causes throwing the former POWs into the meat grinder of the purges.
Sergey Yarov (Herzen State Pedagogical University / European University at St. Petersburg) in his article “Introspection as a way of strengthening one’s moral code: Leningrad 1941—1942” uses diaries and correspondence materials to discuss different forms of ethical self-control used by the denizens of besieged Leningrad to retain civilisational skills and abide by the established moral standards. The author pays special attention to the formation of the new “siege” ethics (that was quite harsh in some of its manifestations) and the way the Leningraders treated it.
Serguei Oushakine (Princeton University) in his essay “Shards of war memory: “Is it all that was left after this horror?”” reviews a new edition of Svetlana Aleksievich’s collection of interviews with those who experienced the Great Patriotic War as a small child or a teenager. As Aleksievich’s book demonstrates, despite several decades that passed since the war, memories of horror still remain one of the most dramatic events in these people’s lives. Neither forgotten, nor overcome, this memory exists as a fragmented collection of episodes, details, and events that resist any attempt to become incorporated into a coherent story or evidence.
NEOFUTURISM IN MODERN RUSSIAN POETRY
This section opens a series of publications on new types and strategies of perceiving Modernist culture in current Russian literature. We expect that the emphasis will be upon the anthropological side of perception, i.e. that reconstruction of the authorial consciousness that stands behind any interpretation of Modernist tradition. The first collection of materials is devoted to the changes that the tradition of radical avant-garde of the early 20th century (especially Cubo-Futurism) underwent in modern Russian poetry. The authors of this section study avant-garde tradition as a history of a transgressive writing subject who changed the conventions of poetic diction, orders of discourse, gender roles, etc. within their work.
Yevgeny Slivkin (University of Oklahoma, Norman). “The Poem Found in Saragossa: The Function of Grammatical Gender in the Poem “I left the last bullet to myself…” by Viktor Sosnora”. The article discusses the attachment of masculine gender to feminine and neuter nouns in Sosnora’s programmatic lyrical poem “I left the last bullet to myself…”. The argument is made that this violation of Russian grammatical norms in the poem conjures up linguistic features of Polish, German (the languages in which the poet claimed to be fluent as a child), and French and promotes Sosnora’s personal myth of his European genealogy. It is shown that through the poetic “simulation” of a multilingual atmosphere, the image of a “bullet cast in silver”, and the motif of suicide, Sosnora evokes the figure of a cosmopolitan Polish writer and polyglot Jan Potocki (1761—1815), the author of the Gothic novel “Manuscrit trouvéàSaragosse” which inspired Pushkin’s verse fragment “Alfons is mounting his horse…”. The article concludes that in Sosnora’s poem the pure Futuristic technique of creating multi-gender grammatical clusters is pivotal for the conjunction of the Futurist and Romantic traditions.
Natalia Azarova (Moscow Pedagogical State University) in her article “On the border of philosophical and poetic text (from personal experience of working with Gennady Aygi’s archives)” analyses “notes” — a special type of sketch found in the archives of a noted avant-garde poet Gennady Aygi (1934—2006) whom many critics name an artistic heir of the Russian Futurists. His sketches“notes” combine the features of a philosophical maxim and poetic miniature. The author discusses methods used by Aygi to superpose the philosophical and poetic writing modes. She also brings to light the literary sources that influenced the genre of his “notes” (“Les Pensées” by Blaise Pascal and Franz Kafka’s “Diaries” that Aygi read in French, etc.). The author also discusses related hybrid forms in the philosophical literature of the 20th century (Pavel Florensky’s drafts, some fragments of Gilles Deleuze’s texts, etc.). An appendix contains some previously unknown works by Gennady Aygi found in his archives.
The issue contains two articles devoted to the memory of Anna Alchuk (1955— 2008) — a poet, painter, journalist and art and gender studies scholar. Darya Sukhovey (St. Petersburg) analyses the part played by the verbal and visual principles in Alchuk’s poetry (she used to present her texts as performances and widely employed specific visual effects in poetry publications). Irina Savkina (University of Tampere, Finland) discusses the impact Alchuk’s editorial activities had on the development of an independent gender studies trend in Russia. She also comments on an essay collection by various authors “Woman and visual signs” edited by Alchuk in 2001.