APPLIED METAPHYSICS OF THE “LITERARY FACT”
This section opens with a translation of the final chapter of the book by Wolfgang Iser (1926—2007) “Prospecting: From Reader Response to Literary Anthropology”. In this work the author tries to point out the main principles of a new humanities discipline — literary anthropology. It will on one hand inherit all the positive achievements of studying literature as a type of media and on the other it will serve as an alternative to the dominant text-centric approach (from New Criticism to deconstructivism). According to Iser the key moment for literary anthropology is a transitive relationship, an interplay between the imaginary and fiction, that allows to lift the human ceiling and to realise our cultural potential.
In his article “Reading for the Stimmung (About the Ontology of Literature Today)” Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht (Stanford University) offers an alternative to the currently dominant literary scholarship done in the spirit of deconstructivism or Cultural Studies. Stimmung is traditionally interpreted as a certain “mood”, in the double sense of, firstly, a feeling so interior and subjective that it cannot be conveyed by concepts, but also and secondly, in the more objective sense of a “climate”. A choice of that particular notion to be used as a key one in understanding literary texts is important due to its link to material (“sound” and “weather”) connotations. If traditionally our thinking about the ontology of literature exclusively focused on the relationship between texts as realities of meaning and the material world of objects outside the texts, “reading for the Stimmung” makes us sensitive to the modes in which texts, as meaning realities and material realities, quite literally surround their readers, both physically and emotionally.
INVENTING THE CLASSICS ON THE VERGE OF MODERNITY
The bloc opens with an article by Julia Ivanova and Pavel Leshchenko (Institute for humanitarian and theoretical research, Higher School of Economics, Moscow) “On the history of European Classicism: Classics as an effect and a strategy”. The authors discuss Ad Petrum Paulum Histrum Dialogus by Leonardo Bruni Aretino and The Ciceronian by Erasmus of Rotterdam and the parameters of humanist culture linking those two works within the limits of analysis of self-presentation strategies (“Classical gesture”) and the political efficacy of Latin learning. The high importance of communicative moments of poetry and pragmatic aspects of habitation of humanist studies (the weakness of the precepts of the Ciceronian cardinals before the principles of the emerging Reformation) make the authors go over the boundary of traditional “immanent” approaches to studying the culture of the Renaissance.
In the center of an article by Andrei Golubkov (Moscow State University [MSU]) ““The fair unfaithful lady”: French Classicist style and the Ancient classics in the 17th—18th centuries (problem definition)” — lies the analysis of the strategies of “appropriating” the Classical heritage in Classicist France. It pays particular attention to cultural Classicist practices that purported to provide additions and corrections to ancient texts to be received by the court or salon culture and inventing whole ancient genres that did not exist in the real Classical period (“anecdota”) — Les Anecdotes de Florence of
A. Varillas (1685). The license taken by the verse translation of Homer’s Iliad by Antoine Houdart de La Motte (1714) and peculiarities of Corneille’s Oedipus as compared to the one by Sophocles prove to be implementations of a conscious program of improving the classics to fit the tastes and inclinations of the hônette homme.
An article by Galina Shelogurova (Russian Orthodox University, Moscow) and Igor Peshkov (Labyrinth publishing house, Moscow) “The choir of ratio in Hamlet (an Ancient tragedy of a Renaissance hero)” offers a new interpretation of the literary sources of the most well-known of the Shakespearean tragedies. The authors turn to the plays of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides based on the Orestes myth and conclude that in Shakespeare’s Hamlet a relationship between the central hero and Horatio corresponds structurally to the model of relationship between the protagonist of a Greek tragedy and the choir or its coryphée. Horatio turns out to be a personification of a rational “Classical” principle, a measure and a reference point for Hamlet’s actions. Apart from that, direct comparison the authors also trace the connection between Hamlet and Latin reworkings of Greek plays in the Elizabethan theatre and point out possible importations from Seneca’s Agamemnon.
A PIRATE AS A WILL AND REPRESENTATION
Vadim Mikhailin (Saratov State University). “On a necessity of a pirate: a brief introduction to piratology”. This article deals with a pirate seen through a perspective of a modern European urban dweller — as a twofold figure being both a real historical character existing outside of a “normal” cultural space and an illusory entity, a derivative of quite specific dominants of a collective imaginary. Pirate as a professional “distanced exploiter” is made an object of “distanced exploitation” in the modern European’s narcissist mind’s games.
Irina Protopopova (Russian State University for the Humanities [RSUH], Moscow). “A den of philosophers”. This article looks into the ways pirates were portrayed in various ancient sources. It compares the image of a pirate in “non-fictional” texts (Plutarch, Strabo, etc.) and Greek love novels (Chariton, Xenophon of Ephesus, Longus, Heliodorus and Achilles Tatius). It demonstrates the conceptual unity of the “pirate topos” and the specific ways it was actualised in different novels.
Dmitri Kopelev (Herzen State Pedagogical University of Russia, St. Petersburg). This article offers a textological study of a late 18th century — early 19th century archival manuscript written by a Russian traveller, writer and translator Fedor Karzhavin. The subject of the manuscript is piracy. The manuscript was preserved in fragments in the St. Petersburg Institute of History (RAS) and Institute of Russian Literature (RAS). The analysis shows that the manuscript represents the first and unfinished Russian translation of Captain Charles Johnson’s book A General History of the Pyrates that was actually, as some researchers suppose, written by an English author Daniel Defoe.
Victoria Malkina (RSUH, Moscow) in her article ““Would you like to be a pirate?”” analyses the shift produced in the wide corpus of Soviet (mainly bard) pirate songs by Vladimir Vysotsky’s “Parrot’s song” and Eduard Uspensky’s poem “Granny and her wee grandson” later set to music by Boris Rysev. In both works a close relative appears next to a piratical hero (father and granny) — and the pirate has to take care of that relative (Vysotsky) or the relative in question tries to care for the pirate himself (Uspensky). As a result a romanticised image of a heroic freedom-loving outcast ends up being permeated with uncharacteristic emotionally warm overtones and at the same time turns more prosaic — and the whole tradition of romantic pirate ballades undergoes a powerful estrangement.
Elena Mikhailik (The University of New South Wales, Sydney) in her article traces some patterns and shifts in the process of appropriating and rewriting Western literature for children in the Soviet Union using as a case study a successful 1976 attempt to hi-jack Rafael Sabatini’s pirate novelette “Black swan”.
POST-SOVIET MENTALITY AND POSTCOLONIAL STUDIES
This collection is made of articles that analyse postcolonial problems on the basis of modern Russian culture. However Russian culture does not completely correspond to the existing conceptual schemes of postcolonial studies so the authors offer new synthetic approaches that allow them to redefine the key concepts and to connect postcolonial studies to other study directions — in particular to “working-out a trauma” that was described using the materials of denazification in Germany and the repercussions of the Holocaust.
Gasan Gusejnov (Moscow State University). “Language and the trauma of liberation”. The last decade and a half has seen Russian society’s attempts at overcoming the Soviet past and the disintegration of the Soviet Union. This article examines this post-traumatic political situation in a comparative perspective with German history of the 1950s-1960s. Responses to collective traumas, it argues, can be gauged in two dimensions. The first is the attempt by government officials and public figures to offer reinterpretations of key historical events that are considered to be of symbolic importance to the present Russian society. The second dimension of the post-traumatic condition can be traced through an analysis of political “keywords” that become slogans through which politics and history are given a new look. Both elements analysed here are defined on the basis of a case study of the Russian rhetoric of the recent months, in which symbolic historical events (“1612”) and keywords (“Golodomor”, “Katyn”) play a central part. This analysis is evaluated through the German tradition of historical and linguistic theory of trauma, represented by the work of the Mitscherlichs A.O. and the recent Russian linguistic theories of “cultural keywords”.
Sergei Timofeev (Orbita project, Riga, Latvia). “Lip reading: bilingualism as a cultural challenge”. A well-known Russian poet and translator publishes an essay on the political and aesthetic meaning of the dialogue between young Russian and Latvian poets who came on stage in Latvia in the 1990s—2000s.
He analyses a Russian poem written by a Latvian poet Inga Gaile, a Latvian poem written by a Russian poet Arthur Punte, a 2000—2002 attempt by the young Riga intellectuals to create “lakritsa” — a language standing halfway between Latvian and Russian (that language was supposed to be treated as an aesthetic object of a game) as well as a video clip made by two locally famous rap singers — Gustavo and Vladi: in their joint work the lines written in Russian are treated by the other singer as Latvian ones and vice versa.
Yuri Orlitsky (RSUH, Moscow) in his lengthy review discusses bilingual (Russian and Finnish) book by poet Sergei Zavyalov, “Melika” (Helsinki, 2007), that contains his selected poems written in the period from the mid-1980s to 2007. Comparing the contents of poetry collections by this author written in different years, Orlitsky demonstrates how Zavyalov, an ethnic Mordvinian, evolved from Postmodernist stylistics based on deconstructing mythologems of Greek, Roman and Russian poetry to a radical version of postcolonial writing. However this postcolonial writing purports to include both Mordovan and Russian traditions into the common European (“Western”) cultural context.
“Тhe Return of a Triton: Soviet Catastrophe and Post-Soviet Novel”. In their dialogue, Alexander Etkind (University of Cambridge) and Mark Lipovetsky (University of Colorado at Boulder) address the problem of the uncanny (Freudian Unheimlich) and the aspects of inner colonization in contemporary Russian literature, especially in the novels by Viktor Pelevin (Empire “V”), Vladimir Sorokin (The Day of Oprichnik), and Dmitri Bykov (ZhD). Alexander Etkind explains the figures of the uncanny and monstrous in these novels as a sign of unfinished work of memory about the historic traumas of the soviet past. He introduces the concept of magic historicism as an indirect form of traumatic writing in which the repressed traumas of Soviet history return in the images of monsters and through neurotic repetitions of the past. Mark Lipovetsky argues that “return of the repressed” in contemporary literature, and especially the motif of uncanny repetitions, reflect the general trauma of Russian/Soviet modernization(s) that typically mutates in colonization, and effectively turns against itself leaving behind blood and disappointment.
This issue presents materials dedicated to the memory of a literary critic, liberal political observer and essay writer Aleksandr Ageev (1959—2008). It contains obituaries written by playwright and prose-writer Leonid Zorin (Moscow) and writer Evgeny Shklovsky (Moscow); then extracts of Ageev’s 1992—1995 notebooks are offered as well as a complete bibliography of his critical and literary scholarship works (compiled by Abram Reitblat, Sergei Ageev and Olga Shurygina).
Apart from that, this section contains Boris Ivanov’s (St. Petersburg) obituary to Boris Taigin (1928—2008) — poet and prominent figure of Soviet underground culture. At the end of the 1940s Taigin (his real surname was Pavlinov) distributed in Leningrad underground-made records of Western dance music and received a prison term for that. After bring released from the camp he started producing and distributing Samizdat collections of those poets who had no chance of being published officially: Gleb Gorbovsky, Igor Kholin, Gennadi Alexeev and Joseph Brodsky. Many poems survived only thanks to Taigin’s publishing efforts.