THE HUMANITIES’ SEARCH FOR DISCIPLINE
In an article devoted to the problems of American universities, “Debating disciplinarity”, Robert Post (Yale Law School) shows that disciplinarity refers to institutionalized practices of knowledge production and dissemination, which are now about two centuries old. These practices typically involve a dynamic relationship between universities, which train and certify disciplinary practitioners, and national (and international) organizations that ensure the uniformity and distribution of disciplinary work. The article discusses the meaning of disciplinarity within three distinct debates. The first involves the tension between disciplinary practices and the production of knowledge. The question in these debates is how discrete pragmatic problems can satisfactorily be resolved. The second debate refers to the tension between autonomous universities and external political control. Invoking the independence of disciplinary knowledge creation, universities typically claim the prerogative of academic freedom, but this claim is at odds with the belief of many humanists that their work cannot be cabined within the narrow confines of disciplinary practices. The third debate refers to the capacity of disciplines to create “internal goods” for their practitioners. When disciplinarity is disputed in this context, what is at stake is the identity and life projects of scholars.
The section continues with an article by Doris Bachmann-Medick (International Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture (GCSC), University of Giessen/Germany), “Textuality in Literary and Cultural Studies: Challenges, Limits, Developments”. It was the concept of “culture as text” in the wake of the linguistic turn that opened up a new path for an “anthropological turn” in the humanities and for a fundamental reconsideration of the study of culture. But where exactly do the benefits and limits of this category of textuality lie? The debate on the notion of “culture as text” not only spurred several other “cultural turns,” i.e. new theoretical and methodological orientations in the field of cultural research. It itself has also inspired a more practical and performative reading of culture — beyond a mere textual and meaning-oriented reading and in favor of a new understanding of culture as a process of production instead of a mere product. This understanding brought new categories to the fore and made them fruitful for cultural analysis: mediality, materiality, performativity, power and above all processes of hybridisation. In an increasingly fragmented global world, the category of textuality itself had to open up to embrace the textual and cultural mixings in today’s cultural contact zones, especially the textual and cultural productions between cultures. In this sense the notion of “culture as text” is presently still developing towards a new conceptualization of “culture as translation” – leading towards challenging horizons for new cultural policies and for the cultural theory of an emerging world society.
THE GENEALOGY OF ACADEMIC PUBLIC LIFE
The distinction between public and non-public modes of production of
scientific knowledge has in recent times become fundamental, edging out the customary study of shifting cognitive paradigms. The clusters of phenomena previously taken to constitute the fundamental description of this or that period now appear to be constructions acquired at a specific time and under specific conditions. These constructions do indeed allow for the systematization of our current experience, but they turn out to primarily reflect practices of establishing or breaking down boundaries, and fail to account for the whole multiplicity of experience of the “life environment”. Investigation of the public dimension of knowledge-production, however, allows us to correlate the “fields” of theoretical discussion with concrete historical experience, and to elicit a series of important socio-anthropological characteristics of the development of science.
The articles in this section examine the beginnings of the public dimension of knowledge. An article by T.Yu. Borodai (Moscow State University) investigates commentary as a major frame for knowledge in the Middle Ages; a shift in its functions led immediately to a revision of the category of the exoteric/esoteric in pedagogy and created precedents for the development of free science. I. Bogantsev’s article (State University/Higher School of Economics) examines a little-studied aspect of the 17th-century scientific revolution — an assertion of the public nature of knowledge based on experimental natural data, rather than on human authority. Bogantseva demonstrates the multiple meanings of the very word “experiment”, which lays out the most irreconcilable fields of conceptualization. In her article, D. Drozdova (State University/Higher School of Economics) examines the debate over the changes in public consciousness precipitated by the 17th-century “scientific revolution”: Husserl, Koyre and Bachelard, who contributed greatly to philosophy’s being transformed into a factor of public life, in many respects and independently from one another broke up the customary pairing of “popular science” with “popularised science”, and demonstrated a more complicated structure for the societally significant discussion of scientific problems. An article from N. Epple (Moscow) uses the work of Clive Staples Lewis (1898— 1963) to examine the paradox of the public nature of the humanist professor, for whom contact with his audience is of capital importance: Lewis’ attempt to expand the methodological arsenal of his research was perceived by the subsequent generation as a departure from strict scientific practice. This case is very important when discussing the fate of the scientific ideas of prominent humanists, who like Lewis tried to construct a wide panorama of all world culture, decoding the symbolic systems of various cultures.
BEAST AS SIGN
This section consists for the most part of materials that owe their appearance to a conference by the same name, held at Saratov State University in June 2010. Two articles (by D. Khrustalev and O. Timofeeva) have been added which pertain to the same topic – this can be defined as the phenomenon of animalistic metaphors in European culture. The “Anthropological aspect” of this section is addressed by two articles, “The steeds, the men all disassembled: on the nature of Ancient Greek chimeric beings”, by V. Mikhailin, and “After a deer with a slingshot: the genesis and evolution of the myth of Acteon,” by
V. Mikhailin and E. Reshetnikova. The authors derive “messages” relevant to the Classical socio-cultural situation from, respectively, the multifarious representations of centaurs and the myth of Acteon. The “Ideological aspect” subsection includes articles by V. Makarov, “▒Monstrous figures’ in 17th-century England: the imaginary monster as a construct,” and D. Khrustalev, “Origins of the ▒Russian bear’”. These articles examine the “animal” in the context of ideological metaphor: Makarov demonstrates how depictions of all sorts of monstrous creatures were loaded with corresponding meanings, while Khrustalev discusses the origins of the image of the notorious “Russian bear” that became so popular. The final subsection, the “Categoric aspect,” is covered by articles from I. Samorukova, “Hen-house Metaphysics: chicken symbolism in the late Soviet period,” and O. Timofeeva, “Menagerie of the Geist”. Samorukova’s article draws conclusions regarding the conceptual content of the chicken images scattered throughout Soviet and post-Soviet culture, while Timofeeva discusses what the animal kingdom signifies in the philosophy of Hegel. So the meta-plot of the section is movement from Classical times towards modernity, from concrete socio-anthropological circumstances to philosophical abstraction.
SNARLS OF LIFE, TANGLES OF SUFFOCATION (ANTONIN ARTAUD)
Is art too easy on us these days? We need to return to Antonin Artaud and to the extreme experience – experience of the extreme – that he met with on the paths of inspiration. The theater of cruelty, with all the might of its imagined scenography, alone will not shield from us those paths that lead to the many knotty crossroads of the 20th century. Artaud came up against a fundamental paradox in some of his earliest experiments (a paradox that would mark all the aesthetic revolutions, all the excesses and extremes of that century): art from this point onward is impossible, or to be more precise, is possible only as a destructive movement, as the self-denial of art. And from those who risk entering into this mad game fraught with genuine insanity, this movement imperiously demands total sacrifice – the man entire, with all his innards. In Artaud’s case this is not a metaphor, not a figure of speech.
As Anatolii Riasov (Moscow) shows in his article “Artaud and the tragedy of inspiration”, art for Artaud was an unbearable physical torture, a convulsion of thought touching bared bone. Impossible thought; impossible writing. But only in this way, perhaps, is it worthwhile to write – confirmation of this comes in Artaud’s first texts published in Russian, Fragments of Diary from Hell (1926) and Letters to Marie Dubic (1935–1937).
ANDREI PLATONOV’S WORKBOOK
This section is dedicated to the work of Andrei Platonov, whose work lately seems to be inspiring a new twist in scholarship. This is connected, on the one hand, with a re-thinking of the legacy (primarily intellectual and artistic) of Russia’s 1917 revolution, and on the other hand with an anthropological turn in the humanities. Three of these new approaches will be represented in the section. In “The space of Andrei Platonov’s Dzhan”, Nariman Skakov (Stanford University) reads Platonov’s novella as an “Oriental” text in the spirit of postcolonial studies, and at the same time as a metaphysical release beyond the boundaries of body and space. In “Death of gender, or ▒The silence of love’ (images of sexuality and death in the work of Andrei Platonov and Nikolai Fedorov),” Igor Chubarov (RAS Institute of Philosophy, Moscow) challenges the generally-accepted association of these two figures, demonstrating that Platonov’s socio-technological utopia cannot be reduced to Fedorov’s resurrection-machine. Finally, in “Platonov and Lukacs (towards a history of 1930s Soviet art),” Natalia Poltavtseva (Russian Anthropological School, Moscow) addresses the little-known period of collaboration between Platonov and the Lukacs-Lifshitz “trend”, and sketches out the methodological shift and change in “assemblance point” in approaches to researching Platonov.