«Beyond Prohibition» presents the analysis of the connection between prohibition, desire and pleasure. The section opens with an essay from Oxana Timofeeva (NLO), «Tomcat tramping.» In October 2012, deputies of the St. Petersburg legislative assembly discussed a draft amendment to the law «On administrative violations;» their discussion focused on the need for the «protection of silence» and the introduction of punishments (in the form of administrative fines) for noncompliance with this directive during night-time hours — that is, for all manner of noises that might disturb neighbours. According to the rumours that immediately flooded the Russian media in connection with this discussion, the noises potentially to be prohibited included loud snoring, loud sex, groans, beds creaking, knocking, singing, moving of refrigerators, dogs howling and tomcats tramping. Although few of the above-mentioned noises were approved and entered into the eventual statement, in popular parlance the law earned the ironic moniker «The law prohibiting tomcat tramping.» Using this example, Timofeeva examines the proliferation of prohibitions in contemporary Russian society and demonstrates the logic of the absurd that stands behind them.
In «From the prohibition of pleasure to the pleasure of prohibitions,» Slavoj Zizek applies a psychoanalytical perspective to examining various examples of prohibitions and their violations in recent history and the contemporary situation. The objects of his criticism include the Catholic Church, agitated by paedophilia scandals; socialist Yugoslavia, contemporary China and North Korea; and Hollywood. In particular, Zizek discusses the prohibition on smoking and the important place this activity holds in contemporary society. Who is this Other, asks Zizek, whose «bad habits» — in other words, whose manifestation of excessive pleasure — disturbs us so powerfully? The Judaeo-Christian tradition usually refers to him as «my Neighbor.» The Neighbor by definition persecutes us, and this persecution — «harassment» — is a word which, as can be deduced from entirely determined facts, functions in an ambiguous way and produces ideological mystification.
An article from Mladen Dolar, «Don’t touch!» presents a philosophical-psychoanalytical analysis of the phenomenon of touching. The social as such, and therefore the human dimension itself, is determined by a break in touching. The essence of social prohibitions can be summed up by the imperative: «Don’t touch!» This is a zero-level prohibition that metaphorically (metonymically?) extends to all others. It constitutes the core of every taboo, acting as its minimal «model.» This implies a certain fundamental division of the social, within which the formal dividing line subdivides people and things into two categories: those which can be touched and those which cannot. In traditional societies, this division is embodied in the demarcation between the sacred and the profane; it is to a large degree sanctioned by political and religious authorities, which in turn rely on it.
«Tenderness,» an essay by Kseniia Golubovich, addresses the dimension of the desired in prohibition. The concept of prohibition — like many other concepts — is too broad and has already become overburdened by multiple meanings. Often, as in structuralism, a prohibition is understood as that which lays out the lines of social life, certain borders, regulatory and hollow — and which is itself part of the system. Sociology can also understand prohibition in this way: as a regulator of exchanges, relationships, mutual courtesy. But there is still another part of the conversation about prohibition: this is the part addressed by art, and which deals with prohibition as something that prohibits «the desired,» that one thing that we want more than anything else — that touches us more closely than everything else. In this case, the seal of prohibition is that which must be torn off. When Osip Mandelstam spoke about poetry as stolen air, he was not speaking merely about politics (although the fear for the word that Stalinism brought into being did show all the signs of a sacral terror). Mandelstam spoke about poetry in general — it is always prohibited, it always shudders at the prospect of the seal being torn from its lips, of the stipulated secret of keeping silent; and even if what results is a line that seems at first glance not to mean much, it nevertheless does something.
The interplay between bans and culture is the subject of Konstantin Bogdanov‘s Introduction and the five articles that follow.
In «Russian Philosophy Forbidden: the 90th Anniversary of the Philosopher’s Ship», A.V. Malinov and S.A. Troitsky provide an overview of restrictions and bans imposed on those who «practiced» philosophy in Russia by authorities; the result is a brief history of Russian philosophy in the light of rules and regulations. Malinov and Troitsky argue that those served as limits, marking the beginnings and the ends of «philosophical epochs», and made philosophy a part of social life.
Katriona Kelly in her essay «‘Life itself taught me about life’: adolescence in Soviet culture during the Stalin era» addresses the representation of adolescence in Soviet culture during the Stalin era, arguing that, despite the ubiquitous presence of youth in Soviet ideology, the period of existence between childhood and adulthood was in certain respects not so much «taboo» as subject to silent prohibitions. Where a «taboo» quintessentially has to be articulated (since the disruption of this would bring danger to the community where it is imposed), the changes occurring to the body during adolescence and in particular the development of sexuality were simply passed over in silence. On the other hand, the effects of this prohibition were not always predictable, since behaviour that in some other cultures (e.g. Western European cultures of the same period) would have been considered «sexual» and hence restricted could sometimes take place without hindrance or embarrassment. By the 1960s, the patterns that obtained in the 1930s and 1940s had begun to be regarded critically, though mainly in the metropolitan intelligentsia; elsewhere, the fact that ‘life itself taught me about life’ (i.e., that guidance on the transition to adulthood had been scanty to non-existent) was more often the source of pride.
Natalya Skradol‘s article «Zones of prohibition and prohibited zones: work camps in Nazi Germany» presents an analysis of the prohibitions that regulated the existence of German citizens during their time spent in work camps. Particular attention is paid to the representation of prohibitions in public propaganda of the 1930s-40s. The camps under investigation are those which were intended for law- abiding citizens fulfilling their civic labor obligation, rather than for criminals or enemies of the regime. The author contends that the representation of explicit and implicit prohibitions connected with the functioning of these structures reflects many paradoxes of the National-Socialist ideology and its implementation.
A.I. Razuvalova‘s article «‘Village prose’ writers in search of an opponent: the aesthetics of confrontation and the ethics of solidarity» examines specific features of the socialization process for writers «born of the people» adapting to life in an urban cultural environment (from the late 1950s to the first half of the 1960s). The «village prose» writers (F. Abramov, V. Shukshin, V. Astaf’ev, V. Belov) interpreted difficult access to education and basic cultural goods and a forcibly delayed start in professional life as the manifestation of a hidden social opposition between subjugated and privileged groups. The frustration experienced during the clash with the urban cultural elite long determined the self-representation strategies of village prose writers, while the conflict with city intellectuals became a major element of «neo-pochvennik» identity (cf. late 19th-century nativist «Return to the soil» movement).
In Yu.A. Govorukhina‘s article «Authority, prohibitions and unpunished violations in contemporary literary criticism,» the phenomenon of prohibition in literary criticism is connected with the influence of authoritative discourse, and the process of taking over the literary field. Prohibition is considered as a position with epistemological and rhetorical potential. The author analyzes various forms and functions of prohibition as presented in the criticism published in liberal and conservative «thick journals.»
Oleg Lekmanov‘s essay «Russian Poetry in 1913″ analyses every single collection of poems published in Russia in 1913, featuring two major subjects: 1) the poetic background of Russian modernism and 2) Russian life as reflected in the 1913 collections of poems.
The first English-language conference on the work of Vladimir Sorokin, «Vladimir Sorokin’s Languages: Mediality, Interculturality, Translation,» was held in the Danish city of Aarhus 31 March — 1 April 2012. The articles in this section, which was compiled by Mark Lipovetsky (University of Colorado), are based on the papers read at the Aarhus conference and are united by their shared approach to the work of Sorokin. They examine the question of how this writer methodically overcomes the boundaries of the literary aesthetic itself, tearing apart the fabric of literature and transforming his texts into performative, ritual or bodily acts. These articles examine Sorokin’s «method» through specific texts: A novel in Nariman Skakov‘s (Stanford University) «The word in A novel,» «Target» in an article by Ilya Kukulin (Higher School of Economics), «The technogenic uterus of history (Notes on the origins of a key image in A. Zeldovich and V. Sorokin’s film «Target»), Blue Lard in Manuela Kovalev‘s ( University of Manchester) «Empty words? The function of non-normative language in V. Sorokin’s Blue Lard.» The conclusions reached in all of the scholars’ articles coincide in terms of a new conceptualisation of Sorokin — not only as a critic of authoritative discourses, but also as a trailblazer into unknown semiotic spaces hidden behind discourse — anthropological, cultural, political spaces — paths to which are blown open by the dynamite of Sorokin’s deconstructions.
This section is dedicated to Tamara Bukovskaya, Petersburg poet, participant in the independent cultural movement of the 1960s-80s and author of many samizdat publications. In «Only time…,» Yuri Orlitskii (RSHU) traces the evolution of Bukovskaya’s poetics, noting, for instance, that in the 1990s and particularly in the 2000s the syllabo-tonic impulse of her work is superseded by free verse and a complex, constantly changing heteromorphic line. These features enable the exclusion of superfluous words as well as heightened attention to the material aspects of the line, its sound quality (which for this poet is often more significant than the semantic meaning). On the contrary, in «‘Wordorigination’ [Slovonacha- lye]: a survey of images,» Pjotr Kazarnovskij (St. Petersburg) concentrates on Bukovskaya’s most recent collection, Insane poems (2012), in which he discovers a new feature — a leaning towards direct utterance. At the same time, however, there is no rejection of traditional poetic speech: metaphorical speech, which rests on indirect statement, comes up against irrepressibly eager direct utterance. According to Kazarnovskij, the mature poetics of Tamara Bukovskaya line up precisely at this collision, when the poet is imperceptibly carried away by the rhythms and dynamics of speech-transformation, compelling her to enact with lightning-quickness a blending of different types of utterance.
In this memorial section, we remember the literary scholar, journalist and human rights advocate Viktor Makarovich Seleznyov (1931—2012), who studied the life and work of A.V. Sukhovo-Kobylin. The section includes fragments of Seleznyov’s memoirs about studying at the philological faculty of Saratov State University under Yu.G. Oksman, and the 1971 «Saratov case» connected with the distribution of samizdat in the city, as well as a bibliographic inventory of Seleznyov’s publications.