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BOOK AS EVENT

The "Book as event" section, compiled by Boris Dubin and Oxana Timofeeva, presents a discussion of Sergei Zenkin's The Undivine Sacred (Moscow, RSHU, 2012). Zenkin's book is an investigation into one of the most important categories of human culture. The sacred lies at the foundation of religious experience(s), rituals and institutions; as it maintains itself in contemporary culture, Zenkin believes, it is in active competition with rationalist thought. Not only theology but also philosophy, sociology, anthropology, contemporary literature and art are all engaged with studying the sacred. The Undivine Sacred is the result of long and complex work with several important texts of European culture (of literature, phi­losophy, science), the authors of which sought in one way or another to approach the phenomenon of the sacred.

The authors examined in the book include Marcel Mauss, Emile Durkheim, Mircea Eliade, Georges Bataille, Roger Caillois, Jean-Paul Sartre, Rudolf Otto, Gerard de Nerval, Jacques Lacan, Claude Levi-Strauss, Emmanuel Levinas, Theophil Gautier, Robert Antelme, Giorgio Agamben, Rene Girard, Martin Heidegger, Walter Benjamin, Nikolai Gogol, Karl Marx, Valery Podoroga, Mikhail Yampolsky, Yuri Lotman, Joseph de Maistre and others. The story moves from one text to another, and out of the many individual narrative lines (literary, scientific, philosophical) emerges a single overarching narrative, which Zenkin has dubbed an "intellectual history of the sacred". Beneath the modest awning of "intellectual history" hides, however, an original authorial project: a sort of alternative history of cultural reflection, which as it unfolds reveals the concept of the sacred as its basic dynamic element.

Zenkin's book brings anthropology, sociology, philosophy and literary criticism into intelligent dialogue, occasionally interrupting but for the most part comple­menting and supplementing each other. Indeed, when the subject under investi­gation is so ill-defined and in no hurry to subjugate itself to the traditional methodology of individual disciplines, it makes sense for these disciplines to "com-

bine forces" — where cultural anthropology throws up its hands in the face of the "non-human" or sociology unexpectedly loses interest when greeted with the unsociologizable, philology comes into its own — in order to give way in turn to philosophy, and so on: mutual assistance in place of competition. The discussion here involves the Russian philologists, philosophers, sociologists Boris Dubin, Oxana Timofeeva, Mikhail Yampolsky, Viktoria Faibyshenko, Sergei Fokin, Aleksandr Ulanov, Tatiana Venediktova, Ksenia Golubovich and Sergei Zenkin, responding to the critical observations and problematic questions of his colleagues.

 

THE PATRIOTIC WAR OF 1812: 200th ANNIVERSARY OF THE EVENT AND THE MYTH

In his "Introduction," Oleg Proskurin emphasizes that the Patriotic War was elected to be the most important war in the history of Imperial Russia and went on to influence the portrayal of the Great Patriotic War; both have been wrapped in myths and these myths still dominate our reception of the actual events. The following essays deal with the mechanics and dynamics of the 1812 mythology and representation.

Vadim Parsamov ("Constructing the idea of the people's war in 1812") analy­ses the concept of the 1812 people's war as created by the government and political conservatives. The government represented by A.S. Shishkov, secretary of state, and F. Rostopchin, governor of Moscow, wanted to regard the war against Napoleon as the people's war but was at the same time afraid of possible riots. Ideologically, the concept of the people's war was also used to justify the serfdom.

Natalia Potapova in "Didactics of Conflict: the War of 1812 in History Text­books" confronts the problem of applying discursive strategies to historical past and describes the stages of the formation of the 1812-related social mythology, showing how did Russian and Soviet history textbooks legitimate and reflect the attitudes of dominant social groups.

Alexander Martin's essay, "Moscow in 1812 and the fate of the imperial social project," explores "the chaos that engulfed Muscovites as the war unfolded, and how these events were remembered over the course of the nineteenth century," defining the social meaning of the war that weakened the imperial social project in the long term but stabilized the regime for some time.

Oleg Proskurin ("Russian Hercules: French origins of a Russian 1812 patriotic caricature") interprets the anonymous caricature entitled "Russian Hercules drove the French into the woods and crushed'em like flies" in the light of its origin, a French Revolutionary drawing called "Le Peuple mangeur de rois." The author argues that the Russian caricaturist polemically inverted his source of inspiration, creating an image of Russian people for educated circles along the vision of 1810s conservatives.

Alina Bodrova ("Who compiled 'The Collection of Poems Pertaining to the Unforgettable Year 1812 ?'") shows that the all but common assumption that the collection was edited by Vassili Joukovski is wrong, and gives the name of the true editor — Count Nikolai Kugushev.

Timur Guzairov ("The Official History Canon Formation: 'Non-Memorable' Events in 'The Collection of Poems Pertaining to the Unforgettable Year 1812'") explains the pattern of the official interpretation of Russian involvement in the Napoleonic wars embedded in "The Collection..."

Olga Maiorova's article, "War and Myth: Memories of Russia's Victory over Napoleon during the Polish Uprising (1863—1864)," explores how the nationalist press of the 1860s — "Moskovskie vedomosti" and "Den'" — adopted narratives of people's wars as the dominant form of national myth-making. It shows that both newspapers drew extensive parallels between the uprising and the Patriotic War (1812—1815) and argues that journalists of the period mythologized 1812 in order to establish it as the pattern for enlisting the ruler in the national cause, forging a renewed monarchy, and transforming Russians into the politically dominant group within the empire.

Vladimir Lapin ("Recollections as Commodities: Commercial Implications of the Patriotic War of 1812 100th Anniversary") reflects on the scale and the sweep of the anniversary that arguably affected the whole nation both symbolically and pragmatically, giving rise to the "commercialization of memory".

 

D. A. PRIGOV'S METATEXT

This section is devoted to the work of Dmitri Aleksandrovich Prigov and opens with an article from Jacob Edmond (University of Otago, New Zealand) "Dmitri Prigov and Cross-Cultural Conceptualism". The work of Dmitri Aleksandrovich Prigov has largely been read in the context of Russian literary and artistic culture, everyday Soviet and post-Soviet life, and Soviet ideology and post-Soviet Russian nationalism. Yet from early in his career, Prigov's address to this national context was intimately related to an appeal to a wider world. His exploration of samizdat publishing as an artistic practice, for example, connects the Russian intelligentsia's fetishization of the universal value contained in these fragile, laboriously reproduced texts to the pervasiveness of repetition and copying in international con­ceptual and post-conceptual art. Rather than simply contrasting local culture with a global language of contemporary art, Prigov brings together various local and transnational languages and cultural systems in his global project. By linking di­verse discourses, genres, and media, he allows them to articulate in new ways — a process he repeatedly describes as "intersection". Extending Mikhail Bakhtin's view that the command and manipulation of genres is a form of agency, Prigov emphasizes both the unfreedom of endless repetition and the freedom of each gesture among the infinite possibilities of intersecting systems and languages. The section closes with an article by Mikhail Yampolsky (New York University), "Transit Mode". Yampolsky begins with an analysis of those of Prigov's poetic texts that are built in order to block referentiality, thus creating a certain kind of semiotics in which signification is carried out through translation, transfer, as for instance from the text to the gesture, from one world to another, from the textual to the material. Turning to Prigov's visual work, Yampolsky traces the premises, effects and parallels of this "transit mode", including a Talmudic or Cabbalistic understanding of the letter and of writing.

 

CLOSE READING

In "Hunters in the snow. The elegiac poetology of Sergei Gandlevsky", Heinrich Kirschbaum (Humboldt Universitat, Berlin) investigates the intertextual connec­tions and paradigms of Gandlevsky's poetry; the poet will celebrate his sixtieth birthday in December of this year. Special attention is paid to the ecphrastic (Breughel) and cinematographic (Tarkovsky) "winter" allusions in their correla­tion to literary ones (Pushkin, Khodasevich, Zabolotsky). Certainly involving a self-ironic melodramatic sentimentalism, the nostalgic melancholic on the elegy allows Gandlevsky (picking up the despondency of metapoetic parting of Mandelstam's "Tristia", but on a new postmodernist level) to move his intonations closer to that ideal and imperative inner voice of poetry that, in its "pure form", became impossible in the age of postmodernism.

An article from Sergey Orobiy (Blagoveshchenskii State Pedagogical University), "Sample of discipleship: Vladimir Nabokov, Sasha Sokolov, Mikhail Shishkin", addresses the principles of literary continuity. The artistic succession of two well-known writers (Vladimir Nabokov and Sasha Sokolov) reveals new lines coming from a third author, emerging only later. Nabokov often constructs his texts as metatextual trap for readers, and Sokolov fills texts with an endless number of metamorphoses and transformations; Shishkin, meanwhile, deliberately avoids the language game, leading the reader to extraverbal phenomena and thus combining the tradition of the classic Russian novel with metatextual techniques.

 

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