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CONTEXT OF THE TURN: IDENTIFICATIONS AND INSTITUTIONS

This section continues the discussion of the anthropological turn that has been underway in NLO issues № 100, 106 and 113. In the previous discussions, the attempt to identify one of the possible directions for movement was already taking on a hotly polemical character regarding the ideological, philosophical and socio­political foundations of the humanities; this time around these topics have emerged again in a new light. At the same time, the discussion around Olga Breininger's article essentially constitutes a summing-up of the conclusions thus far. First of all, the article itself presents a metatheory: it analyzes the manifestos of Irina Prokhorova, "A new anthropology of culture" (NLO №100), and Kevin M.F. Platt "Why study anthropology? A humanities view: in place of a manifesto" (NLO №106). Secondly, the participants in the discussion - including Evgeniia Vezhlian (Vorobiova), Yuri Zaretsky, Ilya Kalinin and Piotr Safronov, who work in Russian higher education, and Doris Bakhmann-Medik, Kevin Platt and Sergei Oushakine, who work in American and European universities - despite all differences of opinion, nevertheless concur on two points.

 

UNIVERSITY HISTORIES: REFORM AS TRADITION?

In the article "The status of knowledge (on social markers of the evolution of the Russian university in the first third of the 20th century)," Alexander Dmitriev (HSE, Moscow)examines the problems of hierarchy, inequality and academic degrees as forms of ranking the corps of university instructors. Dmitriev under­scores the fact that despite subsequent idealized notions, the pre-revolutionary university was brimming with various conflicts; this contributed to the harshness of criticisms of university institutions after the 1917 revolution.

Prof. Mitchell G. Ash (Vienna University) in the article "Bachelor of What, Master of Whom? The Humboldt Myth and Historical Transformations of Higher Education" points lack of convergence of the problems faced by elite universities in the early 19th century and those faced by modern-day large-scale universities. He investigates the causes generating the myth of the special mission of Humboldt University in imperial Germany at the turn of the 20th century, arguing that the development of the American university was also completely independent of "Humboldtian ideals."

Elena Vishlenkova (HSE, Moscow) and Kira Ilyina (HSE, Moscow) investigate the changing conventions of university self-regulation and self-reproduction in the article "On academic degrees," which focuses on the procedures of dissertation defense.

 

A TREATMENT HISTORY: CULTURAL AND SOCIAL ASPECTS OF MEDICINE

"Medicine and Power" by Natalia Tamruchi gives a brief account of changes in attitude towards doctors, diseases and patients in Soviet Russia, of how medicine, despite its traditions, became a part of the totalitarian system. It claims that a So­viet citizen did not get to choose to be healthy or sick: the state decided how and to what extent he or she should be kept physically fit, regardless of his or her will. A citizen was put in a weird situation where his body, subject to the state health care programs and sanitary regulations, was "externally managed," no longer being sure that he owned his body or was even entitled to it.

"History through Teeth: Dentistry in Soviet Culture" by Konstantin A. Bogdanov(Institute of Russian literature, St. Petersburg) is a study in the cultural history of dentistry. Putting Soviet culture into a "dental" perspective, Bogdanov focuses on works reflective of transformations that have been taking place within this medical field since the 1920s.

 

INTERPRETATIONS

"Secrets of 'This Pig of a Morin'" by Alexander K. Jolkovsky (University of Southern California) is a close reading of a famous short story by Guy de Maupas­sant, seemingly plain but proving to have a lot packed in it. The deconstructive unpacking reveals tensions within its narrative design (the opposition/inter­twining of "truth" and "fiction" being its "main nerve"), its rhetorical nuances and its roots in the Renaissance literary tradition.

"The Artist and History, or, How 'The Monument to the Fallen Anarchists' Was Made" byElena Obatnina (Institute of Russian literature, St. Petersburg) is based upon the interpretation of an absurdist text by A.M. Remizov published along with his anonymous writings in Berlin press. The author turns to the 1918— 1920s newspapers, rare documents pertaining to life and work of K. Zale, a repre­sentative of two artistic diasporas, Russian and Latvian, who joined the Futurists in Berlin, and an essay by V. Shklovsky that has never been published before.

 

VISUAL/TEXTUAL

In the article "Picturesque gnosis," Mikhail Yampolsky (New York University) analyzes the work of Grisha (Grigory Davidovich) Bruskin, particularly his final work - the "Alefbet" ("alphabet" in Hebrew) tapestry, which was exhibited in 2012 in Amsterdam. The tapestry and the figures that populate it refer to Jewish "mythology": the Old Testament (the Tanakh), the Talmud and Kabbala, as well as to the philosophy of Martin Buber. In his examination of the structure of Bruskin's "picturesque creation," Yampolsky discovers the subtle ties of "Alefbet" with the Gnostic tradition and eschatology, as presented in Judaism and Christianity.

 

BOOK AS EVENT

This thematic section addresses Alexander Zhitenev's The poetry of neomodernism(2013), the first large-scale attempt to describe and conceptualize Russian unof­ficial ("uncensored") poetry of the past half-century (approximately 1960-2010). Zhitenev's impressive attempt, which combines a theoretical approach (resting on receptive aesthetics and phenomenology) with literary history, quite naturally elicited all manner of opinionated scrutiny and polemical response — from poets and critics as well as literary theorists. Participants in this discussion include Nikolai Kononov, Kirill Korchagin, Alexander Ulanov, Mark Lipovetsky, Tho­mas Epstein, Dmitri Golynko-Volfson, Ilya Kukulin.

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