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Summary

TRANSFORMATIONS OF NARRATIVE STRATEGIES

Compiled by Tatyana Vaizer and Evgeny Savitsky

Lutz Koepnick's "Looping Trauma" explores the possibilities and limits of moving images to screen traumatic events in contemporary museum and gallery spaces. If video art in all its expanded formats today neither directly associates the cine­matic medium with the shocks and traumas of modern life, nor requires viewers to submit their own sense of time to the cuts and flows of images on screen—how can it possibly address and work through traumatic experiences, past or present? If, in the era of screen-based installation art, form no longer articulates content, and if viewers may simply roam in and out of moving images galleries, what kind of means can artists chose in order make their images speak about traumatic his­tories and memories?

Andreas Langenohl, in his article "Discussing 'gender' in post-Soviet constel­lations: an epistemology of trauma" explores how the category of gender has been introduced into post-Soviet Russian-language academic discourse and how it is discussed today. The concept of "trauma" serves as an epistemological device that helps understand the conflicting entanglements of "gender" in the post-Soviet constellation. First, the discussions around gender reflect a trauma of heteronomy in the humanities and social sciences pointing back to Soviet times. Second, the use of "gender" contributes to constructing the post-Soviet societal transformation as a traumatic change. Third, "gender" urges to morally position oneself vis-a-vis questions of difference and inequality in society and culture.

In "Protecting nature and defending society: on some contradiction in the aims and methodology of ecological history," Evgeny Savitsky points to the problem of inconsistency in the methods, aims and objects of study in contemporary eco­logical history, which problem, he claims, reflects more general contradictions in the ecological movement. Declaring its commitment to the ecological move­ment, eco-history simultaneously supports old historiographical practices, which assume a maximally efficient use of material, its "possession," the acquisition of ever newer resources, etc. These general and foundational historiographical prac­tices are hard to reject, but must nevertheless be reconceptualized if eco-history truly wishes to avoid the contradictions between its declared aims and the work methods actually employed. An examination of certain other historiographical conceptions, particularly those borrowed from postcolonial studies and disability studies, enable a new and different formulation of a number of questions important for the ecological movement. This also relates to the problem of ecology being inscribed into the ideology of "defending society," which to a significant degree destroys its (ecology's) social-critical potential. The question is thus, "what can ecological history be?" — but this also applies to the ecological movement as a whole, if its aim is not to make human existence more secure and/or healthy.

 

ANTHROPOLOGY AND PHENOMENOLOGY OF THE VISUAL: ANTHROPOLOGY OF THE FILM IMAGE

Compiled by Valeria Kosiakova and Daria Dmitrieva

The scholarly inquiry at Valeria Kosiakova and Daria Dmitrieva's roundtable "Cinematic Trap" focused on observing the formation of the system of images in the cinema and their influence on the viewer. The development of the film factory led to the appearance of a particular kind of viewer as the end product of film pro­duction — a viewer not only open to film affect, but also active and in cooperation with the cinema and with the system of images represented in films, which in turn constitute one of the mass, totalizing forms of contemporary art.

In "The cinematic image: an economy of time," Oleg Aronson attempts to con­ceptualize a specific economy of the cinematic image, one not reducible to an econ­omy of film oriented toward market relations (through either the film industry or the mechanisms of the art market). This economy is directly connected with an economy of time rediscovered by the cinema, unwillingly reviving the forgotten logic of Hestia (the hearth, motherhood and childhood) as a counterweight to the logic of Hermes. This is demonstrated in Andrei Tarkovsky's films, in the retention of time-as-duration or memory-time in the single shot, which becomes a sort of film-within-the-film. This kind of structure allows us to examine the long take, the flashback, slow-motion, unexpected use of montage and even some film plots as elements of its special economy, where the material quality of time becomes one with the virtual quality of money.

Petr Safronov's "The future of the body: (talking points at the 'Anthropology of the film image' round table)" asks: are human bodies an indispensable part of cinematic plot-building? The history of film offers many examples of a negative answer to this question. It is thus all the more interesting to examine a case in which corporeality — understood as the basic criterion of humanity — becomes the force driving the plot. This case is provided by contemporary American film.

An article by Konstantin Bandurovsky, "Temporal structures in Milcho Man- chevski's 'Before the rain'," examines the interrelations between various tempo­ral structures: linear, cyclical and "vertical" time — in Manchevski's film. "Verti­cal" time is introduced into the film narrative through images rooted in ancient Christian culture, architecture and frescoes, and more generally, to Christian understanding. This allows Bandurovsky to read "Before the rain" both in its con­temporary political context (as it is usually interpreted), as well as in a meta­physical context.

 

IDEOLOGICAL OBJECTS AND THE SPACES OF EVERYDAY PRACTICES

"On Time, Trauma, and the Monument: Budapest's Statue Park Museum," from Maya Nadkarni, explores the construction and reception of Budapest's Statue Park Museum, an open-air museum created to house the city's communist monu­ments in 1993. Nadkarni's article contributes to the study of cultural trauma under post-socialism in several ways. First, the article argues that the temporal structure of traumatic repetition offers a useful analytic approach to understanding the pol­itics of memory in the early years of post-socialist transition in Hungary, even though most Hungarians did not experience the political transformation as trau­matic. Second, the invocation of trauma itself can serve as a "screen memory" to block even more shattering realizations from view. The removal of Budapest's statues thus did not represent a response to painful memories embodied in the monuments, but rather an attempt to redefine domesticated landmarks of every­day urban life as traumatic remainders of Soviet rule. Finally, given both the disappointments of post-socialism and the park's failure to attract many visitors in the two decades since its opening, the very irrelevance of the park's triumpha- lism has also become the source of trauma, haunted by the unrealized future its creation once seemed to promise.

Based on a qualitative research project, Melinda Kovai and Eszter Neumann's "The Memory of a Summer Vacation: Jewish Identity Strategies and Elite Socia­lization in State Socialist Hungary" explores the collective memory of a private summer resort in State-Socialist Hungary. The authors argue that the biographical narratives of the participants convey a more general message about the social func­tions of informal social enclaves and the elite socialization processes in State-Socialist Hungary. The analysis specifically explores the connotations of Jewishness in State-Socialist Hungary and the identity construction strategies of the Jewish generations raised after the Holocaust, and also discusses the participants' reflections about the cultural and social position of their families in the context of their "privileged" access to this exclusive pedagogic space.

Liudmila Kuznetsova's "The space of the Soviet resort: freedom or control?" examines the Soviet holiday resort as a space of internal conflict. On the one hand, in comparison to other social spheres, the resort reflected pre-revolutionary ideas about freedom of thought and actions; on the other hand, this space experienced strong pressure from the State, which sought to keep these spaces of freedom under its control and to make them yet another "smithy" for the "molding of the Soviet citizen." The resort and the sanatorium thus turn out to be examples of the Foucauldian heterotope (specifically, the heterotope of deviation, which houses individuals with deviant types of behavior).

In "The formation of the Peterhof recreational park," Stanislav Savitsky in­vestigates the functioning of Peterhof in the 1920s-30s. During this period it trans­formed from an imperial residence into a recreational park, which radically changed both its everyday existence and the value systems through which this existence was interpreted. Savitsky makes use of the eyewitness account of one contemporary visitor to Peterhof during this time — Lydia Ginzburg. The old palace and park, outfitted with new trappings, principles of spatial arrangement and social relations, became for Ginzburg an "ideal place for stepping outside of the customary flow of business-as-usual and for attempting to see reality outside of the logic of the everyday, to see things 'made strange,' in a liminal space between ordinary ideas and historical reflection."

 

LITERATURE AND CHILDHOOD: ENTERTAINMENT, INSTRUCTION, INDOCTRINATION

In "The scope of children's reading in 1840s USA and Russia ("Stories for Helen" and "The Gold Bug")," Aleksandra Urakova examines the migration of "adult" litera­ture into children's literature through the stories for little girls by Eliza Leslie, an American writer of the first half of the 19th century, and also the translation of Edgar Allen Poe's "The Gold Bug," published in Pyotr Redkin's children's magazine The new library for education. Leslie's "Stories for Helen" demonstrate the appearance of a new captivating quality in children's literature, which was achieved by bringing in plot elements from the Gothic and "urban" novel. The adaptation of "The Gold Bug" for children published in Redkin's magazine is connected less with the story's adven­turesome "pirate" plot than with its cognitive and development-oriented character.

An article from E.R. Ponomaryov, "Commonplaces of literary classics (the Brezhnev-era textbook destroyed itself from the inside)," analyzes the last Soviet literature textbook (late 1960s-early 1990s). The order in which writers and texts are presented, the exposition of writers' biographies and the interpretations of programmatic works are heavily ideologically colored. In comparison with text­books from preceding periods, the ideological element is hidden in the subtext, but still influences the pupils' consciousness. The specific force of this influence lies in the fact that it is nearly imperceptible: the textbook claims to be objective and scholarly. The article is thus mainly about the interaction of ideology and poetics. Ponomarev presumes that the final Soviet textbook informed the literary consciousness of post-Soviet generations as well.

 

CLASSIC: IMPORTANCE/IRRELEVANCE

The article "Russian classics in Soviet Estonia: Griboedov's Case" by D. Ivanov andM. Tamm looks into the mechanisms of the promotion of the Russian literary canon within the context of "sovietization" during and after Stalinism, using two translations of "Woe from Wit" to the Estonian language as examples. The article focuses on the history of these translations, on their existence in various media and schoolbooks, and on the translators' Jaan Karner, Jaan Kross) strategies. The authors also tried to reconstruct the patterns of the public reception and interpre­tation of the translations that had led to Griboedov's disappearance from the ranks of Russian canonical authors relevant to Estonian culture of the post Soviet era.

 

INTERPRETATIONS

In Igor Nemirovsky's article "Why "The Bronze Horseman" was Written," Pushkin's poem (1833) is analyzed as the combination of two conflicting attitudes towards Peter I's personality, which before Pushkin were presented separately in the folk­lore and in the official literature. The circumstances of the poet's work on "The Bronze Horsemen" are viewed here in the context of his research for "The History of Peter the Great," a historical work Pushkin was hired to write at that time by the Emperor Nicholas I, to which the poem was intended to become in a sense a poetical introduction. Thus Pushkin tried to change the official perception of Peter I's heritage and to introduce the possibility of writing a critical history of his reign. The failure of this attempt signified the end of the period during which Pushkin had an ambition to serve as a prophet for the tzar.

 

CINEMATEXT

In "Drama in the bathhouse, or The woes of democracy," Pavel Arsenev (Univer­sity of Lausanne) investigates the complicated periodic construction of Peter Brook's "Marat/Sade" (1967), a film version of Peter Weiss' play "The persecution and assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as performed by the inmates of the asylum of Charenton under the direction of the Marquis de Sade" (1964). Both the play about Marat's last days and the film version unequivocally aim for "contemporary resonance" and the projection of the given plot into the present day (meaning both the "rebellious sixties" for Brook and Weiss and the present day for us). Arsenev, however, focuses primarily on the specifics of the transitory or transitional quality of the dramatic action, which not only allows for a historical projection and lends allegorical relevance to the depicted, but also works to break down artistic con­vention in the performed action and ultimately eliminates the distance between the spectators and show participants. It is precisely the surplus of artifice in art (the "show within the show," i.e. the multiplication of framing conventions) that enables the work to cast light on the real situation of art production and con­sumption, thereby shifting simple viewing into the more uneasy mode of (^par­ticipation. In other words, in both the play (the Sade half of which takes place in an asylum) and the film version (where everything happens in a single pavilion), the deficit of "realistic" features in the exposition (which usually demands a more plausible diversity) seems to exist precisely in order to undermine the illusion of narrative, and to make the (theatrical) action transition toward the situation — into the situation — of the actual show.

 

ALEXEY PARSHIKOV: REVERSE PERSPECTIVE

The section consists of articles by Alexandr Davydov, Vitaly Kalpidi, Hedrick Jackson, Ilya Kutik, Vladimir Aristov, and Alexandr Ulanov, that focus on the poetics of Alexei Parshikov (1954—2009). These articles are based on papers delive­red at a conference in memory of A. Parshikov and A. Dragomoshenko (November 2013, Krasnoyarsk).

 

NONCONFORMISM REVISITED

This section contains two articles. In the first, "Standing out. Oleg Grigorev's 'A summer day' as the initial text of a literature that never happened," Oleg Jurjew(Frankfurt) discusses the particulars of this story by Oleg Grigorev (1943—1992), the shadowy classic of Leningrad unofficial literature, better known as a children's poet. Jurjew compares "A summer day (kid's story)," which was written in the early 1960s, with Alexander Solzhenitsyn's One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich, and concludes that, unlike the latter story, which remains within the bounds of socialist realism, Grigorev's little-known tale constitutes a foundational text of a new aesthetic paradigm — "the beginning of a literature that did not come to be." Indeed, Jurjew convincingly demonstrates that "A summer day" had neither predecessors nor successors.

In turn, Elena Mikhailik (University of New South Wales) in "One? Day? Ivan Denisovich? or the reform of language" addresses linguistic and ideological as­pects of Solzhenitsyn's famous story which usually remain outside the purview of scholarship. In particular, she discusses the reception of Sergei Eisenstein's "Ivan the Terrible," the second part of which Solzhenitsyn's characters discuss in One Day.., although at the time the story takes place (1951), there was no way that the prisoners could have seen it (the film was released only in 1958). This and other "discrepancies" allow Mikhailik to take a fresh look at Solzhenitsyn's meta- literary project and its political implications.

 

CLOSE READING

An essay from Valentina Polukhina (Keele University at Newcastle), "The secret of 'Bobo's funeral'" offers a new reading of Joseph Brodsky's 1972 poem, "Bobo's Funeral." Challenging previous interpretations, including Lev Losev's influential reading of the poem, Polukhina scrupulously analyzes its structural particularities and clarifies Brodsky's dramatic biographical circumstances at the time he was writing the poem; this enables her to both establish the specific addressee of the poem and to place it into Brodsky's overall "philosophy of art." The Nobel Prize laureate had formulated an idea of the self-sufficiency and independent develop­ment of language as early as 1963.

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