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ANTHROPOLOGY OF READING AND ANTHROPOLOGY OF DISCOURSE

I. READING

Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht's (Stanford University) "The Future of Reading? Mem­ories and Thoughts towards a Genealogical Approach" is based on the author's personal impressions from a seminar he led with students at the University of Santiago-de-Chile. Gumbrecht noticed that the students' reading practice differed strikingly from his own: it was as if they "didn't see" the stylistic and rhetorical aspects of the literary text, instead shifting immediately to the information it conveyed. At the same time, when he directed the students' attention to the formal side of the text, they were genuinely interested. Gumbrecht sees the explanation for this difference in reading strategies in the fact that the age of ubiquitous electronic media has led to changes in the chronotope that determines methods of reading. Previously, a historicist chronotope was dominant — a chronotope of implacable time, which left the past behind and thought of the present as a brief moment of transition toward a future open to the horizon of possibilities (this chronotope was realized in such seemingly contradictory tendencies as hermeneutics and the New Criticism). The new chronotope, emerging in parallel to the previous one, does not consign any part of the past to oblivion; in it, the future appears more as a repository of the dangerous consequences of everything that has happened in the past, while the present expands outward, incorporating all current events and "canceling out," as it were, the vector of time. This new chrono- tope transforms the mode of reading as well: now it has become impossible to un­hurriedly concentrate on the form of the literary text, as well as to divide texts into "classics" and "non-classics": such a division is hindered by the mass of cumu­lative, irrevocable and ever-present information, and the absence of historical teleologism inherent to the historicist chronotope.

In her article "'Productive Imagination' as 'Unproductive Labor': toward a history of cultures of literary reading," Tatiana Venediktova (MSU) attempts to historicize aspects of "bourgeois" reading culture integral to the modern cultural economy and the "economy of imagination" (K. Heinzelman). Reading is shown to lie between the ideals of pleasurable consumption and strenuous "self-entrepre-neurship." Rather than commodified or sacralized values, the "unproductive" labor of reading — at once individual and cooperative — produces experiences and rela­tionships. This approach offers a venue to explore some of the social and cultural functions of literature continuously downplayed in the Russian tradition.

In "'Operationalizing', or, the function of measurement in modern literary theory,"Franco Moretti (Stanford University) discusses the possible application of operationalizing (the procedure of transforming theoretical concepts into a series of measurements) to literary studies. Moretti stresses the potential of using quantitative methods for literary theory, as they could make investigations in this discipline falsifiable. Operationalizing can reshape the field of literary theory by substituting traditional notions based on readerly common sense with new, testable categories. To illustrate this method, Moretti provides a quantitative analysis of the character-space (Alex Woloch's term) in Racine's Phedre, and tests Hegel's conception of tragic collision as applied to Antigone.

II. DISCOURSE

"Samodeyatel'nost': in search of Soviet modernity," an article by Zinaida Vasilieva(European University at Saint Petersburg/ Universite de Neuchatel), examines the linguistic transfer of the German lexemes Selbstbetatigung and Selbsttatigkeit into Russian. Vasilieva proposes that the semantic metamorphoses of these words' Russian equivalent mark out phases in the history of the individual's interactions with the authorities in Soviet society. Vasilieva's hypothesis is that Soviet histo­rical material reveals the cultural mechanism of samodeyatel'nost' (translated variously as self-initiative, amateur activity) built into various discourses and practices, in which the political imperative, official and everyday discourse and the subjective desire for self-expression are closely and often contradictorily inter­twined. Her investigation of the functioning of this cultural mechanism brings to light a specific component of the phenomenon of Soviet modernity.

In "Third-degree contacts: notes on window-display science," Galina Orlova(Southern Federal University / European Humanities University / RANEPA) analy­ses the structuring presence of contacts with the West, as expressed by Obninsk-based atomic physicists in their retrospective remarks on Soviet science. Orlova problematizes the genealogy and mechanism of this interface with a view to the local specifics of Obninsk, the "city of the peace atom," as well as Thaw-era Soviet policy regarding the sciences and the symbolic niche of atomic energy. Using the discourse-analysis concept of "interpretative repertoire," introduced by J. Potter and M. Wetherell, Orlova describes the basic discursive moves made by informants in relation to the Soviet element in "Big Science". Orlova's article uses materials from and is itself part of the Obninsk digital project.

Using frameworks derived from discourse analysis, Natalya Zvereva (HSE / The Peoples' Friendship University of Russia) in "Discourses on immigrants in the contemporary Russian press: strategies in the struggle for meaning" analyzes texts from Russian newspapers. She describes two discourses about immigrants: xeno­phobic discourse and neoliberal discourse. She examines two different models of the discursive construction of the "migrant" and immigration in the Russian press between 2010—2012.

 

VIKTOR SHKLOVSKY. FIGURES AND GENRES OF THEORETICAL IMAGINATION

Compiled by Ilya Kalinin

"The formalist theory of plot/The structuralist story of formalism" by Ilya Kalinin (NZ / Saint Petersburg State University) combines two analytical tasks. The first is a critical investigation of the structuralist reception of formalist theory, in which doubt is cast on the widespread genealogy connecting formalism and structuralism. The basis for this critical investigation is, first of all, Julia Kristeva's reduction of formalist theory of poetic representation to the German classical tradition of the poetics of expressivity, and secondly, the distinctions between formalist and structuralist theories of narrative. The second analytical task is the reinterpretation of Viktor Shklovsky's theory of narrative. This is an attempt to conceptualize its categorical and conceptual apparatus as a mobile constella­tion of metaphors relating to a stable ground of signification connected to the movement of the well-trained body of a gymnast, circus performer, dancer, etc. Shklovsky consistently describes the plot as a kinetic trick that makes it possible to negotiate the physical, psychological, social, quotidian, and other limitations of the subject matter (that is to say, the immediate "material of life"). As a result of the development of the conceptual metaphors employed by Shklovsky, beyond the theory of narrative itself one may discern an implicit theory of the subject— and perhaps even an anthropological theory.

"The aftertaste of formalism. Proliferations of theory in Viktor Shklovsky's writings of the 1930s" by Ian Levchenko (HSE) is devoted to the ways of preser­vation of theory used by Viktor Shklovsky after the official breakup of Russian Formalist circle in 1930. That year the founder of Petersburg formalist branch published his well-known "Monument to the scientific error," where he renounced his former achievements. At the same time his position was much more compli­cated than seemed at the first sight. Shklovsky decided to save some principal theoretical positions within the framework of experimental "self-reflexive" fiction. It was quite a habitual strategy: Shklovsky started realizing his ideas on the edge between prose and its theory in the early 1920s, when his "formalist" memoir entitled "Sentimental Journey" was published in Berlin. Since the late 1920s Shklovsky steadily shifts from the radical formalist perspective customized on "devices of expression" to speculative and diachronic poetics based on ritualistic references to Marxism. The paper analyzes some textual sequences of this theo­retical experience.

"'O zakonakh kino' ('On laws of cinema') by V. Shklovsky: Preface to the republication" by Rad Borislavov (Columbia University) states that, despite his vast contributions to Soviet cinema and the mark left upon it, in the 1920s Shklovsky was far from enthusiastic about the artistic and ideological potential of film as a medium. If in verbal art making perception difficult was of paramount importance, in his essays on film Shklovskii consistently cautioned against exces­sive difficulty and formal experimentation, and expressed his doubts about the ability of cinema to renew everyday perception. This considered position, origi­nally voiced almost contemporaneously with the appearance of "Art as Device" and before his extensive practical involvement in the Soviet cinema industry, be­came one of the key tenets of Shklovsky's theoretical and practical engagement with cinema after his return to the Soviet Union from Germany in the fall of 1923, as "O zakonakh kino," published in 1924, demonstrates.

 

DISCIPLINE: THE PARTY LINE VS ACADEMIC

Since the end of the 1940s to mid-1956 Nadezhda Mandelstam was immersed in her dissertation in linguistics ("Functions of the Accusative Case According to Some Works of Anglo-Saxon Poetry"), taking exams, writing and revising the dissertation and its summary, struggling for the right to defend it and finally de­fending it. Along with an ability to fight, she displayed a talent for research, that of a true scholar, noticed and praised by her mentor and research adviser, Viktor M. Zhirmunsky. In "Regarding Nadezhda Mandelstam's dissertation," the docu­ments and texts found and written by Pavel Nerler (The Mandelstam Society)Dmitry Zubarev (Memorial), and Larisa Naidich (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem), reveal the steps Mandelstam took, the historical context (including the politically motivated attacks both on her dissertation and on Zhirmunsky waged by the Communist authorities of the Institute of Linguistics of the USSR Academy of Sciences several weeks prior to the death of Joseph Stalin), and Mandelstam's contribution to linguistics.

 

INTERPRETATIONS

In "Dance with the skull: Ballad and vampiric motives in Afanasy Fet" Mikhail Weisskopf (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem) claims that already Fet's early writings are marked with an acute interest in the unity of life and death. His fa­vorite genre in the 1840s is the ballad centering on the border between the living and the dead which is constantly transgressed. One of the factors explaining Fet's attraction to the theme of death can be the influence of his Pietist education at a German school in Verro (modern Vyru, Estonia) governed by Hernguters — a Protestant sect in whose ideology death was seen as a joyful event. This, together with a lifelong interest in "natural philosophy," may partially account for the persistence of necrophilic motif in Fet's oeuvre. The role of certain biographic fac­tors should also be considered. The same Protestant tradition could be the root of the two aspects within Fet's person, an outer astute practical man and an inner spiritual being coexisting harmoniously — as was often the case with German romantic writers.

 

LACUNAE

This section fills a serious lacuna by presenting readers with Fernando Pessoa's (1888—1935) Ode Mantima. Pessoa is a key author of European modernism and the creator of twentieth-century Portuguese poetry as such. He wrote under a great number of heteronyms, the primary ones being Alberto Caeiro, Alvaro de Campos, "Pessoa-himself" and Ricardo Reis. Pessoa's texts, and first and foremost his famousOde Mantima, written in 1915 by Alvaro de Campos, became models and precedents for contemporary European and worldwide poetry after 1950. The translation of Ode Mantima is accompanied by an article by Natalia Azarova (The Institute of Linguistics), "Fernando Pessoa's Ode Mantima: on the criteria for identifying a precedent-setting text," in which Azarova substantiates the metaliterary, broad cultural significance of this modernist masterpiece and re­constructs the context of its reception.

 

NONCONFORMISM REVISITED

An article by Ian Probstein (Touro College, New York), "Inspired land," is dedicated to Sergey Vladimirovich Petrov (1911—1988), known to most as an excellent translator from several European languages (he translated the Icelandic sagas and skaldic poetry, as well as Rilke, Mallarme and Bolesfew Lesmian). But he became known to readers as an original metaphysical poet only after several posthumous publications. Probstein shows how the roots of Petrov's metaphysical poetry should be sought in European poetry, and claims that the origins of his work overall lie in the legacy of Trediakovsky, Lomonosov and Derzhavin. Petrov is close to the work of OBERIU poets, particularly to Zabolotsky and Vvedensky, in his polyphony and dialogism; Probstein follows Bakhtin in understanding these devices as a "means of seeking truth," as opposed to the "official monologism that pretends to own and control the final truth." Polyphony, meanwhile, is the em­bedded "speech of the other," a refraction of the author's speech through the word of the other and a hidden polemics of many voices (although Bakhtin asserts that "a whole series of crucially important problems cannot be solved in poetry," he does not take Russian or European modernist and avant-garde poetry into his purview). Moreover, Probstein also uses the concept of polyphony in the musical sense, as punctum contra punctum: the introduction of several independent voices with their resolution at the end. Polyphony in Petrov's work is connected with heteroglossia and polyrhythmia, while dialogism is connected with Menippean satire and carnivalization.

 

CLOSE READING

The two articles in this section investigate the poetry and prose of Nikolai Kononov. In a lyrical essay, "Sketches toward the work of Nikolai Kononov," Alexander Belykh(Artyom) examines the evolution of Kononov's poetry from his first collection,Oreshnik (Filbert) (1987) to his latest two books, Pilot (Pilot) (2009) and 80: Kniga stikhov 1980—1991 (80: Book of poems 1980—1991) (2011). Belykh focuses on the intertextual connections and the dialogue with literary predecessors (Pushkin, Yazykov, Fet and other nineteenth-century poets), as well as the erotic and traumatic, socio-political subtexts of Kononov's poetry. The article from Maria Dmitrovsky (I. Kant Baltic Federal University, Kalinin­grad), "If the muse is Clio: the history of a human soul and the history of nations in Nikolai Kononov's novel Flaneur" analyzes the linguistic fabric of the novel. Dmitrovsky considers the main feature of Kononov's writerly technique to be his use of the manifold possibilities of language, particularly in the formation of a semantic invariant of literary works, as well as methods for expanding language, whereby the devices of wordplay are extended all the way to using multilinguistic agrammatical codes and playing with linguistic categories. Kononov seeks to reestablish the "Adamic" state of language that preceded the construction of the Tower of Babel.

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