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Lacunae: Rhetoric and Image: Visual Strategies of Political Communication in the Early Modern Period

Guest editors: Timur Atnashev and Mikhail Velizhev


This block of articles is devoted to the classical methodological approach to the study of the strategies of visual communication in the societies of the early modern period. They demonstrate how visual language becomes a means of social communication in various historical contexts, whereby visual language is not merely a “reflection” of an idea, but rather reinterprets it and adds greater persuasiveness and actuality to a verbal argument. The general logic of the block assumes this perspective from three methodological approaches and authorial trajectories (comparable in terms of significance) toward the interpretation of visual strategies in the field of social communication and visual rhetoric: Horst Bredekamp, one of the most famous modern art historians of continental Europe; Quentin Skinner, the “founding father” of the Cambridge school of the history of political philosophy; and Manfredo Tafuri, the well-known historian and architectural theorist, as well as on of the founders of urban studies, who had a colossal impact on the development of the urban studies during the late-20th and early-21st centuries. Each author takes on a new role as historian of interdisciplinary connections in the humanities: the historian of discourse speaks of frescoes, the historian of art — of the philosophical treatise, and the historian of architecture — of societal institutions.

The section opens with Horst Bredekamp’s “Thomas Hobbes’s Visual Strategies”. According to Hobbes, visual images fulfill a political function not through acts of iconoclasm or of figural representation of human sacrifices, but rather through the suppression of destruction. In Leviathan Hobbes introduces the concept of the “mortal God,” which has overtones of a statehood that is freed from the vice of private interests, but by no means possessing pretensions to immortality. Taking into account that it is possible to keep peace only while the mortal God lives, Hobbes’ conception of the endless war, against which peace should be based, contains in itself the category of time. Insofar as the condition of peace is the result of stable renewal, then the act of portrayal or representation — in contrast to the act of speaking or reading — creates the possibility to support its preservation with a method that resists time as much as is possible. The frontispiece of the treatise Leviathan, a detailed analysis of which is presented in this article, can serve as an example of such a political approach to visuality. This frontispiece can not only endow the state-monstrosity with the memory of individualism as a distinctive mark, but, moreover, also take upon itself the character of a general sign. The portrayal of the Leviathan, growing from mark to sign, forms the sign of the state, which directs the actions from within at any given moment. People, according to Hobbes, find themselves in constant danger of returning to a natural state, in which there is no perceptible power holding them in awe. All achievements of civilization are in conflict with natural passions, and therefore Hobbes needs such a visible representation of power in order to maintain this power and support civilization.

The focus of Quentin Skinner’s “Ambrogio Lorenzetti on the Power and Glory of Republics” is the frescoes painted by the Italian artist Ambrogio Lorenzetti in the Palazzo Pubblico in Siena from 1337 to 1339. Skinner addresses two riddles of these frescoes: the regal figure reigning over the ensemble of political benefactors on the northern wall of the palazzo, and the still more puzzling group of dancers at the center of the cityscape on the eastern wall. The figure embodies Siena itself and its republican state system (civitas), endowed also with the status of supreme judge. The ten dancers are called to drive out sadness (tristitia) from the city, and to express joy in a scene of the triumph of civil peace and of the glory of the Sienese republic. Moreover, both are inextricably linked to the Signori Nove — the nine ruling officials of Siena who initiated the reconstruction of the Palazzo Pubblico and commissioned Lorenzetti’s frescoes.

The section closes with Manfredo Tafuri’s “Memoria et Prudentia: Patrician Mentalities and Res Aedificatoria”. In the intellectual and political space of Venice in first half of the 16th century, two tendencies came into conflict: one, the tendency toward the demonstration of grandeur, wealth and luxury; the other, the tendency toward ostentatious moderation. Both of these tendencies, supported by religious thought, found their reflection in the legislation and architecture of the epoch. On one hand, the Venetian authorities revived 13th-century laws against luxury, while on the other hand the leading families of the Venetian elite, who were striving to concentrate power in their own hands and did not identify themselves with this original equality and bygone austerity, displayed their ostentatious “disobedience” to these laws. All of this manifested itself in the new dwellings, which several patricians built in Venice over the course of the 16th century using architecture as a “status symbol” of their own exceptionalism. Several conflicting architectural styles arose, which resulted in arguments about art and architecture — hidden and latent, but evident. They became part of the much broader discussion about the identity of the Venetian republic and its institutes.


Visual Attractors in Literature: (Materials from a Round Table)

Guest Editor: Sergey Zenkin


The work of art is heterogenous: in its syntagmatic development (linear, planar, spatial) there are points of increased intensity, separated elements, which direct attention onto themselves, are more strongly experienced, and more easily remembered, cited and discussed. They gather structural tension within the work. Borrowing the term from the theory of dynamic systems, such elements can be called attractors. The current selection focuses on the research of the visual attractor in the literary text, i.e. in a heterogenous symbolic environment. Visual attractors are present in in literature as elements of the imaginary world (characters, landscapes, material objects endowed with a visual form), or as signs of visual reminiscences (for example, references to works of art), or as devices of visualization of textual form (concrete poetry and so on). Attractors form the dynamics of the text, which exists only in human perception, therefore their study steps out beyond the bounds of immanent textual analysis.

The section opens with Yuri Murashov’ s “The Evil Eye of Writing: On Two Types of the Poetology of Sight”. The fundamental effect of writing consists of the automatization of sight in relation to the sonic perception of language. The synesthetic unity of eye and ear becomes uncoupled. From this follow two contradictory poetological strategies. The first confirms the dominance of sight, and is embodied in Sophocles’ tragic character Oedipus. The second, conversely, attempts to restore the power of the sonic word; the model of this poetological approach is Euripides’ drama The Bacchae, which stars the god-magician Dionysus.

Sergey Zenkin’s “Portraits Exchanging Glances (Bunin’s Light Breathing)” regards the famous Bunin’s novella “Light Breathing” which features two visual images — the painterly portrait of the tsar, and the gravestone photograph of the story’s heroine. Both images are involved in the narrative action and are the object of sacralization.

Tatiana Venediktova’s “By Eye and by Touch: Visual Attractors in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick” analyzes the descriptive passages in H. Melville’s novel Moby Dick; or, The Whale (1851), in which arise the images of an imperceptible handshake (chapters IV, CXXV. XCIV), a half-visible picture (chapter III), and a cetacean fountain, seen from afar, yet incomprehensible all the same (chapter LXXXV). In all of these cases, sight, the most “intellectual” of the human senses, turns out to be powerless, and appeals to the most “physical” — the sense of touch — for help. The story is hindered, turns around on itself, and begins to discuss the conditions of its own possibility. Visual attractors are formed due to the inadequacy of visual perception, which receives an unexpectedly rich compensation thanks to the realization of tactile, or haptic, contact. The closest analog of such contact is the literary and artistic register of speech, in which the phatic and aesthetic functions are pronouncedly undifferentiated.

In her “Shifting Portrait and Inexact Copy: Bronzino in H. James’ The Wings of the Dove”, Alexandra Urakova provides an analysis of the visual attractor and its function in the late novel of the American author Henry James, The Wings of the Dove (1903). In this novel James devotes increased attention to images of graphic art and plays with perspective, situating his characters in gallery spaces — from the National Gallery in London to a private collection of paintings in an English home. Moreover, the main heroine of the novel — the American woman Milly Theale — has an artistic double that is simultaneously present both within the space of the novel, as well as outside its bounds. This is the portrait of Lucrezia Panciatichi, the work of the late-Renaissance Florentine artist Agnolo Bronzino. The portrait of Panciatichi is traditionally regarded by critics as a symbol of the heroine’s death. However, we believe that its role in the novel is not reducible merely to its symbolic function. With its help, James seeming ly suggests that we draw open the fictional borders of the novel, compelling us not only to add the image of Milly to our understanding of the masterwork, but also to “read” the actually existing portrait into the story of the heroine. The dual existence of the portrait, its shifting location (in The Wings of the Dovethe Bronzino from the Uffizi gallery “falls” into a private collection), and also the incongruity of the copy and the original are considered as marks of attraction, or contractions of the novel’s affective meanings. The mirror-like, yet simultaneously asymmetrical relationship of Milly and the portrait also underlines the special, tragic position of the heroine in the novel; she is the “masterwork”, whom all attempt to use for their own purposes, but who — as authentic art — unselfishly gives herself to the whole world.

The object of Boris Stepanov’s “‘The Attraction of the Land’: Space and Literary Image in N.P. Antsiferov’s Theory of Excursions” is to discuss the problematics of the attractiveness of literary images in N.P. Antsiferov’s theory of literary excursions. At the heart of the idea of literary excursions lies the idea of the experience of the connection of a literary image with a concrete spatial locus. Describing how a literary excursion utilizes various aspects of the aesthetics of realism and actualizes definite types of readerly experience, Antsiferov anticipates the research of literary imagination in popular culture.


Disgrace and Exile in Cultural and Discursive Practices of the XVI–XVII Centuries

Guest editor: Maria Neklyudova


Exile is not a concept that is quickly associated with the Early modern period, but, nevertheless, to a large extent the XVI–XVII centuries in Europe was an epoch of exiles. Religious infighting and civil wars, the formation of a new type of state and the associated mechanisms of control — all these processes had foreseeable consequences, compelling individuals and entire groups of the population to leave familiar places, to abandon their country or to agree to the limitation of formerly held freedoms. Necessary inactivity aided introspection, which is confirmed by the massive corpus of texts from the XVI–XVII centuries — memoirs, diaries, spiritual reflections and moralizing narratives, the authors of which arose in a moment of temporary or permanent suspension of action. This “literature of exile” allowed for the realization of formerly unfulfilled ambitions and permitted the touching up of the past. However, apart from rare exceptions, it seldom spoke of the experience of exile itself, which was experienced more as a suspension of active life than as a special condition, and still did not have its own lexicon, so long as the rich dictionary of religious tradition did not come to its aid. Rhetoric and politics are the two foundational systems of coordinations, around which what constituted exile in the XVI–XVII centuries is constructed here. At its base is the material from the round table “Disgrace and exile in cultural and discursive practices of the XVI–XVII centuries”, which was organized by the E.M. Meletinsky Institute of Higher Humanitarian Research (RSUH) on November 18, 2015.

The section opens with Konstantin Erusalimskiy’s “‘The document was written rudely’: Literary Creation and Madness in Russia during the 16th and 17th Centuries”. In place of the creative “folly,” used during the epoch of clinical psychiatry for the diagnostic effect of “reason,” a system of representations of “madness,” which deprived the speaker of the right to discourse, took shape in Muscovite written culture during the 16th and 17th centuries. “Rude” address toward the sovereign was insane, criminal, and linked with the usurpation of power, heresy, and high treason. “Rudeness” in the correspondence of Ivan the Terrible and Kurbsky, in a similar manner to “word and deed”, marked one of the uncrossable boundaries of creative freedom. The limitation of scribes was thought of as a prevention of “lies” and a ban on “false books.” Along with the ambassadorial representation of “untruth”/“rudeness”/“treason”, there also took shape a certain resource of restriction and absolute ban on literary activity in discussion with the “heresy of the pure.”

Anna Sereguina’s “Experience of Emigration and Political Polemic: Anthony Munday’s The English Roman Life (1582)” analyzes Anthony Munday’s pamphlet The English Roman Life (1582), which was the first description of the life of English émigrés in Italy. The text is considered in the context of the confessional polemic, and also within the framework of the debates about the limits of loyalty to the government that took place among English Catholics. Munday polemicizes with Catholic pamphlets on emigration, asserting that many of them are traitors. At the same time however, he shows how the beginnings of their emigration can be found in the oppression of Catholics in England. In this way Munday presents emigration itself as a metaphor of the Catholic community in England. The use of this metaphor was a way in which to talk about the problems of the Catholics without engaging in a public discussion, as well as a way to call for a change in governmental policy toward them.

Anna Stogova’s “How to Construct a Voluntary Exile in Paris? John Evelyn and the English Civil War” is devoted to one of the most interesting themes in the historiography of the English Civil War of the mid-17th century, connected with the motif of exile, which is itself a rather popular subject in royalist literature. The author focuses on the diary of John Evelyn, who left everything behind and moved to Paris after the execution of King Charles I, despite the fact that he took no part in either the political or military events of the war, and was not subject to any sort of persecution. This situation makes Evelyn’s text exceptionally interesting for the analysis of the ways in which the image of exile is constructed under the conditions of a changing political language. The coexistence within the diary of various images of exile reflects the complexity and multilayeredness of the cultural transformations taking place within the political sphere at the time.

The section continues with Kira Kashlyavik’s “Pascal’s 11th Provincial Letter: The Trajectory of the Banishment of Laughter”. In the French 17th-century we find many examples of banishment and the readiness to be banished both as response and simultaneously as rhetorical strategy. One such example are Blaise Pascal’s Provincial Letters. This article examines the historical creation of the Provincial Letters, and their use of comic devices. Judging by their content, characters, and general pathos, the Provincial Letters are closest of all to the tradition of “Menippean satire.” The two are united by the presence of the Jesuits as target, the aim to influence the doubting reader, the devices of burlesque, pun, comic scenarios and speech, and the combinations of genres and languages. In the architectonics of the Provincial Letters, a special positions is occupied by the 11th letter, the primary theme of which is the justification of the mocking and ironic relationship toward delusion. Pascal points at the important position that irony and laughter occupy in the tradition of the Church. In addition, “wicked laughter” — the antidote for moral depravity — becomes the exception in the Christian “laughing world” of Pascal, which “banishes” wicked irony, exchanging it for the smile of the wiseman in the Thoughts.

Svetlana Pavlova’s “Exile and Memoir-Creation: The Case of Mademoiselle de Montpensier” considers the influence that exile had on the development of the Mémoires of Mademoiselle de Montpensier (1627–1693). It discusses the dynamics of her relationship towards royal disgrace, as well as towards the writing of memoir as a peculiar type of therapy for a princess in the unfamiliar circumstances of non-public life. Fragments written during the periods of her first and second exiles are correlated in terms of the transformation of the image of protagonist and narrator. Conclusions are reached regarding the reasons and results of de Montpensier’s fall from grace, and the meaning of memoir-creation for her fate. An analysis of the episodes related to exile allows us to portray the intensification of the problematics related to private life and the inner world of the person, and deepens our understanding of French memoirs of the second half of the 17th century.

In her “Royal Disfavor in 1697. An Experiment in Historical Reconstruction”, Maria Neklyudova reconstructs the sequence of events leading to the disgrace of Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de La Force (c. 1650–1724), whose name is most readily associated with the courtly style of literature characteristic of the end of the 17th, and beginning of the 18th centuries. In 1697 by order of the king she was sent to a monastery. Insofar as it was an extrajudicial procedure, her contemporaries saw it as an attempt to “correct morals and manners.” However, it appears that the secret reason for her disgrace was a series of scandalous “chants de Noël”, attributable to Mademoiselle de La Force, which ridiculed the king, his inner circle, and various eminent aristocratic families. Although her contemporaries attributed them to various authors, indirect data allows us to suppose that, in actual fact, they were composed in the milieu of the illegitimate daughter of Louis XIV, to which Mademoiselle de La Force belonged.


Interpretations: Translations

Vera Serdechnaia’s “The First Russian Translation of William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell: The Puzzle of the Manuscripts from the Remizov Archive” tells the story of the creation and discovery of the first Russian translation of William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, which was carried out by Serafima Remizova-Dovgello, the wife of Aleksey Remizov, during their emigration in Paris. Aleksey Remizov valued highly the artistic significance of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, and cited it in his own works. Serafima Remizova’s translation includes the text of the poem itself, and, on separate sheets, the Song of Liberty — a part of the poem that was finished by Blake at a later date. Essentially, the translation is, in a scholarly sense, close to an interlinear. The equivalence (exactitude) of the translation prevails over adequateness (correspondence of artistic influence). The fundamental characteristics of the translation can be said to be its fidelity to the original and its orientation toward the tradition of Russian literature.


The Postmodernist Bunin

Setting out from an unusual notebook of I.A. Bunin, Evgeny Ponomarev’s “Postmodernist Tendencies in the Work of the Late I. A. Bunin (based on material from a unique notebook)” attempts to partially reconstruct the creative process of the author, as well as to trace the reasons for the development of a text in the notebook and, in parallel, in published works from the second half of the 1940s to the beginning of the 1950s. The author comes to the conclusion that in his late work Bunin, who was exceptionally sensitive to changes of literary process (and radically changed his manner of writing several time over the course of his long life), draws near to a postmodernist discursivity, characterized by citational-playful speech, lack of main character or personae, and predominance of background over main plot. All of this permits one to pose the question of Bunin’s movement from modernism to postmodernism.

The block concludes with the publication of a notebook of I.A. Bunin. The published notebook is presented as a unique historical-literary document. The material in it is arranged more systematically than in the author’s other notebooks, and as such it shows Bunin’s writerly thinking from an unfamiliar angle. The current publication of the notebook is provided with minimal commentary, appropriate to the journal format. The full academic commentary to the text will be published in an edition of Literaturnoe Nasledstvo, which is currently being prepared for publication.



Three essays are presented in the rubric, which are dedicated to various tendencies of contemporary Russian literature. Andrei Levkin’s essay “Parshchikov’s Cannon and the Common Field” reviews the oeuvre of one of the most well-known Russian poets of the second half of the 20th century, Aleksei Parshchikov. In Maria Galina’s text “To Return and to Alter. The Alternative History of Russia as a Reflection of Traumatic Points of Mass Consciousness of the Post-Soviet Man” examines the specific sub-genre of Russian science fiction, in which the plot involves contemporary people who have fallen into the past — both invented and historical. Aleksandr Belykh’s essay “The Parade of Parody, or Soviet Saturnalia” is dedicated to the last novel of the Petersburg writer Nikolai Kononov, Parade (2015).

The “Bibliography” section comprises reviews of the newest research of Russian and foreign scholars, and also a list of the contents of the newspaper Gumanitarniy Fond. The “Chronicle of Scientific Life” publishes the reviews of the XVI Lotman Readings (2016) and the international conference “From Utopia to Catastrophe: The Soviet Cultural Experiment.” (Belgrade, 2016).

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