This section fills a major lacuna by introducing the Russian reader to Werner Hamacher (1948–2017), one of the most prominent thinkers and theoreticians of literature, widely known in Germany, France, and the United States for his research on the intersection of philology, philosophy, political science, and poetry. A fragment of his famous “95 Theses on Philology” is being presented in Russian for the first time. Setting the stage for this publication is an article by Anna Glazova (to whom the translation of “95 Theses...” also belongs), “Werner Hamacher and the Need for a Radical Renewal of Philological Practice,” in which the research project and method of the German philosopher are outlined.
In “Stankevich and the Early Reception of Hegel in Russia” Victoria Frede argues that when Russian Westernizers N.V. Stankevich, V.G. Belinskii and M.A. Bakunin first confronted Hegel’s ideas in the 1830s, they gravitated toward a conservative interpretation, based around the famous formula that “what is real is rational”. This article proposes a new approach to Hegel’s early reception in Russia. Hegel’s late works initially drew Westernizers’ attention and were mediated by German acolytes who later came to be known as “Center Hegelians” and “Right Hegelians”. These shaped the early reception of Hegel both in France and in Russia. A French article, Joseph Wilm’s “Essay on the Philosophy of Hegel,” which Stankevich translated for the journal, Telescope in 1835, served as his entryway. Stankevich then became the first Russian thoroughly to study Hegel.
In the article “‘Hegel is Difficult, But You Will Not Write Better, In Other Words, Closer’: The Novels of Boris Poplavsky as the ‘Hegelian Text’ of Russian Literature” Dmitry Tokarev analyzes the Hegelian subtext in the novels of the émigré poet, writer, and amateur philosopher Boris Poplavsky (1903–1935).In the novel Apollo Unformed, dialectical consciousness, described by Hegel in the fourth chapter of The Phenomenology of Spirit, organizes the text not only on an ideological level, but also on the level of its narrative structure. This is proof that Poplavsky was familiar with Hegel’s philosophy before he became a “diligent student” of the subsequently famous seminars on The Phenomenology of Spirit led by Aleksandre Kojève from 1933 to 1939 at the École pratique des hautes études in Paris. Poplavsky officially attended Kojève’s classes during the 1934–1935 academic year, which allows for a new reading of his second novel, Home from the Heavens, which he worked on at the same time as he was participating in the seminar.
Adaptation, Interpretation, Reception The Dialectical Between “High” and “Popular” Culture in the Russian Empire of the 19th — Early 20th Century
Guest Editor Julia Safronova
This section is dedicated to the study of various phenomena of “popular” culture and its practices of assimilating and appropriating artifacts of “high culture,” beginning with the elite optical entertainment of the first half of the 19th century and concluding with cutting edge ethnographic knowledge in the early 20th century. The actors who participated in these processes were diverse: imperial bureaucrats who educated the populace through adaptations of classics, participants in protest movements who rewrote Marx in the language of fairy tales, business owners driven by a thirst for commercial success, and also representatives of the “people” themselves.
In the Alina Novik’s article “‘People’s Cosmorama’: The Origins of Russian Rayok within the Context of the History of 19th-Century Optical Media” examines two forms of optical technology brought to Russia from the West. One was the cosmorama, based on the optical room at the Palais Royal in Paris, and the other being unpretentious Russian rayok, which remade the repertoire of once-elegant optical spectacles in accordance with the demands of the “simple folk.”
Yana Agafonova’s “Classics for Common People in Adaptations by the Standing Committee on the Organization of Reading for the People” and Julia Safronova’s “Illegal Literature for the Masses: The Imaginary and Real Reader” are dedicated to two poles of literature “for the people”: book-publishing activity worked on at the Ministry of Public Education’s Standing Committee on the Organization of Reading for the People and underground publication by Narodnik revolutionaries. Despite the differences between the people involved, they were surprisingly close in terms of their ideas of which books were needed for the people, as well as the final product. In the article, Agafonova examines the state project of developing special literature for the people, in which an important role was played by literary classics. The study of these publications show that a recognized in educated society as a literary classic required significant changes when addressing an unprepared public. Readers’ reactions to non-commercial literature prepared especially for them, as examined by Safronova, allows us to assert that they required an intelligent mediator, without whom they had little chance for success.
Natalia Mikhailova’s article “Ethnographic Subjects in Prints at the Turn of 20th Century: From ‘High’ Culture to ‘Popular Ethnography’” demonstrates that elements of high culture penetrated the visual field of mass audiences — primarily urban — also through the mediation of works of graphic art. The creators of posters, price lists, and trade cards turned to ethnographic themes, relying on paintings by artists, photographs, and illustrations from scientific works. That said, the “reference” images became distorted, and were transferred over without reflection, as the business owners who commissioned them were pursuing their commercial goals above all. Nevertheless, with less access to education, these images could have educational potential.
Whether it was a question of spreading socialist ideas or of earning a few kopecks from a favorable public, what all these cases had in common was that works of “high” culture were transformed, at times to the point of being unrecognizable, so that the classical roots in “people’s” texts and images could be discerned only by a highly educated addressee or an attentive researcher. These tendencies raised several questions at once for the authors: who were the initiators of the adaptations of “high” culture, to what extent did these interpretations meet the actual needs of the public, and to what extent were they the result of ideas about “the people”? No less important are questions about how these kinds of adaptions were received: did the common reader really need their own literature, and did the common viewer need images their eyes were accustomed to seeing, accompanied by commentary?
Materiality and Textuality of the Poetic Utterance
The section brings together research dedicated to the materiality and textuality of the poetic utterance. Using works from different eras, the authors analyze the interaction between the visual and textual configurations of works and the influence of the physical format of the book on multiple meanings of the text.
In the article “‘How to Do Things with a Medium: The Material Context of the Poetic Utterance in Vladimir Mayakovsky and El Lissitzky’s Book For The Voice’” Anna Shvets examines For the Voice, a joint collaboration between Mayakovsky and Lissitzky. The author asserts that the book was designed as a script for a public speech — and as such, the media and material format of the book influenced the perception of text and the realization of its performative effect. The performative charge of the text — its illocutive strength and perlocutive effect — depends not only on the use of linguistic conventions by the speaker, but also from the engagement of the media possibilities of the material format of the book. Based on the pragmatically oriented versions of literary studies that take into account the materiality of the text (D.F. McKenzie, Jerome
McGann, Johanna Drucker, and Julian Murphet), the author shows how the format of the text, its physical “body,” and the material medium can be used to achieve a poetic effect. This thesis is predicated on a close reading of Lissitzky’s articles (“Topography of Typographics,” “Typographic Facts, for Example,” “Our Books”) and poems from the book For the Voice. Nika Golubitskaya’s “The Visual Configuration of Poetry as a Distinct Type of Semiosis in French Experimental Literature: From Stéphane Mallarmé to Tristan Tzara” analyses visual configuration of a poem in French poetry from 1890 to 1910 in its relation to rhythmic, semantic and performative aspects. The application of visual means in poetic design within the post-Mallarmean tradition is regarded as a way to provide the motivation for а poetic sign. Analyzing the theoretical reasonings of Stéphane Mallarmé, Pierre Reverdy and Tristan Tzara, the author contextualizes various models of visual expression in avantgarde poetry and indicates some basic paradigms in its interpretation: from the introduction of musical score structure in a poetic text and the visual articulation of a poem’s leitmotifs to the adaptation of cubist techniques and the quest for poetic simultaneity. The deictic dimension of poetic discourse and its interaction with the spatiality of a poem are given a special consideration. In the article, an analysis of Tzara’s assessments is conducted about the visual rhythm of the poetry, echoing Mallarmé’s statement on the “simultaneous vision of the page” and Reverdy’s thoughts on cubist poetry. Several poems from the Dadaist period are used as examples — “The Death of Guillaume Apollonaire,” “Arch,” “Angel,” “Vagabond Acrobats,” and “Speaking Wood, or the Intelligible Wood Sign of Easter Island” — which illustrate how in a particular visual configuration of the text, the iconic is combined with the performative. The article is accompanied by texts of poems translated into Russian for the first time.
Anastasia Gladoshchuk’s “‘The Book, Spiritual Instrument’: Octavio Paz and Stéphane Mallarmé” is dedicated to one of Paz’s key works, the poem with the difficult-to-translate name of “Blanco” (1966) (“Blanco” means white, a space in a text, and a goal, a target), in which one finds an interpretation of the aesthetic and intellectual stimuli that Paz got from Mallarmé, Indian culture, and structuralism during the years in which he was the Mexico’s ambassador to India (1962–1968). Published in 1967 as a “book object,” the poem is the first experiment in Paz’s work aimed at overcoming the linearity of the poetic utterance through the activation of its “physical” parameters. The process of designation is dependent on the position and direction of the line in the space of the page (at certain moments, the text “forks”), from spaces between words (“space” is one of the meanings of the word blanco), the font and color of the letters (red and black, which is a reference to the tradition and symbolism of Indian manuscript codices), as a result of which the text’s analogy becomes stronger — the body in its momentariness. In addition, the poetic experience, in Paz’s conception, should be experienced by the reader as a kind of “ritual”: formulating this conception, the poet relies on, on one hand, the tradition of tantric Buddhism, and on the other hand, on the experience of Mallarmé, and out of all of his texts, Paz thinks the most about Mallarmé’s sonnet known as “in X” (1868, 1887) and the poem “Throwing Dice.” Analyzing “Blanco” through the prism of the conception of the Book as a “spiritual instrument” and the Book-as-Theater, the author reveals the interaction of the “physics” and the “metaphysics” of the text, the end goal of which is to overcome the relativity of linguistic signs and dualism of matter and spirit. The article is accompanied by a running translation of fragments of poems that have not been analyzed or commented upon in Russian before now. In the article “The Transatlantic Book of Alain Robbe-Grillet and Robert Rauschenberg” Larissa Muravieva discusses the artists’ book Les traces suspectes en surface, created as a collaboration between Alain Robbe-Grillet and Robert Rauschenberg. The article examines the history of the creation of this artifact and studies the problem of developing an innovative type of relationship, between the narrative and visual components of the book, one far from illustration.
Dmitri Aleksandrovich Prigov Revisited
This section is dedicated to understanding the vast legacy of Dmitri Prigov. It opens with an article by Marco Sabbatini: “D.A. Prigov and the ‘Second Culture’ of the 1980s. The History of Reflection in Samizdat Journals,” which shows how important his work with 1980s samizdat, Leningrad samizdat above all (and his close relationship with Leningrad unofficial culture of that time generally) was for the formation of Prigov as an author and a poet. The author focuses his attention on such Leningrad journals as 37, Chasy, Obvodnyy kanal, and Mitin zhurnal, as well as Transponans (Eysk), Epsilon-salon (Moscow), and Tret’ya modernizatsiya (Riga). Yaroslava Ismukova’s article “The Monster Breaks the Text: Prigov’s Conceptual Monsters” concentrates on the image of the monster, which is examined in the context of Prigov’s interest in overcoming human boundaries in his art and in updating anthropological experience under the sign of mediazation, cyborgization, and virtualization.