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25 2019

The Philosophy of Reading

This section consists of two essays offered by Valery Podoroga. The article “The Refuge of Proust (Notes on Analytical Anthropology of Culture)” features an analysis of reading in the literary and metaphysical experience of Proust. Proust’s relationship to an aggregate of connected phenomena is studied, such as writing/recollection, the process of reading/rereading, and the cult of the Book and its reflection in the theory of “completed” works.

The article “Text Versus Work. Roland Barthes as a Reader” examines several elements of the semiology of reading Roland Barthes. The central issue is the theme of transitioning from the criticism of a work to a renewal of the understanding of the status of the Text in the humanities (the structuralist and poststructuralist movements). Ideas on multiplicity, fluidity, and the leftist ideology of a text are pitted against conservatism, passive perception, and the metaphysical limits of a work.

Death: A New Research Field?

Guest Editor: Dina Khapaeva

The articles that the reader will find in this section examine various aspects of the influence of death on contemporary culture and deal with issues connected with the penetration of death into everyday contemporary society.

Dina Khapaeva’s “Death as Fun” examines thanatopathy, or the cult of death, a new antihumanist cultural movement embodying the subsequent development of postmodernism as a project. The article offers a conceptual framework to explain the reasons for and consequences of this movement, as well as an analysis of the specific cultural and intellectual conditions of the 1980s—2000s, over the course of which it took shape.

In “Couture Skeletons, Skull Style, and Corpse Chic: Death as a Fashion Aesthetic,” Jacque Lynn Foltyn, the founder of the critical view of “deadly fashion” and the originator of a number of terms that have firmly entered into academic use, analyzes in detail how fashion has become a part of the “death pivot.” Using especially rich and interesting material, Foltyn traces how from outrageous projects, the fashion for images of death, corposes, and violence have migrated to fast fashion and have become objects for mass consumption.

Examining the Western European tradition of attitudes toward dead bodies and burial from antiquity through the 20th century, Thomas Laqueur’s “Why Do We Care for the Dead?” looks at the evolution of the cemetery, from pagan burials to the establishment of the Church monopoly on burials and the loss of the monopoly in the late 19th century. This material allows the reader to evaluate how radical the thanatopathy of contemporary culture is.

Sergei Mokhov examines the new “death awareness” movement in his article “Popular Mortalica: Death Positive, Humanization, and a Critique of Modernity.” He shows how this movement arose from an awareness of the taboos and negation of death in contemporary society, and examines the tradition that led to the silencing of death. One of Mokhov’s especially important observations is the connection between the movement for the awareness of death and human dignity, self-esteem, and the struggle for human rights.

See and Do. Russian Formalism: Metapoetics and Metatheory

Guest Editor: Jan Levchenko

This section opens with Jan Levchenko’s “It’s Not Love: The Grammar of Sensations in an Epistolary Meta-Novel”. In this work, observations on the narrative organization of the text of Viktor Shklovksy’s epistolary novel Zoo, or Stories Not About Love (1923) are brought together. The prevalence of terms related to sight is revealed and commented upon, from which a preliminary conclusion is drawn that over the course of his short stay in Berlin, Shklovsky was fascinated by phenomena of visuality, which prepared him for his entry into film work upon his return to Soviet Russia.

Asiya Bulatova’s “‘Charlie Is Ours’: Chaplin, Socialism, and Kinaesthetic Empathy in Viktor Shklovsky’s Film Theories and Fiction” examines an unusual text related to early cinema: adventure novel Mustard Gas by Viktor Shklovsky and Vsevolod Ivanov. It features the familiar image of Chaplin transformed into an anti-capitalist hero capable of saving cinema from highbrow literary culture. The main thesis is that Chaplin’s position in Soviet culture acquires cultural and ideological significance when seen in conjunction with theories that advocate for cinema as a transnational kinesthetic learning tool capable of teaching Soviet workers new movement skills for the achievement of the optimal industrial organization.

The article “Games of Mourning: The Concept of “Punctum” in the Roland Barthes’ Theory of Photography and its Relationship to the Viktor Shklovsky’s “Defamiliarization” by Holt Meyer examines Shklovsky’s formalism as a particular type of historiography. Shklovsky’s theory fits within the context of the history of semiotics and poststructuralism; in particular, parallels are drawn with Roland Barthes’ last text, Camera Lucida (1980). The key concepts are “defamiliarization” (Shklovsky) and “punctum” (Barthes), which, despite all the differences between the theoretical models built upon them, reveal points of intersection.

Pavel Arseniev’s “Techno-Formalism, or Pulling Apart Russian Theory with Latour” undertakes a methodological reconstruction of the formalist and constructivist paradigm from the position of contemporary sociotechnical theory, objective ontology, and symmetrical anthropology. By tracing the history of the parallels between literature and scientific and technical fact, the author proposes the concept of “technological unconscious” literature and a new means of reading, in which the technological grounding of literary (arti)facts takes the place of the hermeneutical depths.

The article “Boris Eikhenbaum in Ukraine: Discussion Around the Article ‘Theory of the ‘Formal Method’’ in the Journals ‘Chervonyi Shlyakh’ and ‘Krasnoye Slovo’” by Galina Babak examines the reception of the ideas of the Russian Formalist school in Ukrainian criticism of the 1920s by analyzing the discourse around Boris Eikhenbaum’s article “Theory of the ‘Formal Method.’”

“The End” Becomes “The Beginning”: Neomythologism in Contemporary Russian Literature

Guest Editor: Jasmina Vojvodic

As famous Russian scholar E.M. Meletinsky claimed the events of the 20th and early 21st century shows that science does not solve such common metaphysical problems like the meaning of life, the goal of history, the mystery of death. Mythology tries to solve them, and it is these attempts — in their literary versions — that occupy the center of attention of the authors.

Tunde Szabo’s “Return to the Point of Inception: The Function of the Icon in Lyudmila Ulitskaya’s Novel ‘Daniel Stein, Interpreter”’ examines the process of how the mythologem of the creation of the world is de- and remythologised at the end of Ulitskaya’s novel. During the story’s close, a description of the Praise the Lord from the Heavens icon opens a complex semiotic space in which certain semantic and modal and temporal shifts occur in relation to the initial mythologem. As a result, the place and role of Man in the Creation gains a new interpretation.

Using examples of Pavel Pepperstein’s visual and literary works Jelena Kusovac’s “The Neomythologism of Pavel Pepperstein” shows the remythologization of Soviet discourse, primarily the figure of Lenin. On the other hand, attention is also paid to ancient myths that the author “decodes” and “reconstructs” in a new way.

The post- or transhumanistic project aims to “improve” biological humans with the help of biomedicine and technoscience and thus overcome the limitations imposed by nature. Ziva Bencic’s “On the Question of the End of Man: Posthuman in Love” studies this problem using the novel S.N.U.F.F. by Viktor Pelevin, analyzing the posthuman characters: Damilola Karpov, who is a person but at the same time, he is connected to a machine, his “Hennelora,” and the android Kaya. Bencic asks whether Damilola and Kaya’s relationship can be called love, or whether it is just a simulacrum of love, and ultimately, its end.

Rainer Grubel’s “The Riderless Horse of the Apocalypse and Blindness as Insight in Vladimir Sorokin’s Short Story ‘Black Horse with a White Eye’” is interested in the correlation between historical (calendar) and family (personal) time. The author turns his attention to the numerous myths in Sorokin’s text (biblical, historical, folkoric, literary), many of which lose their traditional meaning, acquiring a new one and thus creating a new myth, or neomyth.

Jasmina Vojvodic’s “The Begining and End of Individual History (‘Aviator’ by Eugene Vodolazkin)” examines the principle of biographical and historical beginning and end in the novel Aviator by contemporary Russian writer Eugene Vodolazkin. In the analysis, focus is given to Nikolai Berdyaev’s book The Meaning of History, in which the author asserts that the historical is concrete and individual. The novel Aviator is seen in the article as an individual biographical history (microhistory) of the protagonist, Innokenty Platonov, or as his own “story of the passing years,” which he creates in his notes, preserving the past.