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Literature, Economics, Language: Experiments in Literary and Economic Anthropology

Guest editors: Sergey Fokine, Alexandra Urakova

Bearing on American and French studies in the field of economic criticism, the authors reflect on the role of economics in contemporary culture and its place in the modern literary imagination. Whereas the fathers of political economy eagerly employed rhetorical tropes and even fiction in modelling their theoretical concepts, authors in many various ways responded to the new economic reality that prompted the change of cultural paradigms and the birth of the new hero as epitomized by such classic Bourgeois as Robinson Crusoe. The essay of Sergey Fokine and Alexandra Urakova also introduces the thematic selection that follows and justifies its coherence under the sign of literary and economic anthropology.

In the Serge Zenkine’s article “Words and Money: Experiments in Comparative Semiotics” language and money are considered as two fundamental means of social communication. In a lexical literary text, references to monetary exchange are inclusions of a foreign code of signs and should be analyzed as a specific “text within a text.” Their interaction with the main verbal text is characterized as deformations of the included code: monetary exchange represented in literature is, as a rule, not the normal cycle of “money-goods-money,” but the abnormal phenomenon of “mad money,” which multiples “out of thin air” during speculation, devalued during inflation, reduced during the repurchasing of debts, and squandered without any accounting during sacrificial spending. Such phenomena can be illustrated briefly by several literary texts of the 19th—20th centuries.

In the article “Poetry and Money: Economic Matters in the Newest Russian Poetry”, Natalia Azarova and Kirill Korchagin using a breadth of material from Russian poetry of the 19th—20th century, the means of the conceptualization of lexemes connected with economic activity are examined, the word “money” first and foremost. In Russian poetry, periods when money, in all of its possible permutations, comes to the forefront, and periods when it goes into the shadows; in addition, one can discuss individual authors for whom the theme of money and its circulation was especially important, as well as those for whom money and finances were the subjects of descriptive works. In the use of “financial” vocabulary in Russian 20th-century poetry, one can note a number of consistencies that form a special, “poetic” economics that has a largely symbolic character.

Olga Voltchek’s “The Lie of Realism and the Truth of Romantism: The Economy of Love in the Novels by Dostoyevsky and Dumas fils” explores the role of commodity/money relations between a man and a woman in connection with an assessment of Dostoevsky’s method via a comparative reading of the novels Crime and Punishment and The Idiot Dumas Fils’ La Dame aux Camélias by Dumas fils. The analysis of the actual cost of the purchase/selling of love and its valorization in the fiction allows for the observation of an aspect of the economy’s presence in 19th-century literature, contributing to current discussions on realistic texts and the scope of the very understanding of reality.

Irina Golovacheva’s “Beauty as Commodity: Restitution, Sacrifice, and Gift-Giving in Henry James’s The Spoils of Poynton” views Poynton’s collection of applied art phenomenologically, as an “oriented object” whose significance is dependent on the situation in which it is included and on the place in space it occupies. The “regimes of value” of Poynton’s things change during the process of being moved to another estate and then restituted. The article also examines the theme of gifts, which highlights the specifics of giving that characterizes the romantic relationship of Fleda Vetch and Owen Gereth.

Over the course of the lengthy narrative of The Wings of the Dove, all that James’ characters do is make bargains with one another. The novel culminates in the transaction of main heroine Milly Theale leaving an inheritance to her failed lover, making him face a complex ethical dilemma. In American Jamesian criticism, there are two opposing views on the nature of this transaction: Milly’s bequest is a pure and selfless gift that stands outside of all economic relationships, or it is an instrument of manipulation and power, with the help of which financial capital asserts its hegemony. In light of the conflicting readings of The Wings of the Dove, the Alexandra Urakova’s “Gift or Bargain? The Jamesian ‘Sublime Economy’ in The Wings of the Dove” offers its own interpretation of the novel’s controversy.

The economic category of exchange, widely regarded as a social interaction, allows for the description of the nature of the literary process in terms of the reciprocity of writing and reading. Additionally, the metaphor as a “transaction between contexts” (I.A. Richards) serves as a unique point of exchange of experience or meaning-producing activities. In Tatiana Venediktova’s “The Point of Experiential Exchange: The Function of Metaphors in a Realist Text (Reading Middlemarch)” a fragment of George Eliot’s Middlemarch is discussed in which such a role of the cognitive metaphor is simultaneously discussed and revealed.

Olga Polovinkina’s “The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford: Homo Economicus Acting as an ‘Unreliable’ Narrator” The article shows the connection between the modernist novel and the idea of the homo economicus, as it was formulated in economic discourse from Adam Smith to Alfred Marshall. In contrast to the deterministic logic of the19th-century novels, Ford Madox Ford constructs in his novel The Good Soldier a narrative labyrinth that provokes various interpretations.


Microhistory in Russia: The State of the Art


Guest Editors: Timur Atnashev and Mikhail Velizhev

The section is dedicated to the genesis of microhistory and its repetitions in the Russian humanities field. Mikhail Velizhev and Timur Atnashev’s “Microhistory and the Problem of Evidence in the Humanities” addresses the question of determining the specifics of this discipline using the example of the interdisciplinary book series Microstorie (“Microhistory”), which is not well known among Russian academics, and they also provide a short summary of the key arguments of the discussions that were a part of the round table “Microhistory as a Paradigm of the Contemporary Humanities: Pro et Contra,” organized by the New Literary Observer in 2018. The main part of the section contains the remarks of its participants (Olga Togoeva, Olga Bessmertnaya, Olga Kosheleva, Andrey Zorin, Andrei Oleynikov, Serge Zenkine, Irina Shcherbakova, Vera Dubina, and Mikhail Bojсov), who answered the questions: what is the fate of microhistory research in Russia and what has been the most important to you personally within this framework? To what extent does contemporary Russian research need something like the Microstorie book series? How do you view the situation within your disciplinary field?


Intellectual contexts: Leonid Batkin


Alexander Dmitriev’s “Baktin and Marxism, or Once More on the ‘Discontent of the Culture’” discusses the relationship of Leonid Baktin, the prominent Renaissance historian, to the ideas of Marx. Typically, the influence of Marxism on Batkin is limited only to the early stage of his work and his book on Dante and the politics of his time (1965). The article’s author shows that Batkin’s connection to Marxism was also obvious post 1973 (when the historian’s main focuses were Mikhail Bakhtin’s philosophical principles and Vladimir Bibler’s “dialogics of culture”) and in Batkin’s new thoughts on universal history as late as the early 21st century. Like other prominent Renaissance scholars (Jacob Burkhardt and Hans Baron, for example), the image of the past in Batkin has been determined by the reaction to the “discontent of the culture” of his time.

Considering both the research and essays of Leonid Batkin, Nika Kochekovskaia’s “Rational language as the Basis of Communicative Action and Aesopian Language in the Late-Soviet Humanities: The Case of Leonid Batkin” analyzes the interest of late-Soviet scholars of the humanities in rhetoric, which was understood as ambiguity and complexity. This topic has not only historiographical significance, but also methodological perspectives, which arise when Batkin’s ideas are compared with the contemporary theory of rhetoric as the bases of the public sphere. Most often associated with ideas of modernity, argumentation, discussion, and conviction, rhetoric can be also interpreted in the sense of dialectical criticism and the problematization of language as the basis of contemporaneity.

Batkin’s theory of the Renaissance as a phenomenon that was at once both psychological and discursive was at the center of discussions in the 1990s. Averintsev and Batkin’s discussion was hidden. An analysis of this discussion allows for the reconstruction the lifecreating aspect of the discussions of that time and the intersection between the non-terminological and terminological understandings of such concepts as “freedom,” “necessity,” “creativity,” “flesh,” and “spirit.” Alexander Markov’s “‘One Flesh’: The Hidden Polemic of Batkin — Averintsev — Batkin” claims that’s better to orient discussions around Batkin’s theory not in the opposition of the old historiography and new cultural studies, but in the exploration by Russian humanities of the limits of the terminologization of those ideas that have relevance to the current sociopolitical sitation.


Materials from Leonid Batkin’s personal archive


Guest editors: N.T. Batkina, Nikolay Poselyagin

This selection is a publication of the intellectual legacy of Leonid Batkin — famous historian, specialist in the Italian Renaissance, scholar with wide-ranging interests, and important public figure. It includes two pieces of material that reflect his thought process, creative ideas, and academic and philosophical explorations of the last two years of his life: the diary that Batkin kept from late January through early February of 2015, and correspondence with the philosopher, logician, and cyberneticist Delir Lakhuti in the summer and early autumn of 2016.


In Memoriam


This section is dedicated to the memory of the famous Soviet and Russian poet, writer of prose, and playwright Viktor Aleksandrovich Sosnora (1936—2019). Ilya Kukulin’s “‘There, Where There Is No I’ Viktor Sosnora and the Evolution of Russian Poetry of the Second Half of the 20th Century” presents and substantiates a hypothesis on Sosnora’s place in the history of Russian literature. It is suggested that while Sosnora published his work in Soviet publications and considered the context of Sixtiers poets to be suitable for him, his poetry had more in common with underground literature, rather than official. The protagonist of Sosnora’s poetry is a tragic trickster; the image of history in his poems is not teleological, in contrast to the images of history in official Soviet poetry. From the 1970s on, the characteristics of postmodernism and the mixing of signs from various eras increased in his poetry.

Yury Orlitskiy’s “On Victor Sosnora’s Versification (Preliminary Notes)” analyzes the meter and stanza repertoire of the Viktor Sosnora’s poetry. On the basis of this analysis, it was concluded that the author uses an unprecedented diversity of verse throughout his work with verse forms.

Lyudmila Zubova’s “The Metals of Victor Sosnora” examines the use of the names of metals in the poetry of Victor Sosnora, given his experience as a locksmith in the early period of his writing career. The article shows that the poet’s attention is focused mainly not on general cultural figurative meanings, connotations, and symbols characteristic of such vocabulary, but on his own idea of the world.

The subject of Kornelija Icin’s “Victor Sosnora On Numbers” is an unpublished manuscript by Victor Sosnora that is dedicated to notions such as numbers, time, death and the role of predestination in the lives of Russian poets. Sosnora’s understanding of the numbers one, three and nine is analyzed in correlation to the teachings of Pythagoras, as well as the Kabbalah and the I Ching.

Olga Sokolova’s “Viktor Sosnora’s Novel/Diary The Tower: The Language of Testimony and the Testimony of Language” explores the specific features of subjectivity and language of Viktor Sosnora’s novel-diary The Tower. Interdiscoursivity of the diary as a genre, which includes the particularities of artistic and nonartistic types of discourse, determines its “borderline” status. The analysis of the diary in terms of the philosophy of testimony and of trauma studies makes it possible to identify the main intention of the diary as “testimony,” which aims to transfer objects and facts of empirical reality into the artistic space.




Natalia Samutina’s “Japanese Manga in Russia: Introduction to Research on Reading Practices” introduces the preliminary results of three years of research on the practices of reading manga in Russia. It is based on participant observation in mangareading communities, focus groups, expert interviews, and an online survey (1,545 participants). The article gives information about age and geographical scope of Russian manga readers and characterizes reading contexts and the main influences of this activity on the readers. The educational potential of reading manga, the special features of the temporality of this reading, different scenarios of emotional involvement and perception by readers of the unique narrative and ethical characteristics of manga are examined in detail.

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