NLO: New Literary Review (Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie) № 88, 2007
TESTING BY THE METHOD: “THE NEW SCIENCE” AND THE CRISES OF SOVIET UTOPIAN CONSCIOUSNESS
The first paper by Aleksandr Dmitriev (The New Literary Observer magazine, Moscow) ““Academic Marxism” of the 1920s—1930s: the Western context and the Soviet circumstances” is devoted to the formation of the new humanitarian scholarship in post-revolutionary Russia. The influence of Marxism proved to be conductive for the development of innovative trends in historiography, psychology and philosophy. However under the general conditions of scholarship development in the period between the wars those ideas could not be transmitted in an international mode. But first and foremost the influence of Bolshevik ideology and utopian pretensions of Marxism to being able to solve any methodological problems brought about external isolation and a sense of self-sufficiency of Soviet humanities as early as 1930s.
The essay of Oksana Bulgakowa (Internationale Filmschule, Köln, Germany) “Theory as Utopian Project” addresses the connection between the visual and theoretical thinking of Sergei Eisenstein using his two theoretical projects, “The Spherical Book” (1929) and “Method” (1932—1948). In one project Eisenstein explores montage within different theoretical frames (reflexology, linguistics, music, dialectic) and offers a total framework for these discourses by adopting a model of a rotating sphere, which allows transitions to happen and guarantees multiple perspectives. In the second project he examines modernity in its relation to archaic structures and analyzes artworks as reified imprints of pre-logical mentality and as collective dream images. The ecstatic state induced by art is an important starting point for his investigation. The subject under study, the dream images, and the method of the ecstatic “illumination” oblige Eisenstein to follow a visual logic instead of a linear one. He constructs his book according to the associative principles of montage, which replaces traditional scholarly narrative. He seeks new forms of a book that should be closer to the associative, spherical, and labyrinthine thought structures, which to date have only found expression in modernist art experiments. The theory emerges as a hybrid work of an artist who was able to conceptualise a new form — a hypertext — before the appearance of a new medium for it.
By publishing Mikhail Lifshits’ (1905—1983) notes of the late 1960s—1970s “Pro domo sua” the magazine presents its audience with a singular analytical diary and a philosophical memoir by one of the most bright and original Marxist thinkers of the USSR. Georg Lukacs’ fellow Moscow exile performs a retrospective summation of their 1930s activities (in the famous “Literaturnyj kritik” magazine) within the context of Russia’s post-revolutionary development and that of the whole world. Ignoring the Social-Democratic (“Menshevist”) approach and Frankfurt School’s criticism of Enlightenment he tries to find an anchor in the authentic Leninist project of “liberation from below”. Critical Marxist analysis of determined advent of Stalinism is significantly limited in Lifshits’ works by his proclaimed loyalty to the original principles of Soviet civilisation. The publication is prepared by Victor Arslanov (The Russian Academy of Arts, Moscow).
INVENTING LOVE: BETWEEN A DIARY AND A NOVEL
A publication of the 1894 correspondence between Viatcheslav Ivanov and Lidia Shvarsalon (L. Zinovieva-Annibal, his future second wife) prepared by Nickolay Bogomolov (Moscow State University), Daria Solodkaya and Michael Wachtel (both — Princeton University) and accompanied by extracts from Ivanov’s letters describing their first encounter and those from Shvarsalon’s diary dedicated to her meetings with Ivanov in Florence in the autumn of 1894 presents the audience with an important stage in the biography of a prominent poet and a theorist of Symbolism. The letters from the Moscow and Roman Ivanov’s archives previously unpublished in corpore offer an expressive description of the authors’ circle of interests as well as their dispositions and helps to correct certain fallacies present even among the most qualified biographers of Ivanov. The complete version of the correspondence is expected to be published by the “The New Literary Observer” publishing house.
“No one cries over what doesn’t concern him: Lydia Ginzburg’s fourth “Conversation about Love”” is a publication of one of Lydia Ginzburg’s 1930’s essays, with commentary and an introduction (“In Search of a Novel:
L. Ginzburg in the 1930s”) by Emily Van Buskirk (Harvard University). Using archival evidence, Van Buskirk discusses the nature and extent of Ginzburg’s experiments with larger forms in the 1930’s. The “Conversation about Love” first belonged to an unrealized work Ginzburg called Home and Peace (or Home and the World). This Socratic-style dialogue explores the topic of same-sex love, offering a window onto lesbian experience in an early twentieth-century Russian context. Ginzburg’s thoughts on sexuality were intimately connected to the question of how and whether to write a novel.
SOCIAL IMAGINATION OF THE STRUGATSKY BROTHERS: HISTORY OF PERCEPTION
Ilya Kukulin’s (The New Literary Observer magazine, Moscow) article analyses the specific practice that had evolved in the Soviet culture of the 1950s — 1980s: alternative social modeling. An analysis of this practice allows to describe a typological similarity between the Social Utopian views of Arkady and Boris Strugatsky — the most prominent Soviet authors of intellectual science fiction — and the activities of the seminar on psychology and sociology conducted by the philosopher Georgy Shchedrovitsky. Although futurological studies did exist in the USSR, they were often curtailed by administrative limitations while an open discussion on the possible avenues of social development was blocked by an absence of public politics. As a result an Utopian concept of a slow, subterranean reform became widespread among the moderately critical part of Soviet intellectuals. Such a reform seemed to be achievable through indoctrinating the authorities with “correct” views on the nature of society and methods of government. These ideas were shared by both Shchedrovitsky and the Strugatsky brothers in their early novels. At a later stage due to dissemination of alternative social modeling political reformism came to be perceived in the post-Soviet society not as a public but as a conspirological practice.
Irina Kaspe (Institute for Theoretical and Historical Studies in the Humanities (IGITI), State University — Higher School of Economics, Moscow) in her article “The meaning of (private) life, or why do we read the Strugatsky brothers?” looks into a correlation between the stable traditions of interpreting the Strugatsky brothers’ literary works and those reading programs that are implicitly present in their texts. This allows the author to analyse not only the peculiarities of the way the Strugatsky brothers’ literary works were perceived but also the certain features of the late Soviet (1960s—1980s) reading experience as such, and primarily the phenomenon of “double reading” where behind a rational deciphering of the text and a search for allusive (Aesopian) meanings there hides yet another level of text perception — an almost irrational devotion to a “realistic world” in which the characters “live”.
LESBIAN SOCIALITY AND CULTURAL DYNAMICS
Aleksandr Chantsev’s (Moscow) article analyses formation and functioning of a Lesbian discourse in Russian literature. The author brings in a broad selection of material and provides an outline of the history of Russian homoerotic literature of the second half of the 20th century with an in-depth analysis of Russian Lesbian literature of the late 1990s and 2000s. According to Chantsev, lesbian literature in Russia at first aimed to proclaim its presence and to speak of tragic existence of sexual minorities in a homophobic society. Later it professionalised and created several versions of its own poetics characterised by harsh distinctness (fluid entity, gender transformism and language shifts). In the 2000s Russian Lesbian subculture became relatively legitimate and began to influence Russian mass culture.
Galina Zelenina (Russian State University for Humanities, Moscow), ““We’ll no longer be compelled to behave in any other way”: Portrait of a subculture as a young phenomenon”. Based on a survey among Russian Lesbians, the article studies insider views on developing contemporary Russian Lesbian community and culture and examines the reasons why it develops differently from Western models and separately from native Gay community and Feminist movement, and why, for all the sufficient quantitative figures and qualitative characteristics, Lesbian communal and cultural identity is still so weakly manifested.