The “Book as an Event” section is dedicated to the release of a Russian translation of American anthropologist Clifford Geertz’s “Interpretation of Culture.”
The lecture by Clifford Geertz (Professor Emeritus at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University) “Passage and Accident: A Life of Learning” was delivered in 1999 at the American Council of Learned Societies annual ceremony. The most renowned American anthropologist gives here a retrospective analysis of his scholarly career in the context of the development of anthropology and humanities in general in USA in the second half of the XXth century. The fascinating intellectual biography of one of the founding fathers of “symbolic anthropology”, or as he himself prefers to call it, “interpretive anthropology” is presented as a series of responses to the social, scholarly and existential challenges provided by the time and the places he happened to live in. Geertz shows the way in which his understanding of culture as the process of production of meaning in which and by which human beings make sense of themselves and his famous interpretation of the basic spheres of human activity as “cultural systems” came as a practical solution to the problem of living with and among the people of different cultures.
Later on is added a translation of an article by Italian historian Giovanni Levi’s (Università Ca’Foscari di Venezia) “The Dangers of Geertzism”. It first appeared in 1985 in the journal Quaderni Storici in connection with the release of Robert Darnton’s book “The Great Cats Massacre and Other Episodes from French Cultural History”. For it was Geertz’s theory of “thick description” that forms the theoretical background of Darnton’s book. In detail Levi examines the hermeneutical backgound of Geetrz’s interpretive anthropology, starting with the philosophical approaches of Hans-George Gadamer and Paul Ricker. The main limit of “Geertzism”, which Levi shows, is the presence in the explanatory procedures of a pre-prepared referential context, allusion to which does not clarify the interpretation itself, but rather dims it by referring to topics of questionable merit such as “national character” (in the first chapter of Darnton’s book). Levi understands the program of “micro-history”, which he divides from the end of the 1970s with a group of Italian colleagues, which in the final result is a more materialistically and socio-historically oriented method than to the overly textualized and insufficiently tangible, in his opinion, interpretative anthropology of Geertz.
Olga Hristoforova’s (RSUH) article “Between Scientism and Romanticism: Clifford Geertz on the Perspectives of Anthropology” examines the genristic peculiarities of Geertz’s anthropological writings. In his book Geertz attempts to present the interpretation of the pragmatic contexts of other culture instead of the theoretical generalization of its inner structure. Geertz relies far more on the character of an anthropologist’s notes, avoiding painting a secondary, paradigmatically-constructed and basically restructured picture of the natives’ world (as in the structuralism of Levi-Strauss). It is very meaningful that Geertz does not fall into the diametrically opposed romantic camp, with its refusal of rationality by completely dissolving in other culture, suggesting a sober understanding of the distance between a researcher and his or her subject, as well as the flexible and detailed program of interpretive anthropological research.
Vasiliy Kostyrko’s (RSUH) article “Symbols and Systems: Clifford Geertz in Search of Non-Structural Semiotics” examines the shared character and philosophical sources of Geertz’s research project. The contextual approach of later Wittgenstein and Alfred Shßtz’s phenomenology forms the theoretical background of Geertzian anthropology as the alternative to structuralism of Claude Levi-Strauss. Unlike the research of Victor Turner or Elena Novik, Geertz is interested not in sintagmatics, but the pragmatics of ritual. At the same time, Geertz, in the author’s opinion, practically reduces the areas of the symbolic to the realm of the practical transformation of signs and the rules of social mutual effect.
The article by Aleksei Elfimov (Rice University USA; Institute for Ethnology and Anthropology RAS), “On Anthropology and the Humanities: Several Notes about C. Geertz”, is dedicated to the effect Geertz’s research produced on the social sciences and humanities of the 1970s—90s, primarily in the USA. If the anthropology evolved in North America before the 1960s being based on the positivist model of the “science of nature”, then the social anthropology and structural functionalism of Parsons helped to turn it in the direction of the social sciences. Geertz added to this last development the pragmatism and legacy of analytical philosophy, along with neo-Kantian symbolism and quite an amount of literary dramaticism, which on the whole contributed to the bringing-together of anthropology and the humanities. In the end, Geertz’s research draws together with a slew of movements in the humanities of the last decade,
especially the new cultural and social history (Robert Darnton, Peter Burke).
MEMORY OF A GENRE
Hans-Ulrich Gumbrecht’s (Stanford University) article “The Roads of the Novel” is published in the “Memory of a Genre” section. The author connects the theme of roads with the main temporal form of the novel narrative — even though the road itself, as an element of the story, plays a submissive role in the narrative. That is why the
evolution of roads in novels from the Middle Ages to the present day could possibly be the key to understanding of the development of novel genres themselves. Encountering the unknown, or even the dangerous, is firmly tied to the road as a source of adventure for knights — the key protagonists of medieval novels. In the novels of the early Modern Age (for example in Cervantes or in the picaresque novels), the concept of the road is connected with the idea of possibilities — a counterbalance to the chance adventures of the knights or the fated events of allegorical Christian writings.
The roads, above all, are a presupposition for the construction of narrative structures and a semantic void to be filled by the readers’ imagination, rather than an object of detailed description; especially it is obvious in the novels of the Enlightenment era. The road in the Bildungsroman acts as projection of the subjective standing of the hero and often appear only in the theoretical frame of his “real” intrapersonal path. There is only one limited segment in the history of the Western novel during which the roads, along whith their protagonists’ moves, became more frequently and also more extensively thematic. This segment spans over a few decades in the middle of the 19th century — after that time the topic of the road begins to recede again. In the novels of the 20th century, the theme of the road represents the effects of an impersonal force (Kafka’s “The Castle”), appearing almost as a symptom of the loss of faith in the possibilities and strength of mankind. At the same time, the roads act as an agency in recent novels, giving us a greater understanding of the nature of the literary place where we can recuperate the space that allows us to be-in-the-world.
VICTORIAN CULTURE: THE RECENT VIEWS
This section was compiled by Olga Vainshtein, a researcher of recent European culture. In her foreword she discusses both the traditional and new methods of studying the 19th century culture.
Tomas Prasch (Washburn University, Topeka, Kansas) “The Whole World in One City”. “London, for some time previous to the opening of the Great Exhibition, has been a curious sight even to Londoners”, — Henry Mayhew declared in his novel “1851”. Mayhew’s novel highlights a fascinating process of institutionalizing of internationalism in the capital city. If, in 1851, the world came to the Great Exhibition, in that same year the city of London refashioned itself as international bazaar.
Matthew Beaumont’s (Birkbeck College, University of London) article “The World as a Department Store: Utopia and the Politics of Consumption in the Late Nineteenth Century” explores one of the dominant strains of utopianism at the end of the 19th century, that of state socialism, in terms of its presentation not of the processes of production but of consumption. Focusing on the American Edward Bellamy’s unlikely blockbuster, “Looking Backward” (1888), it claims that, despite its impact on the socialist movement at the fin de siecle, this novel’s imaginary utopia was decisively shaped by the dreamspaces of consumption opened up by innovations in contemporary capitalism, in particular that of the department store.
As Erin O’Connor notes in Raw Material, “Victorians were mad about monstrosity”; the freak show and the sideshow irresistibly captivated the Victorian imagination and never ceased to draw thrilled, shocked, and disgusted crowds. In her paper “A Sort of Fascination in the Horrible’: The Spectacular World of the Victorian Freak Show” Lara Karpenko (University of Notre Dame) investigates the Victorian middle classes’ fascination with the freak. The author suggests that the freak show is intrinsic to Victorian culture because it facilitated an imaginative transformation of the spectacularly displayed abnormal body. Functioning as a distinct microcosm, the freak show transformed the abnormal body into a comforting symbol which reinforced the essential power of Victorian society. Furthermore, the spectacle of the freak show enabled the Victorian bourgeoisie to experience abnormality. The Victorian public, eager to momentarily experience an abnormal bodily state, voraciously sought out opportunities to have abnormality represented to them.
Olga Vainshtein’s (RSUH) article “Visual Games in the XIXth Century: The Optical Discourse of Dandyism” is focused around the formation of modern visuality in the XIXth century. The dandies explored the possibilities offered by the new paradigm of vision. The dandy’s glance often concentrated on details, exaggerating trifles, inspecting accessories. It is no accident that the monocle or lorgnette was often featured among the salient attributes of dandyism. The glance itself turned into the refined instrument of dandy’s power, one’s transparent scepter. This specific interest in visual effects was further supported by the production of such mechanical toys as stereoscopes, phantascopes, zootropes and kaleidoscopes and the installations of large dioramas in Paris and London.
In Ludmila Aliabieva’s (RSUH) article, “How to Raise a Head of Household and Future Mother of Strong and Beautiful Children: Women and Sport in Victorian England”, the gradual process by which Victorian women assimilated sport (from harmless croquet and tennis to team-based games, such as soccer and hockey), which was traditionally considered an exclusively male activity, is examined. The taboo nature of sport was based on the official position taken by the medical professionals of the time, who saw in physical labor danger to the fragile female body, firstly for the reproductive system. Sport can be, with all fairness, considered the main driving force, which, among others, helped to accept women in society; it expedited the change in what was considered proper attire; and, finally, changed views about the role of women in society and their physical and spiritual possibilities. As a result, the Victorian myth of the sickly, emotionally unstable “angel of the house” was replaced with the ideal of the independent woman, a carrier of the “new femininity”, possessing good health and an advanced intellect. In the end, it was because of sport that women were able to enter the public sphere of city life, and open up to themselves a world beyond the walls of their Victorian mansions.
IN MEMORIAM: G.A. BELAJA (10.19.1931—08.15.2004)
This section is dedicated to Galina Andreevna Belaja — noted historian of the 20th century literature, famous cultural and public patron, founder and Dean of the Historical-Philosophical Department at RSUH (1992—2004), and permanent member of the NLO editorial board. Herein are published notes from Andrei Zorin (RSUH / Oxford University), Vadim Gaevsky (RSUH), Oleg Kling (Moscow State University), Maria Rozanova (former editor of the Sintaksis magazine, and widow of Andrei Sinyavsky, Paris). Published for the first time are the decoded notes of an oral memoir presented by G.A. Belaja on her 70th birthday at the RSUH (19th October 2001) and unique photographs from her family archives.
THE MYTHOLOGY OF THE CAUCASIAN WARS AND LITERATURE
This section presents research on various phenomena — modern literature from the North Caucasus (Avarian, Darginian, Chechen, Kabardin), Russian military action pulps, works of documentary drama and fantasy fiction — from the point of view of a postcolonial reading, a technique which becomes necessary in the interpretation of literature in the atmosphere of the Chechen conflict and of increased terrorism in Russia.
The opening article “Representations of the Chechen War in Russian Culture” is by Anna Brodsky (Washington and Lee University, Lexington, Virginia). The author discusses divergent depictions of the war by ultranationalist writers and defenders of human rights in Russia. Ultranationalists use mythic paradigms — above all, anti-Semitic stereotypes — to fashion narratives calculated to rouse irrational sentiments of national pride and national victimization. Human rights defenders, in contrast, deliberately avoid mythmaking by rigorously confining themselves to the facts. The author suggests that the purpose of such human rights narratives is to rouse pity for the individual victims of war, and that such pity ought to find expression in legislation protecting human rights.
Kasbek Sultanov (Institute of World Literature, Moscow) writes about “Idealization, Denigration, and Being a Part of It: Shamil’s Image as a Representation of National Thinking in the North Caucasian Literatures”. His article examines the transformation of depictions of the Caucasian War of the 19th century and of Shamil (1797—1871), Imam of Chechnya and Dagestan, in Russian public writing of the 19—20th centuries and in modern literature from the North Caucasus (such as the works of Avarian poet Rasul Gamzatov, Chechen writer Abzur Aydamirov, Kabardin writer Muhadin Kandur, etc.). Over the course of many years, Imam Shamil organized resistance movement against the Russian expansion in the Caucasus, and then freely surrendered to the Russian authorities, thereby creating a natural associative link between his own life and the ethno-social problems of the modern Russian part of the Caucasus. For the first time, the work of Middle Eastern (Turkish, Jordanian, etc.) writers ethnically connected with the North Caucasus is examined. Attention is paid to the classical Russian
literature, which did much to bridge the national-cultural gap and to overpower the crisis of trust which was the main cause of the Caucasian Wars.
Attached to this section is an article by Vladimir Berezin (the Book Review newspaper, Moscow), “Crimean Defense Fanfic”. The author analyzes fantasy writer Olga Brileva’s novel Your Majesty (2000), which was written as a sequel to Vasiliy Aksenov’s novel The Crimean Island (1979). It is shown that the description of the imaginary civil war involving regular troops in Brileva’s novel can be quite useful for understanding the psychological state of Russian society during the Crimean conflicts. It is Berezin’s point of view that Brileva is particularly insightful because she, though she writes in Russian, resides in the Ukraine and can view the Russian socio-political situation from outside.
THE LITERARY TRANSLATION AS AN AESTHETIC INNOVATION
In her ““Glasses, Devoting Their Glassness¾”: Translators As Common Readers and As Intermediaries” Tatiana Baskakova (Foreign Literature magazine, Moscow) reflects upon the (im)possibilities to reproduce “faithfully” the meanings and stylistic peculiarities of texts, written in foreign languages, – mainly those, which pertain to the sphere of avant-garde, experimental literature (she uses the Russian-German Translators’ Workshop in St. Petersburg which took place on May 15—12, 2004 as point of reference). She also writes about the typical difficulties, which occur in the relations between translators and the editors which are assigned to them by the publishing houses.
Mikhail Gasparov’s (Institute of Russian Language, Moscow) “The Style of Interrupted Stylization” is dedicated to the innovative style which Elena Kostioukovitch used when translating Umberto Eco’s novel “Baudolino” into Russian (her translation of the novel was published in St. Petersburg in 2003). The famous philologist believes that the language, which Kostioukovitch developed for translating the novel, demonstrates the intentionally trans-historic foundations of Eco’s aesthetics.
In her response to Mikhail Gasparov’s article entitled “Irony, Preciseness, and the Pop-Effect”, Elena Kostioukovitch (Milan State University and Frassinelli (Mondadori) Publishing House, Milan) reveals how she picked her stylistic devices while translating Umberto Eco’s novel “Baudolino”.
Elena Kostioukovitch’s “Advanced Orlando” discusses the incomprehensible coldness of Russian readers toward the famous Italian masterpiece, which is known to them in many excellent Russian translations (among which one by M.L. Gasparov, dated 1990 and made in verse libre, is truly outstanding). It arguably could be explained by the bulk and grave reputation of the Ariosto’s epic. Italo Calvino proposed a light and brilliant “translation” of this text from (Renaissanse) Italian into (contemporary) Italian (1970), and now we present this new attempt of a Russian rendition along the lines of Calvino’s score, provided with a commentary on the techniques of the mock-heroic genre.
The issue also presents an extensive review of books in fiction, literary criticism, and humanities (contemporary art theory, philosophy and others).
Translated by Ignatius Vishnevetsky