ANTHROPOLOGY AND THE PHENOMENON OF VISUALITY
In his article "Image, story and death (Georges Bataille and Roland Barthes)," Sergei Zenkin compares two twentieth-century theorists who described particularly intense, mystical or ecstatic experiences of certain visual images (photographs): Georges Bataille and Roland Barthes. Zenkin demonstrates how these images are included in an individual-psychological or historical narrative structure; how they are temporalized and actualize certain of their special potentialities (for instance, the presence of internal spectators "inside the image"); and how they correlate with the philosophical or scientific theories of the individual having the experience. The photographs under discussion are thematically linked to death (Bataille's picture of a bloody execution; an old snapshot of a recently deceased close friend of Barthes); pain and loss are revealed to be the ultimate object of semantic activity, which when it encounters culture, causes the latter to demonstrate with particularly distinctness the possibilities and cooperation of its forms.
THE SEVENTIES IN A CLOSED SOCIETY: IN THE CONTEXT OF SOVIET DISCOURSE
Edited by Natalia Poltavtseva
In "Soviet sociology as police science," Alexander F. Filippov attempts to examine Soviet sociology of the 1960s and early 1970s in terms of so-called "police science," a system of administrative disciplines that had their heyday in Europe during the second half of the eighteenth century. Unlike Western sociology, which developed as one of the alternatives to police science, sociology in the USSR could not be oriented toward solving fundamental theoretical problems — these remained the focus of ideological work. The main task of Soviet sociology, then, was the search for the best methods for managing an ever-more-complicated society with the ostensible aim of "the common good" (decisions about which were taken by an administration in which citizens had no part). Police surveillance and administrative knowledge (also in essence oriented toward policing) were supposed to complement each other in this state of universal well-being for all.
Andrei Shcherbenok in "Civilization Crisis in Late Stagnation Cinema" takes issue with the widespread notion that, until the beginning of perestroika, people largely perceived the Soviet Union as stable and durable. He argues instead that a great number of late Soviet films constitute "a cinema of exhaustion" and convey a strong sense of crisis that pertains to virtually everything, from urban infrastructure to human relationships to ideological worldview. Shcherbenok's article takes issue with Sergei Yurchak's argument — that the ritualization of authoritative ideological discourse in the late Soviet period did not affect the "meaningful" social life of most Soviet citizens, who continued to live according to fundamentally socialist values — and calls for a reconsideration of the meaning of stagnation-era "foreverness."
An article from Stephen Lowell, "'Seventeen Moments of Spring' and the seventies," asks: What was distinctive about the Soviet 1970s? In search of an answer to this question, Lowell focuses on television, which established itself in the Brezhnev era as the most important medium of Soviet culture. More specifically, Lowell investigates "Seventeen Moments of Spring," the most famous miniseries in the history of Russian television, which was first aired in August 1973. Offering both a close reading of the series itself and a discussion of its reception, the article advances an argument about the characteristic themes, preoccupations and sensibility of this 'post-Thaw' era.
In "Great-power statehood Soviet-style: the imperial space of the Soviet 1970s," Ekaterina Boltunova shows how Soviet authorities took on and adapted the system of spatial structures intended to convey state ideology, which the Soviet Union had inherited from the Russian Empire: monuments to tsars and statesmen, palaces with representational facilities, administrative buildings and other structures that played a role in the representation of authority. Nearly every Soviet decade was accompanied by different forms of the process of appropriation. Briefly outlining the basic appropriation strategies, Boltunova moves on a more detailed examination of how specific spaces of authority (in this case — the Grand Kremlin Palace and Palace of Facets) underwent symbolic reorientation during the periods of the Thaw and, particularly, stagnation.
BOLSHEVIK THEATER POLITICS: NEW ACTORS AND NEW SPECTATORS
In "Changing of the guard, or The new theater spectator in the 1920s," Violetta Gudkova discusses the emergence of a new theatergoing public, created by the 1917 revolution — a phenomenon of capital importance for the Russian theater. The state sought to transform the theater in accordance with its aims, while theater professionals offered interpretations of the new challenges and attempted to respond to them.
P.N. Gordeev in "Thievery and hooliganism in Petrograd state theaters, February-October 1917" examines several incidents connected with the updated profile of the Russian theatergoing public.
A TREATMENT HISTORY: CULTURAL AND SOCIAL ASPECTS OF MEDICINE
In her article "From materia medica to manuals on housekeeping: Organoleptic analysis and formation of Russian olfactory vocabulary" Maria Pirogovskaya explores the Russian lexics for describing odors in historical perspective and traces the influence of scientific standards on non-specified spheres of language. Demands of natural science to name and to describe odors dated back to traditions of classic Antiquity but it was a change in scientific paradigm that put a specific genre of organoleptic description into a broader use. It invited to find distinctions and to stress olfactory nuances and thus enriched Russian repertoire of olfactory terms.
ON TWO TEXTS AND ONE UNDERTAKING
In his article "A Russian poet, a German scholar and Bessarabian vagabonds," Oleg Proskurin tells us how, when working on the long poem "The Gypsies," A.S. Pushkin made use of H.M.G. Grellman's study History of the Gypsies. Proskurin demonstrates how this study might have influenced the poem, and then explains why it was ultimately of very little use to Pushkin: Grellman was a scholar of the Enlightenment and this position was reflected in his views, in particular with regard to Gypsies. Pushkin, meanwhile, had entirely different convictions and wrote his poem from a correspondingly different standpoint; his Gypsies are depicted much like the "noble savages" of Chateaubriand.
Alexander Dolinin's article "A giaour disguised as a janissary: on Pushkin's poem 'The giaours are now praising Istanbul...'" analyzes the interpretations and posits the possible sources of this poem, in which Dolinin sees a "vicious satire" written with regard to the program of "Russian Europeanism."
In "Pushkin the gymnast," A.I. Reitblat shows that Pushkin was immediately privy to the emergence of gymnastics in Russia: he was supposed to have been among the members of a private gymnastics society that was to have been established in St. Petersburg in 1828.
In "'An Englishman. from Moscow': Evgeny Zamiatin and the Russian critics (1913—1923)," Julie Curtis relates how Zamiatin collected criticism of his work, thereby demonstrating a lively concern for his literary reputation, which indeed changed dramatically over the course of the decade: "he transformed from a bumpkin into a refined aesthete <...> from a crude describer of everyday life to a neorealist, from a typical Russian to an outsider, an 'Englishman'."
Evgeniia Suslova (St. Petersburg State University) contributes "Viktor Sosnora: Corpus," in which she investigates the poetics of this patriarch of Leningrad and Petersburg poetry. Suslova pays particular attention to linguistic and corporeal transformations, as well as to the structure of the subject of poetic utterance; this subject emerges from linguistic conceptualization and categorization, on the border of world transitioning into language, experimentation with the body into experimentation with language. This is a self-reflexive subject of exceedingly complex structure, which necessarily recalls not only avant-garde poetry (first and foremost Khlebnikov), but also the Vedas. Through her analysis, which focuses on the linguistic aspects of Sosnora's poetry, Suslova comes to the conclusion that Sosnora's poetics works to reveal the internal forms of the word and to establish historical connections between elements of language; this is most dramatically evident in his work with etymologies. Presenting a situation of secretly or seemingly tautological utterances, Sosnora draws his reader onto a metalevel of textual interpretation.
In the section's second article, "A world where this is no disappearing (on the poetics of "metarealism")," Maria Kuzicheva (MSU) addresses the poetry of metarealism, which debuted with great fanfare in the 1980s. Kuzicheva notes the renewed relevance of metarealistic poetics in recent years, particularly in connection with the departure of the school's most brilliant representative, Aleksei Parshchikov (1954—2009), and with the (re)interpretation of his literary legacy. In the second half of her article, Kuzicheva gives a close reading of the work of two poets who belong to the metarealist circle and are each developing the "baroque" line of Russian poetry in extremely original ways: Andrei Tavrov and Vladimir Aristov.
THE SEVERED JOINTS OF TIME
(On the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of Claude Simon)
This section is timed to coincide with the hundredth anniversary of the birth of Claude Simon (1913—2005) — one of the most unexpected and deserved, nonpartisan laureates of the Nobel prize. Today Simon's novels have been translated into a dozen different languages, dozens (if not hundreds) of books and hundreds (if not thousands) of scholarly articles have been devoted to his work, and every year sees another edition of Cahiers focused on his legacy. Yet Simon's work, which crosses Proust with Faulker, still remains difficult and hermetic for nearly every reader. This is even more the case for Russian-language readers, as very little has been translated into Russian: to date, just one of his early and indisputably most excellent novels, The Flanders Road (1960), a short semi-satirical/semi-documentary piece about his official trip to the Soviet Union, "The Invitation" (1987), and the text of his Nobel Prize speech. The current publication, prepared by translator Viktor Lapitsky, acts as a corrective to this deplorable gap: the short texts here, which are close to prose poems in form, include "The hair of Berenice," "Archipelago," "North," and "Progression through a snowy landscape." The texts are accompanied by a detailed introduction and commentary by the translator.
This issue's miscellany presents an essay from Igor Bondar-Tereshchenko (Kharkov), "To fall asleep on the pipe of the heating main. In the world of Anatoly Gavrilov's social networks," which is dedicated to the latter's minimalist prose, abounding in subtle absurdity and the grotesque. Gavrilov, who hails from Mariupol, lives now in Vladimir and has worked there for many years as a postman. Bondar-Tereshchenko's essay is provocative and mimetic in parts; it is an original, ironic homage to Gavrilov, one that employs recognizably "Gavrilov-esque" stylistic means as well as the latter's Facebook posts (which act as "communicating vessels" with Gavrilov's "primary" work — or, as Bondar-Tereshchenko puts it, as "pipes of the heating main").