The Pragmatics of the Text

Guest Editor Dmitry Bresler

The articles collected in this section pose a question about the unity of pragmatic analyses of literary texts, literary utteran­ces. These articles examine texts that have gone unpublished for various reasons upon which extensive work has nevertheless been undertaken. Textolo­gical analyses of such works — “un­finished” — has traditionally focused on explorations of the author’s last wishes, capable of finishing the text once and for all in a single-handed fashion, without publication and editing. An attentive study of the presented material, however, gives us the right to deviate from the question of the fundamental (definitive) text, and observe sought after utterances in the genesis itself, in the process of articulating the literary text, in drafts and notebooks, when the writer is handling not so much the plot points, approaches, or language units as much as the “pieces,” the fragments of the future artistic whole. The pragmatics of drafts, unpublished text fragments, and notes from notebooks change depen­ding on the concrete historical literary situation, which also is given attention by the authors of the articles collected in this section.

In Dmitry Bresler’s article “If the ‘Nove­l’ Is Left Out In the Sun, Nothing Will Remain”: The Pragmatics of the Second Edition of Konstantin Vaginov’s “Garpa­goniana”, notes and changes to the text of Vaginov’s last novel are examined in terms of metatext, self-commentary, additions, and explicitation of the author’s artistic framework. During the novel’s editing process, Vaginov actively used materials from the Seeds notebooks, the special (documentary) status of which served as the impetus for their inclusion on the literary text. Consequently, by the early 1930s, the special characteristics of the pragmatics of poetry were already being verified in Vaginov’s work, which subsequently have been used over the course of the Soviet and post-Soviet eras.

In the article “The Prepared The Cow: The Pragmatics of Text Re-exploitation in the Early Works by Gennady Gor”, Andre­y Muzhdaba traces the textological history fragments from The Cow (1929–1930), a novel by Gennady Gor that was not published during the author’s lifetime. For Muzhdaba, it is important to show that Gor’s text is laid out not so much in artistic approaches or narrative techniques, but rather in constructive fragments and units of the author’s utterances, which are subordinate to the pragmatics of the literary situation. Gor’s example contains valuable commentary on the problem of the mediation of the author’s intentions on the cusp of official literature of the 1930s and 1940s.

In the article “Plan and Manuscript: Toward the Issue of Yury Olesha’s Creative Principles”, Nikolay Gus’kov and Andrey Kokorin describe the prototext of the film script for A Strict Youth. Olesha’s archive shows how the work on the notes for the script did not lead the author to its completion, yet gave him the beginning for several other texts at once, including texts later published individually. According to the researches, Olesha’s method — taking the principl­e of “the rhetoric of decorum” to the extreme — presupposes the inability to arrange the text in the needed order and, at its extreme, to carry out the creation of artistic discourse even within the strict framework of the Soviet literary field.

Alexander Agapov’s article “’Sir, Why Do You Eat Your Wifes?’: On the Use of Quotation in Venedikt Erofeev’s Works” revises the traditional object of analysis in studies of Venedikt Erofeev’s work — the intertext Moscow to the End of the Line. The article’s author reveals the mechanics of Erofeev’s who, which, contrary to popular opinion, did not write centos that mixed quotations from “high” literature with “base” subjects, but reworked extracts from his own notebooks. Consequently, Erofeev was “quoting” his own experiences as a reader, the spoken phrases of his interlocutors, records he heard, and, more broadly, applied a subjec­tive (to a large extent biographical, rather than cultural) means of “inhabitating” discourse.

The Rhetoric of the Image

The section is formed by Sergey Zenkin’s article “An Image without a Likeness (Receptive Structure of The Picture of Dorian Gray)” which pose a question about the visuality and literary narrative. Contemporary theory examines a literary text as a dynamic reading program. It is heterogeneous; strong and weak areas differentiate themselves; there are segments with higher or lower degrees of conventionality. When applied to narrative texts, the idea of “functional immersion” can be used for the analysis of such a structure, denoting moments when the reader should “get involved” in the plot and “empathize” with the characters, even fictional ones. Some approaches that allow for the elicitation of such “immersion” — primarily approaches of narrative framing (visual, genre, intertextual) — are shown using the example of Oscar Wilde’s novel Port­rait of Dorian Gray (1890). The heterogeneity of this text is due to a visual ima­ge’s (a painting’s) introduction into the story, where it is featured as an actant. Visuali­ty and literary narrative are two different cultural languages, and one of them (literary) deforms the other (visual). The picture of Dorian Gray is almost invisible as a painted image, but the reader’s attention is drawn to its external, non-image-related elements of art, but as a document that incriminates the protagonist. It migrates to the outside world and changes within itself, serving not as the embodiment of an ideal prototype, but as a fluid, ambiguous simulacrum, similar to and object and a dead body that has become part of a theoretically endless number of objects collected by the novel’s protagonist.

The Hermeneutics of the Image

This thematic cluster is devoted to the various ways in which an image can be interpreted within a cultural context. Vadim Mikhailin’s and Galina Belyae­va’s article “‘From the Very Start There is No Innocence and No Singleness’: Artist Alexei Venetsianov and the Sources of Russian National Character and Landscape” attempts to reveal a layer of esoteric symbolism in Venetsianov’s paintings, allowing us to get a slightly different perspective not only on a figure that is extremely important in the history of Russian art, but also into the visual component of Russian culture of the first third of 19th century as a whole. Venetsianov’s canvases of his “peasant period,” painted at the beginning of the 1820s, are interpreted in the context of symbolic codes relevant to the artistic atmosphere that Venetsianov was familiar with (Ale­xander Labzin, Vladimir Borovikovsky, etc.). Maria Chernysheva in the article “A Painting as a Gift to the Emperor: The Symbolic Aspect of Anatoly Demidov’s relationship with Nicholas I” reconstructs a case when, in 1834, Anatoly Demidov gave Karl Brullov’s The Last Day of Pompeii to Nicholas I as a gift. The article interprets this incident in the context of Demidov’s complex relationship with the emperor, understood as an implicit pole­mic dialogue about the symbolic valu­es. By shedding light on circumstances that have not been taken into account by either prior historians of the Demidov family or specialists in Brullov’s, the dual meaning of Demidov’s gesture of a gift is revealed. Among other things, attention is given to the intention of Demidov’s little-studied “Letters on Russia.” His activities as an art patron and as the largest collector of contemporary French painting are examined from a new point of view. Oleg Voskoboynikov’s article “Restoro d’Arezzo: A 13th-Century Artist and Encyclopaedist” examines the work of the artist. Only his Composition of the World survives, and it is the first cosmology in vernacular Italian, but, judging from the text, it can be asserted that he was also a practicing artist and possibly also worked in metal, although his works have not survived. Several passages in his work, especially his extensive descriptions of antique vases and sarcophagi, speak to the development of his aesthetic sensibility and prove the existence of a circle of lovers of local pagan antiquities in Arrezo. A textual analysis and translation of the relevant passages allows us to finesse existing ideas in the humanities about the genesis of art in the contemporary sense of the word inherited from the Renaissance.

From the History of Russian Epistolary Practices

This thematic cluster includes various correspondences of the Russian public figures (writers, poets, scientists and religious figures). Ovanes Akopyan in the article “The Letter of Patriarch Tikhon to Pope Benedict XV and Other Documents on the Relations between the Holy See and the USSR in the 1920s” suggests a publication with commentary of several documents from the history of the relations between the Holy See and the Soviet government: letters from Patriarch Tikhon to Pope Benedict XV with a request for help for victims of the mass famine of 1921–1922; letters by Exarch Leonid Feodorov of the Apostolic Catholic Exarchate of the Byzantine Rite, about a criminal case filed by the Soviet authorities against a number of Catholic priests (Feodorov himself was one of the convicted); as well as correspondence between the USSR and representatives of the Holy See relating to the release of Antonio Gramsci from prison. Andre­i Ustinov’s and Oleg Lekmanov’s article “‘I remembered one of my few encoun­ters with O. M...’: Leonid Pinsky’s Letters to Gleb Struve” is an annotated publication of Soviet culturologist and specialist in Western European literature of the Early Modern period Leonid Pinsky’s letters to Gleb Struve, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley who was one of the pioneers of Slavic Studies in America. The letters contain Pinsky’s remembrances about his encounters with Osip Mandelstam and discuss Nadezhda Mandelstam’s Hope Abandoned, as well as Pinsky’s scholarly projects after his success with the Moscow edition of Osip Mandelstam’s Talking about Dante in 1967. Alexander Ivinskiy’s article “From the Epistolary Legacy of Mikhail Muravyov: Letters to His Father from 1778” comments on ten letters by the author to his father, Nikita Muravyov, and his sister, F.N. Muravyova. This material is a key source for the reconstruction of the bio­grapher and literary position of the poet. Muravyov describes in detail his way of life, interactions, interests, literary activities, and reading list. He was acquainted with all of the significant writers of his time: Nikolai Novikov, Mikhail Kheraskov, Vasily Petrov, Vasily Maikov, Vasily Kap­nist, Yakov Knyazhnin, etc. In addition, his letters reveal details of societal life at the time.

Archeology of the Pushkin Era

This thematic cluster analyses variou­s paradoxes of the Pushkin’s works and the cultural context in which he lived. The goal of Ilya Vinitsky’s article “Pushkin’s Wit, or The Poet’s Most Freudian Joke” is to attract the reader’s attention to the problem of Pushkin’s wit, most often perceived as a given of sorts, and not a subject for historical and litera­ry reflection. The determination of the litera­ry genealogy of Pushkin’s famous joke about Jesus and two thieves shows that in fact, this witticism is not an improvised and original joke, but a cultural quotation, wittily reworked by the poet for concrete people and a situation. It is worth noting that the very same joke, tracing its lineage back to the same cultural source as Pushkin, is used by Sigmund Freud in his classic book Wit and Its Relation to the Unconscious (“Der Witz und seine Beziehung zum Unbewußten”, 1905) as an example of an ideal conceptual witticism. Mark Artshuller in his “Pushсhin and Kukhelbeker: The Myth of Lycee Friendship” shows that while the tender friendship between the Decembrists Pushchin and Kukhelbeker is one of the oldest and most touching myths of Russian history, a closer examination of the relationshi­p between the two graduates of the Tsarkoye Selo Lycee forces us to make substantial adjust­ments to this idyll. On December 14th, Kukhelbeker shot at Grand Duke Mikhail Pavolovich. During the investigation, he swore that he did it at Pushchin’s urging, exposing the latter to charges of regicide. Pushchin never told anyone about the untimely openness of his lycée friend; he helped and sympathized with Kukhelbeker, preser­ving his archive. Despite all the decency and moral integrity, however, he retained a coldness and irony toward Kukhelbeker, and even after the poet’s death, he mocked his work contemptuously. Vladimir Arakcheev in the article “‘The Right of War’: How the Violent Practices of Russian Landowners Are Reflected in the Plot of the Novel Dub­rovsky” explores why Pushkin decided not the publish the novel Dubrovsky, and what phenomenon was reflected in the phrase “the right of war,” tossed out in passin­g. The interpretations of the novel’s characters proposed by scholars do not answer these questions, since they are limited by searches for prototypes, while at the same time, studies of the everyday practices of Russian nobles of the Early Modern Period are lacking. The article argues that rule of force by Russian landowners took the form of an enduring phenomenon in the Russia of the 16th — 18th centuries, that of the violent resolution of conflicts, well known to provincial nobles. This hypothesis has been proven as the result of research from archival, visual, and archeological sources.

Towards the Sycreticism of the Word: the Far Eastern Substratum in Modern Poetic Practice

This section is dedicated to the influence of Chinese and Japanese culture in contemporary Russian culture and consists of two parts. In her article “Chinese in the Latest Russian Poetry: Synchronous Multidimensionality, Ideograms, and Mutual Enrichment of Artistic Elements,” Elena Zeifert traces the penetration and rethinking of various elements of traditional Chinese poetry and philosophy in the work of such poets as Natalia Azarova, Anna Glazova, Alexander Ulanov, Alexander Skidan, and Vladimir Artistov. In the article “Japanese Traces in the Poetry of the Underground,” Boris Kolymagin addresses a much earlier perio­d, unofficial poetry, observing particular stylistic and graphic characteristics among a wide range of authors (from Vsevolod Nekrasov to Gennady Aigi and from Sergei Biryukov to Anna Alchuk), as well as motifs that are characteristic of the literature of the Land of the Rising Run.

Alexander Altshuler: Poet of the Adverb

Alexander Altushler (1938–2014) was born in and lived the majority of his life in Leningrad. He belonged to the Leningrad circle of unofficial poetry of the 1950s—1970s. His texts were distributed as typewritten manuscripts among friends and acquaintances and published in samizdat collections: the Fioretti almanac, the journal Transponans, in Mitin Zhurnal, and in the anthology U Goluboi Laguny. An essential part of Altshuler’s life was the social and cultural environment that arose around the poet Leonid Aronzon and his wife, Rita Purishinskaya. Aronzon and Altshuler were close friends from a young age. Stylistically very different, they became “poetic air” for one another, as evidenced by the numerous mutual dedications, references, and cross-citations in their poetry. The section is opened by Nina Heimets’s article “On the Poetry of Aleksandr Altshuler,” which examines in detail the poetry of this author, who was not fully appreciated during his lifetime, beginning with his early works and finishing with his later ones, which were written in Jerusalem, where he moved in 1993. The section finishes with an archival publication of poems and “small prose” by Altshuler, prepared by Galina Bleikh.