"Русская античность?" : интервью Романа Мниха с Ниной Брагинской
An anthology of the recent Russian translations and adaptations of the "Exegi monumentum" by Horace. Collected and introduced by Gasan Gusejnov.
The essay about Olga Freidenberg, an outstanding Russian scholar, who was a theoretician of myth and culture of the calibre of Claude Lévi-Strauss and Ernst Cassirer. Her proud stance defied the Stalinist regime of crime and repression. She left behind twelve monographs, unpublished in life, twenty articles and the immensely valuable memoirs Race of Life (which counts 2,300 pages of typescript).
The paper discusses the scholarly biography of Olga Freidenberg; a concise exposé of her major achievements in scholarship is accompanied by the questioning, how she managed to create new theories under the pressure inside the country and isolation from the world science.
O. M. Freidenberg’s “The origin of literary description”-- along with fragment on Homeric representation of death at the battlefield is offered for publication for the first time; the work was started before WWII but remained unfinished. The publication and commentaries to it are prefaced by Introduction. Out of “The origin of a literary description” grew two cycles of revolutionary studies, one on the specifics of Homer’s similes (partial publication, 1946), and the other on the origin of the ancient Greek lyric (post mortem, 1973, also partial), both anticipated the study of corresponding problems in Europe for decades. However, many ideas of this unfinished work have not been voiced. Freidenberg addresses the birth of primal speech practices, i.e., narration, description, communication of a conversation contents, characterization of events, circumstances, people, etc. She reconstructs these practices on the specific features of early literature (the genesis of such practices in some measure repeats speech development in a child) and shows that the primitivism of oral narration, description, and characterizations is transformed into stylistic peculiarities. In other words, the folk genres and early literature retain the phases of the development of the techniques of narration, description and characterization as “devices,” tropes, stylistic peculiarities, and even grammatical categories. Freidenberg treats visual representation as well as enumeration, catalogues, lists, detailed descriptions but without generalization, absence of hierarchy and selection, cumulative narration, praesens historicum, retardation, simile and ekphrasis in this perspective. She attributes the minutest descriptions of impaling and dismemberment in battle to the experience of a priest, cattle breeder, or hunter. The practice of sacrifice provides the material to be used as an observation of reality. The “defects” of ancient descriptions are the first steps towards realism and naturalism in epic in which the ideas about the world, gods, heroes and a plot are still mythological. As for the human world, it emerges in the demonstration which compares parts of similes, or in the ekphrases of things. The epic reinforces the myth with reality where as the archaic lyric compares people to gods reinforcing thus reality with myth. The epic worldview, fundamentally anti-realistic, clothes its cosmic images in everyday garb whereas the Greek lyric engendered by realism, relies on religion and myth. In this study by Freidenberg, ekphrasis has a special meaning, namely, description of things, of what is hand-made. At the same time, craft ware themselves describe certain images wordlessly, via things, because the semantics of ancient things is mythic. Ekphrasis was preceded by “description” in forging, wood, and embroidery. Things do not function to characterize heroes, e.g., Achilles’s shield does not characterize a hero, it represents the mythic world in the phases both of birth and destruction.
Akin to the display of a concrete destruction or a concrete hero built on the material of sacrifice, akin to the simile which in itself contains the vision of everyday reality, Homer’s ekphrasis unites in itself mythism and reality through which the explanation of traditional material occurs. In the process, the creator of oxymoronic “oral literature” or “written mythological folklore” turns into an author. For Freidenberg, the appearance of author in lyrics who writes about oneself is the greatest event in the history of consciousness. The writing is not yet about one’s inner world but is about oneself none the less. Hence the lyric poetry is replete with sphragides of nearly all the poets for an author is a concrete person even though still an object of the cult with a semi-mythic biography but it is not the Muse any longer who dictates to the epicsinger.
The book consists of lectures and papers on the Classical Myths and their functions in the modern culture and social life.
The article discusses the original concept of myth, created by the Soviet philosopher aesthetician Mikhail Lifshits, presented in the comparison with many classical and modern theories of myth. The logic of myth, called Logomythia, is analyzed not only from the standpoint of Marxism, but also resting on the traditions of the Western and Russian Enlightenment, and on Levi-Strauss’s ideas. The overriding feature of myth, from his point of view, is not practice and labour, but the ambivalent, dual principle, manifested in art, where archaic myth dies as historical nonsense and is resurrected as a human sense.
Analytic survey of the papers presented at the conference concentrated on the scholarly legacy of the prominent Russian scholar a correspondent of Boris Pastermak and an author of the Memoirs encompassing first half of the XXth century. The place of her ideas in nowadays scholarship and new researches inspired by her theoretical works.