OBJECTS OF AFFECT: TOWARDS A MATERIOLOGY OF THE EMOTIONS
In "Materiality of sound: the cinema of touch," Lilya Kaganovsky uses materials from early Soviet documentary cinema (primarily from Esfir Shub's 1932 "K.Sh.E." [Komsomol: Patron of Electrification] and Dziga Vertov's 1931 "Enthusiasm: Symphony of the Donbass") to investigate the concept of the haptic or tactile, i.e. that which is connected to perception through hearing and touch. Despite their differences, "Enthusiasm" and "Komsomol" are closely connected: beginning with Vertov's attempts to turn sound into a document and ending with Shub's experiments with sound taking on the form of touch, Kaganovsky attempts to reconstruct a trajectory whereby the organization of hearing with the help of recording technology enabled sound to become an organic part of cinematic composition.
The section continues with "The stars' embrace: on the corporeal qualities of glass in Russia," from Julia Chadaga. Glass is a cold, hard, potentially injurious substance, yet it was used in the Soviet period to create spectacular objects that fostered a warm affective bond between the state that manufactured them and the citizens that beheld them. This paper examines two monumental glass constructions — the Kremlin stars and Avtovo metro station — that span the vertical axis from the sublime to the subterranean and that turned into genuine objects of affection for the Soviet people. I situate these two objects within the larger context of Russians' centuries-long love affair with glass, considering case studies from the glass-making of Mikhail Lomonosov to Vera Mukhina's triumphant creation of a vitreous woman whom spectators could not resist touching. My discussion foregrounds the parallels between glass and the body that recur in Russian cultural texts, from poetry to political discourse.
In the article "Constitutional awe," Kim Lane Scheppele analyzes the phenomenon of awe, or "holy dread." Such a concept is founded on a certain affective object; upon entering a space of politics, it becomes a political fetish. This fetish is capable of producing a staggering affective experience for the group of people that has chosen it as an object of admiration — in other words, it can evoke a sense of awe. As an example of this kind of affective object Scheppele offers Hungary's Holy Crown of St. Stephen, which became a key player in the numerous political speculations of recent Hungarian history and which was transformed into a material expression of national (and nationalist) identity.
ANTHROPOLOGY OF THE POGROM
"Two days of hate in Leningrad: the 'Ershov Brothers' vs. Doctor Zhivago" by Mikhail Zolotonosov contains a) fragments from shorthand notes taken at a meeting of the Leningrad branch of the Soviet Writer's Union, during which — entirely in the spirit of 1937 — the group "discussed" Boris Pasternak's having been awarded the Nobel Prize for the novel Doctor Zhivago; and b) extensive commentary on the event.
In "The exclusion of A.A. Galich from the Writers' Union," Mikhail Aronov presents shorthand notes from a meeting of the Secretariat of the Moscow branch of the Writers' Union, at which Aleksandr Galich was ejected from the Union.
INDIVIDUAL EXPERIENCE: AN ATTEMPT AT HISTORICAL AND CULTURAL RECONSTRUCTION
"The death in Saint-Petersburg in July 1803" by Andrey Zorin completes the series of publications based on Andrei Turgenev's famous diary. It deals with the mysterious circumstances of the diarist's death in July 1803 and attempts to reconstruct the logic of events based of the analysis of emotional patterns that defined Turgenev's lived experience and perception of his own situation.
An article by Valery Podoroga, "The tree of the dead: Varlam Shalamov and the time of the Gulag (an attempt at negative anthropology)" presents an attempt to reconstruct Shalamov's "camp world" (using his Kolyma Tales as material). The analysis, which is aided by the categories and concepts of negative anthropology, seeks answers to the following questions: Was it possible to survive in Stalin's camps without moral losses? How was it possible to maintain the human element within human beings — through resistance, submission, insanity? Did Shalamov himself — a witness, victim and chronicler of the Gulag unknown in his own time — survive his time in the camps?
VLADIMIR SOROKIN: OVERCOMING LITERATURE
The first-ever English-language conference devoted to the work of Vladimir Sorokin, "Vladimir Sorokin's languages: mediality, interculturality, translation," took place 31 March-1 April 2012 in the Danish city of Aarhus. This section, curated by Mark Lipovetsky (University of Colorado — Boulder), contains the second batch of papers from the conference (the first half was published in a section of the same name in NLO 119). The papers are united by their shared approach to Sorokin's work, examining the question of how this writer methodically overcomes the boundaries of his own literary aesthetic, tearing open the fabric of words and transforming his texts into performative, ritual or bodily acts. However, in these papers Sorokin's "method" is examined using the writer's entire body of work, rather than specific individual texts. In "Sorokin-trope: carnalization," Mark Lipovetsky suggests carnalization as the central trope that structures both Sorokin's early work and his more recent creations (Lipovetsky understands carnalization as the transfer of discursiveness to the corporeal level, which is only partially described by the category "materialization of the metaphor"). Lisa Ryoko Wakamiya (Florida State University) explores the role of the repulsive and its connection with bodily and discursive excesses in Sorokin's work in "The Abject in Sorokin." The section closes with an article from Ilya Kalinin (Neprikosnovennyi zapas, St. Petersburg), "Vladimir Sorokin: the ritual of the destruction of history," in which Kalinin questions the rather fixed strategies for critical reception of Sorokin's work. All of the articles in this section concur on one point: a new understanding of Sorokin as not only a critic of authoritative discourses, but also as a trailblazer into unknown semiotic spaces hidden behind discourse — anthropological, cultural, political spaces, the paths to which are blown open by the dynamite of Sorokin's deconstructions.
In "Anthony Minghella's The English Patient (1996)," Grigory Amelin (Moscow) gives a "close reading" of the film, which is based on Michael Ondaatje's eponymous novel. In addition to the aesthetic and existential aspects of the film, Amelin somewhat paradoxically focuses on questions of knowledge ("what can I know?") and the attempt to endow history with human significance — all the way from classical history according to Herodotus to a modern world torn apart by war.