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Thread: Russian Literature vs. The World.

  1. #106
    This thread reminds me of another Russian literature thread I made several weeks ago: http://www.online-literature.com/for...-and-the-Canon

  2. #107
    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    Borges was not the kind of guy anyone wanted to fence. Not that winning arguments means someone is right about anything...

    Anyways, Borges got a lot of criticism during his life, because they considered this part of his snobery. But the guy was not arguing against Quixote, but about the influence of Cervantes style on the formation of modern spanish language.
    In a truly symbolic argument, a genuine argument, only one must always win unless each argues something unrelated to the other. In such case you can't call it argument.

    You are correct that he was not arguing against Quixote. That, for Borges, would have been as stupid as using the deductive logic of Saint Agustin. He was arguing against the Protagorian ethics of Spanish modern meanings derived from Quixote. Bottomline, he was arguing against fascism.

  3. #108
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    Those arguments he produced and developed during his youth, It was part of his aesthetics, most because he got extremelly bored of the "isms" of spanish modernism and when young he had a "lack of faith" on classics, in the sense, he often considered there was an acceptance of the classics indepenedent of the reading. In a sense, Borges was telling everyone he read Don Quixote a lot, while mostly didnt. (Borges didn't accepted much Ortega Y Gasset vision of classics, whch was the dominant idea also around his youth, but asking a review - a kind of socratic irony over the classics - allowed him to rebuild Quixote.)

    Obviously, Borges do discriminate baroque language of Cervantes, Borges do celebrate english language beyond nationalism (or a national book) and adopted a Classical style, which explains his positions against Cervantes.

  4. #109
    Artist and Bibliophile stlukesguild's Avatar
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    It's not about ranks of economic development, or even military strength, it is about cultural influence, which no historian is going to dispute has been in decline in England.

    Well... considering that for much of the 18th and 18th centuries the British and the French absolutely dominate Western culture (with the exception of music where the "Austro-Germanic Hegemony" is unrivaled) it is not surprising that British and French influence on culture would wane as others rose in power, wealth... and cultural influence.

    Take Dickens for example - or even Byron before him - we are dealing with some of the most powerful and lasting artists of the world imagination, which have completely altered the literary history of not just England, but as diverse places as Russia and China - Pushkin, Tolstoy and Lu Xun.

    For better or worse... the Beatles, the Rolling Stones... Lucian Freud.

    Honestly, is it not impossible to see who among today's artists will have such impact? Cervantes, Shakespeare, William Blake, Chaucer... all made a huge and wide-ranging impact upon literature... but were their peers aware of this?

    This is what I call the golden age of "British national literature", in a sense it is the fuel that Penguin Classics get paid for. It's what every common reader (who is not so common) generally thinks of when they think English literature, or English culture, not some expensive rather innovative but not mainstream known artists whose paintings people cannot identify, nor ever dream of purchasing.

    Honestly... how many people really "know" Byron or Blake or Dickens (beyond A Christmas Carol) as something more than a name? If your concept of impact or influence is limited to those works of art that might be seen as part of the "common narrative" of the culture you are speaking of an incredibly small body of work (Homer and the Greek myths, the Bible, Dante, Cervantes, Shakespeare, and a few others)... and we can no longer count of this even. That's a good deal of what T.S. Eliot was bemoaning... the loss of a shared cultural narrative. But is reality... we still have as much... its just that now it comes from popular culture: film, TV, pop music, populist literature like Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, etc... and it seems to me that Britain has contributed more than its fair share to such.

    In terms of post-ww2 authors, that is, authors coming into maturity after the Second World War, I cannot think of any with a super-global reach with the exception of maybe Lord of the Rings (a clear literature of decline) or Harry Potter, which is very much a Victorian piece of literature.

    What writers from anywhere else have the sort of impact you are speaking of?

    Don't get me wrong, there are many great authors out there, but do they have the cultural pull their precursors had? Of course not. That is what we mean by decline. They moved from the centre of the cultural literary landscape internationally, creating the foundation of curriculum across the world, to merely a place amongst many cultures. That is what we call a decline by any standards.

    I can agree with you there... in the sense that I don't see any single dominant culture when it comes to literature... and perhaps the arts and culture as a whole. With the onset of WWII, Paris surrendered its hegemony in the visual arts to New York, Hollywood became unrivaled in film, arguably England and France surrendered their dominant role in literature to the US, and the German dominance of music ended and went to Russia and the US. But this American cultural dominance began fraying at the seams by the 1960s. The US still controls many of the markets in publishing and art and film and recorded music... but I don't see a single dominant culture in terms of the work being created.

    But has there always been a single dominant culture? I doubt this? And of what degree of importance is it to the actual creation of art? South America has turned out a number of the finest writers of the last half-century: Borges, Cortazar, Garcia-Marquez, Neruda, etc... yet how influential has South American culture been on the world as a whole? Beside Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and perhaps Venezuela, how many could even properly identify the remaining nations of South America? How important was Shakespeare in 17th century Italy, Spain, Germany, or Russia?

    As for Spain's decline, it did not happen in the 20th century, as anybody can say, and a sort of cultural resurgence before the rise of fascism seems to be apparent. I don't think any literary historian could fail to note the devastating impact Franco has had on Spanish literature, as it marked the death of a sort of rebirth.

    Oddly, the Renaissance in Germany, Russia, and Spain all coincided with the rise of the very oppressive totalitarian regimes that ultimately squashed these same cultural resurgences.

    You yourself, perhaps made similar comments about German pre and post Nazi artistic production, which you noted marked a sharp decline with the rise and fall of the third Reich.

    Germany seems to have rebound the best of the above three... probably as a result of American Post-War rebuilding efforts, a thriving economy, and an open, democratic government. Spain and Russia continued to suffer under totalitarian regimes for decades after WWII. But I'm not certain how much an open society is to artistic creation. The rulers of the Italian Renaissance were quite the despots. It seems more likely that it is essential that there be both the financial support for the artists and for arts education... and something akin to recognition or acknowledgement. The visual arts and literature declined with the rise of the Soviet system... and one suspects that it was very difficult to carry on writing or creating art under Soviet censorship. But musicianship and the ballet... neither of which could be seen to openly threaten or criticize the Soviet State... thrived.

    I want to ask you then which authors do you think have had both cultural resonance as well as major critical appeal in the post 1950s world from England, born and raised as they say, as lord knows the peripheries of empire have brought in a large amount of great work. It's almost hard to name authors who people consider as major forces of literary movements, or as literary developers the way someone like Tennyson so enveloped a national zeitgeist.

    But again... what authors from anywhere can you name that meet such criteria? Borges? Calvino? Garcia-Marquez? Gunter Grass? Who is an everyday name?

    Now, if we were to want to dump 10 names of any time period of any art medium in almost any place, we probably could. Can we say that they are as colossal as a Rembrandt though, well, perhaps not. Still, if you wanted to say England has had 10 major novelists, you could quite well name them. But I am willing to wager not a single one of these critically acclaimed novelists, or poets, or whoever has been as internationally successful or influential as earlier British forerunners. Artists, maybe, and film makers, also perhaps maybe, but still, in terms of literature, I stand by my point of England has gone through a post-world-war decline in both influence and success.

    Again... you are placing in comparison artists in this time and place... and their impact/influence... against artists whose impact and influence has grown over the years... even centuries. Mozart is probably a rather familiar name to the educated across much of the globe... yet during his lifetime he was known in Salzburg, Vienna, Prague and a few other central European cities. The number of scores of his music and/or tickets to his performances were quite likely far less than the number of CDs of John Cage's music have been sold. Of course if we compare Mozart's achievements after a couple of hundred years to Cage, it is something altogether different. This is not to suggest that Cage might eventually rise to the level of influence of Mozart... that's not even funny... but rather it is to suggest that comparing the impact and influence (let alone artistic merit) of a living artist to one whose achievements have had the advantage of centuries to wend their way throughout the culture seems impossible.
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  5. #110
    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    Those arguments he produced and developed during his youth, It was part of his aesthetics, most because he got extremelly bored of the "isms" of spanish modernism and when young he had a "lack of faith" on classics, in the sense, he often considered there was an acceptance of the classics indepenedent of the reading. In a sense, Borges was telling everyone he read Don Quixote a lot, while mostly didnt. (Borges didn't accepted much Ortega Y Gasset vision of classics, whch was the dominant idea also around his youth, but asking a review - a kind of socratic irony over the classics - allowed him to rebuild Quixote.)

    Obviously, Borges do discriminate baroque language of Cervantes, Borges do celebrate english language beyond nationalism (or a national book) and adopted a Classical style, which explains his positions against Cervantes.
    yes.

    Regarding O & G, his thesis was the cornerstone of Spanish fascism and Franco followed it to the letter. But there were many fascists also who did not want to deal with the transparency of O & G. and called him "a stupid divulgator," because they knew the system was pinned to the wall by the thesis.

  6. #111
    Dance Magic Dance OrphanPip's Avatar
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    I think I'm about to say something that is going to be unpopular.

    To get back to the popularity of Russian novels of the late 19th century, it has occurred to me that this trend reflects a general shift in attitudes towards the novel that contains an element of misogyny. The English novel until 1900 was, to me at least, women's main artistic form. Many of the major novelists were not women, but when they chose to write they wrote primarily about women. The English classic novels are bourgeois, feminine, and domestic, while the Russian novel is masculine, either bohemian or aristocratic, and broad in theme and topic. Part of what modernism brought with it was a backlash against women artists and artistic forms, the Modernist novelist wanted to be taken seriously as an artist so the concerns of the earlier classics were discarded in favour of a celebration of masculinity in the English novel, even female authors like Woolf trashed their predecessors in favour of a masculinization of their writing. I think an element of that more overt misogyny of the Modernist movement has persisted in the popular evaluation of what a good novel should be and should do. Tolstoy poses a problem for me though because I find him in many ways as a final continuance of the domestic novelistic tradition coming out of France and England that is on the wain in his work. Dostoevsky fit better into the post-Modernist expectations of English readers, so he has been elevated as a result of popular derision heaped on the English classics of the period.
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  7. #112
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    The most popular English novelist in the first half of the 19th Century was Sir Walter Scott (I read somewhere he was by far the most popular English novelist of all time in terms of percentage of novels sold during his career) He cannot, I think, be accused of writing feminine novels. With a few exceptions, in his novels women were more important as motivations for the male characters than as characters of their own.

    The feminine novel was, perhaps, a reaction to the masculine Epic. The adventures of Akilles or Odysseus made for great epics, but the novel (see Jane Austen) showed that domestic adventures can be as much literary fun as epic ones. I agrre that modernism brought the celebration of the individual (streams of consciousness in Joyce and Proust, for example). It moved the novel from one masculine ideal (the epic) toward another (the epic internal journey). If 19th century novels were more socially or culturally driven, and if we call that more feminine and the two forms of epic I mentioned earlier more masculine, then Pip seems to have a good point. I'm not sure where the Russians fit, though. Although he wasn't a novelist, Chekov was one of the perhaps 5 great Russian literary figures, and the most modern, but I wouldn't call him a masculine writer (assuming we can use the terms 'masculine' and 'feminine' in this way).

  8. #113
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    Tolstoy would be a lesser problem if you treat him with Walter Scott, Victor Hugo, which are Epic Novelists writing for a national romance, something JBI mentions (let's include Melville here too). Then you have the burgoise novels, which i think is where the "women" novels came to fit, but why this? Education, this is a public that was added to the game. I bet the female reading was still very small in russia, since they still struggling between the court and rural areas... so you have writers than join both as Tchekhov, city's court writers as Pushkin, or city small workers as Dostoievisky and it is thos workers who are added as reading public.

    I think those dualities helped those writers to bring up a new narrative form, which is the cause of their popularity wiht modernists, and dostoievisky is that praised for the Bakhtin reasons: he is all about dialogue of ideas.

  9. #114
    I don't know. Nineteenth century French literature is very different from English literature from that era, at least in my opinion.

  10. #115
    Bibliophile JBI's Avatar
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    To reply to St. Lukes as a general theme, Byron, Dickens, Zola, etc. were all hugely famous and wide reaching during and immediately after their lives, as they are today. Their fame has been relatively consistent from populist works to classic, without much of an ebb.

    This is a product of the 19th century mostly in the West, in that it allows for cross-cultural publishing. Goethe writes extensively about this, and sort of kicks off the field of "world literature", as he notes translations and texts have become relatively easier to acquire.

    If this is not tied to the rise and fall of nationalism and imperial power, I don't know what it is. India reading English classics as a means of becoming more like their "cultured masters" is similar to the Chinese move on Japan during the 7th through 10th centuries, where thousands of books (scrolls mostly, but later codex-formed works) were transported to Japan, though rarely the other way around. The same occurred for thousands of years around East, South-East and even to an extent central Asia.

    The amount of influence, in a sense, one cultural or national tradition (being that cultural traditions are an earlier formation than national traditions) is generally the determiner of its esteem in the scheme of things. Generally, England through the 19th century was rivaled only by France, though Germany was picking up speed.

    In the 20th century, the answer to world success, and the highest platform for influence is the United States, with maybe Russia as a second. Even something like a super-market, the way we sell things, etc. is rooted in an American mentality (the home fridge for instance was mostly an American cultural product compared to Britain and other places).

    When we speak of literature, American fiction of the 20th century, or at least the canonical writers, seem to be some of the most pessimistic works I have encountered. Popular literature, like comic books, however, are incredibly believing and loving of a sort of American dream. But in terms of influence, the old European world generally yielded to the American, and the US has been dominant in art for much of the 20th century, and seems the biggest cultural centre to this day.

    As for British authors, seriously I cannot name many who I actually think are "that good" working right now who I know. We are talking born and raised on English soil mind you. I am at a loss.

  11. #116
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    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    Tolstoy would be a lesser problem if you treat him with Walter Scott, Victor Hugo, which are Epic Novelists writing for a national romance, something JBI mentions (let's include Melville here too). Then you have the burgoise novels, which i think is where the "women" novels came to fit, but why this? Education, this is a public that was added to the game. I bet the female reading was still very small in russia, since they still struggling between the court and rural areas... so you have writers than join both as Tchekhov, city's court writers as Pushkin, or city small workers as Dostoievisky and it is thos workers who are added as reading public.
    Education plays a role in not just the presence of a female readership but also in the kinds of female authorship available. During the 18th century women who were educated received educations in Romance languages: English, French, and Italian primarily. While educated males learned Latin and Greek. This meant that the major classics that women turned to for reading were not the Roman and Greek epics, but the European romances and major novels. LaFayette's Princess of Cleves along with Cervantes' Don Quixote were the main literary precedents for most women who wanted to become authors (along with a number of vernacular poets). Shakespeare forms another interesting center point for English women writers, because his greatness gave them a space to exercise critical opinion without having to rely on a substantial classical education, which is why Charlotte Lenox was able to become one of the most prominent Shakespeare critics of the eighteenth century when she produced the first extensive analysis of Shakespearean plot sources.

    I was certainly overreaching (possibly on purpose) when I said the English novel was solely a feminine form. There were obviously reactionary and counter discourses always at work in the history of the novel's development in English. Pope in his Dunciad and Fielding in the Author's Farce uses women (Lady Novel and the Goddess of Nonsense both being based on Eliza Haywood) to represent the crimes of novelists. Fielding and Swift wrote novels that attempted to bring Classical ideals into prose, but they failed to change the trajectory the artform took after them. The real influential figures were Haywood (best seller of the eighteenth century with Love in Excess) and Richardson (Pamela and Clarissa both massively influential novels about women). Defoe wrote 4 novels with 2 of them being about a female protagonist. Frances Burney and Jane Austen stand at the summit of Georgian novelists. The gothic novel is dominated by a homosexual (Walpole) whose aesthetics emphasize a deliberately camp and effete aesthetic and the most popular author in this form was Anne Radcliffe. The Romantics have a minor backlash against the bourgeois and domestic sensibilities of the English novel, but they produce few novels of real worth in English, and Wollstonecraft's Frankenstein is probably the best of what they produced in prose. The Victorian social and realist novel seems to be split because by the mid 19th century the readership is more evenly divided between middle class men and women, who now both lack a classical education. Women continue to perform strongly in this period with major players like Elliot, the Brontes, and Gaskell. However, even authors of less overtly feminine novels, like Dickens, were publishing much of their work in women's magazines. Women authors start to become increasingly marginalized by the turn of the century. Yet, today women still make up the majority of the novel reading population and the population of authors, despite a new emphasis in 20th century literature that focuses on male authors and stories about men.
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  12. #117
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    I frankly thougth you were talking about the XIX novels onwards, the burgoise kind of novel (since you were talking about russians). Yes, Jane wasn't a miracle that came from nowhere. The Enlightment philosophers already included many women (I say readers, because the writers are a consequence of it), guys like Voltaire praticed a sort of feminism and had female readers and partners. The faery tales and other decameron like's models or the 1001 Nights seems to work with female models all the time - I would say inside the court it was an alternative to classic poetry, even because as you pointed, it was often written in romance languages. And you have a group of female writers in France from this group too.

  13. #118
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    I'm reading Doctor Zhivago right now and am finding it to be an immensely worthwhile read. I've only read six other Russian writers: Pushkin, Turgenev, Gogol, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy and Chekhov, all of whom I loved. Who else is there that I ought to check out? I'm sure there must be more than seven great Russian writers and I'm just ignorant of them.
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  14. #119
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    Mikhail Bulgakov is worth reading as well. I'm not a big enough reader of Russian literature to name anyone truly obscure.
    "If the national mental illness of the United States is megalomania, that of Canada is paranoid schizophrenia."
    - Margaret Atwood

  15. #120
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    Quote Originally Posted by Darcy88 View Post
    I'm reading Doctor Zhivago right now and am finding it to be an immensely worthwhile read.
    Love Dr Zhivago! The movie is also really good.
    Last edited by mona amon; 06-22-2013 at 12:56 AM.
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