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[Xmca-l] Re: Historical Epochs
We know that Vygotsky read and was highly impressed by Pasternak. But
we also know that he had a much more direct link to Marburg, namely
Cassirer, who he read assiduously and cites repeatedly (e.g. in his
work on imagination and creativity, just for example). He also had a
link to Freiburg: Gustav Spet, who probably taught him as an
undergraduate and who, as Martin says, certainly influenced him
(though "influencing" Vygotsky often involves propelling him in an
We know the conclusion of these influences; Vygotsky is a materialist.
The version of Hamlet that we read in Psychology of Art has been
rewritten several times in the eight years since it was first he
first wrote it at age 16, and that accounts for the many discrepancies
between various parts of it, as well as the discrepancies between it
and the early drafts that have come down to us.
I think that there are (at least) three conclusions that Vygotsky
draws from Hamlet which relate to his later psychological work, but
they are all materialistic ones, and do not really read the tragedy as
The first is that Hamlet is the only character without any character.
That is because personality does not feel like personality when you
are inside it. But if Hamlet is a tragedy told from inside Hamlet,
then it cannot be suprahistorical or mythical (or even tragic).
The second is the theatrical nature of the mind, with its foreplane
and its rear plane and its middle plane. This is well captured in the
contrast between the soliloquies and the dialogue of the play, and I
think this played a role in Vygotsky's later work on inner speech, as
well as in the precise way he formulates the genetic law in Chapter
Five of HDHMF (as an experimental drama between persons and only then
one within them). But if Hamlet is suprahistorical and mythical, this
cannot be a concrete model of an actual mind.
The third is the emergence of free will from "fate" and "destiny",
that is, from something that is not free will. In Chapter Two of
HDHMF, Vygotsky talks about how this happens through 'vestigial
functions" or "rudimentary functions" such as Solitaire, counting
rhymes, or rock paper scissors, things which had oracular authority in
ancient times but which are now only things to think with. We
recognize them as the playthings of men, and we do not believe that
men are their playthings any more. So I think that Vygotsky's view of
tragedy is, in the end, not all suprahistorical or mythical; it is
human rather than humanistic.
Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
On 22 March 2014 03:03, Larry Purss <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
> I am following up on your reflections on Vygotsky's Hamlet. He wrote this
> in 1916 at the age of 20. Alex Kozulin, in chapter two [The Psychology of
> Tragedy] of his book [Vygotsky's Psychology] adds an extended note
> speculating on the deeper affinity between the cultural positions of
> Vygotsky and Pasternak. I found this speculative analysis fascinating
> because Kozulin also pointed out that Pasternak studied philosophy in
> Marburg in the 1920's. Therefore, the assumed affinity may have far
> reaching implications.
> Kozulin suggests if one looks at the novel *Zhivago*THROUGH THE LENS *of
> Vygotsky's *Hamlet* AS A MYTH, as a tragedy with A WILL OF ITS OWN, then
> the tragedy of the characters of Zhivago are a projection [ghost?] of the
> SPIRIT OF THE TRAGEDY ITSELF.
> Kozulin goes on in more detail [pages 69, 70, 71] for a single extended
> This way of speculating goes BEYOND the personal and psychological and
> speaks to an *epoch* at the turn of the century. Kozulin clearly is of the
> opinion that Vygotsky in 1916 was identifying AS a humanistic intellectual.
> Were he events that followed *germinated* at this historical point in time??