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[Xmca-l] Re: now out in paperback



Henry, I think there were several issues. As I understand it, Vygotsky knew he wouldn't live long and so generated ideas and text relentlessly, leaving little time for revision. I also think that handwritten texts of the sort available to him did not have the revision capabilities that today's writers have. 

I'm not sure that I'd agree that sense has meaning. Rather, it's inchoate, and finds meaning in articulation and representation through sign systems. 

Time's tight on this end, so my apologies for trying to contribute with something I wrote awhile back; the full article is attached. 

Zones of Meaning
	In this section, I discuss what Vygotsky refers to as zones of meaning. The discussion is potentially confusing because of the ways in which Vygotsky's Russian terms have been translated. Vygotsky's (1934) Myshlenie i rech': Psikhologicheskie issledovaniya has been translated three times, twice as Thought and Language (1962, 1986) and once as Thinking and Speech (1987). All three versions have translated two of Vygotsky's key terms in ways that have been called into question (e.g., Matusov, 2000; see XMCA Discussion Listserve, 2000). The Russian term smysl has been translated as sense (i.e., unarticulated inner speech), while the term znachenie has been translated as meaning (i.e., the articulation of thought through a sign system such as words). Vygotsky, however, viewed both smysl and znachenie as constituents of the meaningful whole. I next explain each of these two zones of meaning in greater detail.
	Smysl is the set of images and associations one makes with a sign such as a word in the area of consciousness Vygotsky (1987) called inner speech, that is, the abbreviated syntax and stream-of-consciousness properties of unarticulated, inchoate thought. Smysl corresponds to what Rosenblatt (1978) refers to as the initial zone of meaning in a reader's evocation, or what Gallas (2001) refers to as imagination. Rosenblatt describes this experience as

a penumbra of "memories" of what has preceded, ready to be activated by what follows, and providing the context from which further meaning will be derived. Awareness-more or less explicit-of repetitions, echoes, resonances, repercussions, linkages, cumulative effects, contrasts, or surprises is the mnemonic matrix for the structuring of emotion, idea, situation, character, plot-in short, for the evocation of a work of art. (pp. 57-58)

	Smysl is as yet unarticulated, being instead the storm cloud of thought that produces the shower of words, to use Vygotsky's (1987) metaphor. One great limitation of the concept of smysl is that it cannot be empirically demonstrated, only inferred. Vygotsky's formulation of inner speech came from his observations of egocentric speech in young children, which he theorized became internalized as inner speech. Once speech (or another tool) is articulated and thus observable, it appears in the zone of meaning that is the shower of words (or other signs) that Vygotsky calls znachenie. Znachenie, then, is the zone of meaning available in represented form, corresponding to the notion of a sign, regardless of modality.
	Because these two zones compose a meaningful whole, referring to znachenie as "meaning" can be misleading. I retain the translation of sense for smysl: "the aggregate of all the psychological facts that arise in our consciousness as the result of the word. Sense is a dynamic, fluid, and complex formation which has several zones that vary in their stability" (Vygotsky, 1987, p. 275). For znachenie, I use articulation: 

It is the most stable, unified, and precise of these zones. In different contexts, a word's sense changes. In contrast, [articulation] is a comparatively fixed and stable point, one that remains constant with all the exchanges of the word's sense that are associated with its use in various contexts. (p. 275)

	A reader's association of meaning with a text-and here I refer to the whole of meaning comprising all of its zones-reveals something about the text itself but also serves as residue of the cultural constructs that are appropriated to provide the reader's frameworks for thinking (Tulviste, 1991). Any concept-and, consequently, any construction of meaning-is thus necessarily located first in culture and second in the mind of the individual. And because the mind extends beyond the skin to include the tools of mediation through which the individual then acts on the environment, the mind of the individual, however distributed, in turn contributes to the evolving culture of the social surround (Smagorinsky, 1995b). Among these mediators are texts themselves, transactions with which can contribute to the worldviews of members of a culture. When these texts presume particular relationships, social hierarchies, and competence levels-such as the masculine orientation of many sacred religious texts-they can inscribe in a society assumptions about the location of authority and power (Luke, 1988; Rabinowitz, 1987). 
	Concepts and meaning thus have cultural origins. It is quite possible for individuals to resist these cultural conceptions. I would argue, however, that resisting one set of cultural constructs relies on precepts that are appropriated from other cultural constructs. And so, while any individual has the capacity to resist and defy the worldview of any culture, it is not possible to think and act independent of culture; it is not possible to live aculturally (Cole, 1996). From this perspective, texts are composed of signs that themselves are inscribed and codified as cultural artifacts and are read by people whose ways of encoding are conditioned by participation in cultural practice. The transactional zone is available when readers have been enculturated to recognize the codes by which the texts are produced. This is not to say that all readings will subsequently be the same or that texts may signify in only one way, only to say that readers and texts share a cultural cognizance. 

The Mediation of Sense Into Articulation
	Sense is mediated into an articulation through the use of a psychological tool, often speech, which can serve "as a tool for exploring a subject" and help "generate new ideas 'at the point of utterance'" (Applebee, 1981, p. 100; cf. Langer & Applebee, 1987). I next illustrate this process with research conducted in an alternative school for recovering substance abusers (for details of the research, see Smagorinsky, 1995a, 1997a, 1999; Smagorinsky & Coppock, 1994, 1995a, 1995b). We studied the composing processes of students who produced artistic interpretations of William Carlos Williams's short story "The Use of Force" (see http://www.bnl.com/shorts/stories/force.html for an online version of this story). The story concerns a doctor who narrates an account of a house call he makes during a diphtheria epidemic. The doctor must extract a throat culture from a young girl who has displayed symptoms of the illness. The girl battles him savagely and hysterically to prevent him from examining her throat, and her parents try to help the doctor by holding her down and shaming her into complying. During the course of the struggle, the doctor develops contempt for the parents and passion toward the girl. Against his rational judgment, the doctor becomes lost in "a blind fury" to attack and subdue the girl. In "a final unreasoning assault" he overpowers her and discovers her "secret" of "tonsils covered with membrane." The story ends with a final act of fury in which the girl attacks the doctor "while tears of defeat [blind] her eyes."
	One of the students we studied, Dexter, drew a picture representing the relationship between the doctor and the girl (see Figure 1). Through a stimulated recall interview that followed his drawing, he revealed the transformative effect of his process of composing on the way he thought about the story. Rather than having a fully formed picture of the characters in his head prior to drawing, Dexter said that "at the end, I understood what I was doing more than I did when I began the drawing.... I got more involved in the picture as I did it." In his initial reading, Dexter simply tried to follow the action and then eventually began "thinking about something during the story...something difficult" that helped get him involved in his reading. These "difficult" yet unarticulated problems that he thought about suggest that they occurred at the level of sense, which he then had the opportunity to develop into an articulation through the psychological tool of drawing.
	When he began drawing, he was uncertain about how he would depict them, knowing only that the relationship between the girl and the doctor would involve shame and control. Dexter related that the meaning of the drawing changed as the picture developed. For instance, when he started his drawing, Dexter had not been certain what the threatening figure would represent.

	Dexter: I wasn't really sure if it was him going to be the doctor or not until the end of the story, I mean, until the end of the drawing, because I was thinking, well, it could be this person that she, that she has imaged in her mind and uh-or this could be an analogy of diphtheria, but then I said it doesn't matter. It's just a doctor. It was going through her mind, [inaudible] but I liked to read. The first time I'd read the doctor; the second, the analogy. It's just through that one story.
	Interviewer: So you mean, even after you drew the face and everything, it wasn't the doctor yet?
	Dexter: Uh-huh. I mean it could have been a lot of things. It depends on your viewpoint of the picture, but what I was thinking is-it was the doctor and then it was an analogy of the whole attitude of the story, and then it was the, her parents' attitude, or the parents, especially her parents.

	For Dexter, the story took on meaning as he developed his articulation. Moreover, he continually produced provisional images-that is, articulations of his sense of the characters' relationships and their signification to him-on his drawing, which in turn enabled him to reflect and compose further. His process of meaning making, then, involved exploratory efforts to represent his sense of the story that resulted in tentative articulation, to which he assigned different meanings as his thinking about the story progressed during his continued efforts to depict it. 
	I previously made the point that psychological tools are themselves subject to concentrically nested tool mediation. The various interpretations produced by the alternative school students illustrate this point well. The alternative school facility provided a local culture in which therapy for recovery was of primary importance. A successful student was one who advanced through a modified 12-step rehabilitation program while succeeding in course work and abiding by the institution's rules. The emphasis on therapy opened up the students' available tools for succeeding in course work. In addition, the school had only two classroom teachers, resulting in opportunities for cross-genre, cross-disciplinary, multimedia performance. Interpreting literature through art was thus legitimized in ways not typically allowed in mainstream schools. 
	The alternative school setting illustrates the ways in which the historical grounding for reading provides a sense of what constitutes an appropriate reading of a particular text in a specific context. Bloome and Egan-Robertson (1993) stressed that "the social construction of intertextuality occurs within a cultural ideology that influences which texts may be juxtaposed and how those texts might be juxtaposed, by whom, where, and when" (p. 330). In other words, cultural values sanction the juxtaposition of some texts but not others. Schools, for instance, do not typically value an artistic text as an appropriate interpretive representation to emerge from a student's engagement with literature (Applebee, 1993). The orders of discourse described by the New London Group (1996; Fairclough, 2000) are not automatically importable to new situations but depend on socially situated values and constraints.
	Furthermore, the students themselves participated in a youth and drug culture in which rock music played an important role, a value that was appreciated by the teacher, John Coppock, who came from an artistic family that included musicians and dancers. John was also theoretically aligned with Gardner's (1983) theory of multiple intelligences (see Coppock, 1999). The mediational avenues through which students produced their interpretations of "The Use of Force," then, were channeled by the cultural constraints and affordances provided by the alternative school and this classroom, particularly with regard to the teacher's decision to allow the students to contribute to the classroom culture. 
	Moreover, each student brought a vast and complex history of tool use that affected individual choices of which interpretive mode to use. Dexter, for instance, had had a severe hearing problem as a child, causing him to communicate frequently through drawing (e.g., drawing a cereal box to say what he wanted for breakfast). While biological in origin, his hearing problem created a culture within his home that legitimized drawing as a mode of expression. Tool use, then, while mediational, is also culturally mediated. 
	As illustrated by Dexter's encoding of the story with personal meaning and composition of an idiosyncratic interpretive text, a part of his own history of relationships was played out in his drawing process and product. Indeed, his inscription of the threatening figure with several different associations in different iterations shows the ways in which these personal relationships contribute to the relationship he develops with the text when he engages with it in the transactional zone.  

-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-l-bounces+smago=uga.edu@mailman.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-l-bounces+smago=uga.edu@mailman.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of HENRY SHONERD
Sent: Tuesday, January 27, 2015 1:35 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: now out in paperback

Peter,

I'm wondering if you would agree that it relates to the on-going thread on sense and meaning. Vygotsky was so focussed on developing his ideas that his sense got away from his meaning?

The Whorf-Sapir Linguistic Rleativity Hypothesis that each language construes the world differently seems relevant. How is translation and real-time interpreting even possible? Of course, I'm one who thinks that interpreting what native speakers of English say and write runs into the same problems as translating from one language to the other. 

Second language acquisition. Mike Cole and Rene Van der Meer learned Russian as a second language. I consider myself fluent in Spanish, but rapid patter and humor make me realize how far short of fluent i am. Of course, written language is very different. Joseph Conrad, whose first language was Polish, spoke English with a very thick accent but who would know it by reading his works? 

Henry


 

> On Jan 27, 2015, at 4:34 AM, Peter Smagorinsky <smago@uga.edu> wrote:
> 
> Annalisa, my apologies for recycling things I've already written. Perhaps the following helps with your question. From Smagorinsky, P. (2011). Vygotsky and literacy research: A methodological framework. Boston: Sense. Pp. 4-6
> 
> Problems in Translation
> Reading extensively in Vygotskian scholarship seems critical to referencing him knowledgeably, given the challenges that Vygotsky's writing presents to the 21st Century reader. Among these challenges is the problem that most of his readers, particularly in North America, encounter him through translation. In Daniels, Cole, and Wertsch's (2007) collection of international papers outlining a Vygotskian perspective, a number of the contributors are fluent speakers of Russian. However, even those whom I consider to be conversant with Vygotsky's original writing-those whose publications are rife with references to works of Vygotsky that are only available in Russian-are cautious about their grasp of both the language and the concepts. 
> 	Michael Cole, who has spoken Russian for many decades, who lived in the for-mer Soviet Union during his internship with A. R. Luria, who served as co-editor and co-translator of Mind in Society (Vygotsky, 1978), whose leadership in the Laboratory of Comparative Human Cognition has helped to shape worldwide extensions of Russian psychology, who was the founding editor of the journal Mind, Culture, and Activity, and who has produced a number of foundational works in the Vygotskian tradition, wrote in response to my inquiry that "I have been writing jointly with [Russian Natalia Gajdamaschko] precisely because I feel so strongly the need for more than simple translation help in dealing with the meta-psychology and national ethos that is the relevant context for understanding the local words" (M. Cole, personal communication). James Wertsch, who has spent considerable time in the Soviet Union, Russia, and many former Soviet states where Russian remains the lingua franca, and who has translated Vygotsky into English (e.g., Wertsch, 1981), also backs off from claims that his knowledge of Russian could be termed fluent (J. Wertsch, personal communication).
> 	As someone whose only linkage to Vygotsky's Byelorussian  roots comes through my grandparents' origins in Vygotsky's hometown of Gomel, I read the qualifiers by Cole and Wertsch as cautions regarding any claims to understanding Vygotsky for those of us who speak no Russian at all. I rely on the translations of others, including those who express limited confidence in their own fluency. Most North American readers face this same problem, and so the challenges of reading a major thinker only in translation-especially translation that spans alphabets, cultures, concepts, and other formidable barriers-are thus worth reviewing here.
> 	At present there are abundant Vygotskian texts available to the English lan-guage reader: six volumes of collected works in publication, additional books from his oeuvre available (e.g., Vygotsky, 1971, 1997; Vygotsky & Luria, 1993), key texts subjected to multiple translations, and a major project now underway in Russia to make his entire output available to English-speaking readers. Yet Vygotsky remains a complex figure and difficult scholar to grasp, and for a variety of reasons. In his "Translator's Foreword and Acknowledgements" to The Collected Works, Volume 3, Van der Veer says, "I have not attempted to improve Vygotsky's style of writing although it was at times difficult to refrain from doing so. It is clear that Vygotsky . . . never rewrote a text for the sake of improving its style and readability. Hence the redundancy, the difficulty to follow the thread of his argument, the awkward sentences, etc." (p. v). 
> 	Meshcheryakov (2007) notes that Vygotsky produced 190 works within the ten-year span that comprised his career, many of which "were written very quickly, in almost telegraphic style. Some works remain unfinished. It is certainly possible that some of the works that were published posthumously were not yet intended for publication" (p. 155). Daniels et al. (2007) assert that "It is difficult to reconcile some of the writing from the early 1920s with that which was produced during the last 2 years of his life. These rapid changes, coupled with the fact that his work was not published in chronological order, make synthetic summaries of his work difficult" (p. 2). So in addition to the difficulty of the ideas Vygotsky produced, his rendering of them into text made for challenging reading, no matter how well-prepared the reader is.
> 	Even those with extraordinary fluency in Vygotsky's work typically consult others to help with their understanding. Van der Veer, a native of the Netherlands, relates in his translator's introduction to the Collected Works, Volume 3 that "After I had translated the whole volume [from Russian to English], I carefully checked my translation against the German and Spanish translations of the same volume" (1997, p. v). With five languages at play in his effort to translate Vygotsky's al-ready-difficult prose and concepts (German, Spanish, Russian, English, and Dutch), Van der Veer further enlisted feedback from a host of colleagues (mostly European) in order to amend Vygotsky's "sloppy" approach to citation by includ-ing appropriate references and footnotes to provide depth, detail, and clarification to the text.
> 	Van der Veer's (1997) meticulous approach to rendering Vygotsky into English suggests one key lesson to be learned from reading Vygotsky with any insight: that claims to understanding or implementing ideas must be undertaken with care and caution. I refer again to Van der Veer's work in underscoring the importance of reading more than just excerpts (or summaries of excerpts, or summaries of those summaries in textbooks) from Mind in Society in claiming a Vygotskian perspec-tive. In his review of an Italian translation of Thinking and Speech that post-dates any version of the text available in English, Van der Veer makes the remarkable point that 
> 	Unfortunately, neither in English nor in any other language has a reliable repub-lication of Thought and Language been available. Leaving aside the questions that can be raised concerning the original Soviet 1934 edition (Vygotsky did not see the book in print and the editor, Kolbanovsky, changed some of the wordings to make the book more palatable for the ideological leaders), we know that the later 1956 and 1982 Soviet editions were marred by many mistakes and plain falsifications. All of the existing translations into English, or any other language, took these unreliable later editions as their point of departure. As a result, readers unable to read Russian or find a copy of the original 1934 edition have had, until now, no authoritative text of Thought and Language available. (p. 83; cf. van der Veer, 1987, for a critical review of Kozulin's 1986 translation of Thought and Language, which to van der Veer is more properly translated as Thinking and Speech)
> 	I am impressed that Van der Veer is now sufficiently fluent in at least six lan-guages to read Vygotsky and then make this judgment; I am alarmed that he nonetheless states that "Vygotsky obviously preferred principled opponents, such as Pavlov, who made their own original contribution to science and invented their own scientific vocabulary to mediocre university professors, such as the present writer, who can only summarize what others have discovered" (2007, p. 37). If I'm not sufficiently daunted to learn that Van der Veer regards himself as a relative mediocrity, I cringe yet further when I realize that even though I've been referencing Vygotsky in my own work since the early 1990s, I probably am basing my understanding on inaccurate and incomplete translations. It becomes important, then, for me and no doubt others to engage with the work of Vygotskian scholars who have read his Russian texts in order to develop a clearer grasp of the ideas that I believe I am drawing on. 
> 	If problems of direct translation of Vygotsky's work were not enough of a chal-lenge, the fact that he did not necessarily pen his own texts presents another. His magnum opus, Thinking and Speech, was published in 1934, the year he died; he dictated sections from his sickbed, no doubt contributing to the text's notorious difficulty (Zinchenko, 2007). Further, some of what is published under his name is taken from his student's lecture notes or other stenographic records, undoubtedly with gaps in transcription and reformulation in expression (e.g., a set of lectures included in the Collected Works, Volume 5: "The Crisis of the First Year," "Early Childhood," "The Crisis at Age Three," "The Crisis at Age Seven"; Vygotsky, 1998b). Making definitive claims, as do Gredler and Shields (2004), regarding what Vygotsky did and did not say, is thus a precarious undertaking that even the most reputable U. S. Vygotskian scholars should attempt with considerable caution and temperance.  
> 
> 
> -----Original Message-----
> From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of Annalisa Aguilar
> Sent: Monday, January 26, 2015 5:26 PM
> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity (xmca-l@mailman.ucsd.edu)
> Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: now out in paperback
> 
> Wow!
> 
> This book looks really cool! Thanks for bringing it to listserv consciousness, Peter!
> 
> I did not know that Vygotsky was notoriously indifferent to his reader's sensibilities. I do not know what that means?
> 
> Kind regards,
> 
> Annalisa
> 
> 
> 
> http://www.bloomsbury.com/us/lev-vygotsky-9781472504920/
> 
> 
> 12-18-2014
> ·
> About Lev Vygotsky
> 
> Lev Vygotsky, the great Russian psychologist, had a profound influence on educational thought. His work on the perception of art, cultural-historical theory of the mind and the zone of proximal development all had an impact on modern education.
> 
> This text provides a succinct critical account of Vygotsky's life and work against the background of the political events and social turmoil of that time and analyses his cross-cultural research and the application of his ideas to contemporary education. René van der Veer offers his own interpretation of Vygotsky as both the man and anti-man of educational philosophy, concluding that the strength of Vygotsky's legacy lies in its unfinished, open nature.
> 
> Table Of Contents
> 
> Foreword
> Series Editor's Preface
> Preface
> 
> Introduction
> 
> Part I: Intellectual Biography
> 1. Lev Vygotsky
> 
> Part II: Critical Exposition of Vygotsky's Work 2. Early Writings 3. Creating Cultural-historical Theory 4. The Zone of Proximal Development 5. Cross-cultural Education
> 
> Part III: The Reception, Influence and Relevance of Vygotsky's Work Today 6. Contemporary Educational Research 7. Conclusions
> 
> Bibliography
> Name Index
> Subject Index
> 
> Reviews
> 
> "In this concise intellectual biography of L. S. Vygotsky, eminent Vygotskian authority René van der Veer has written an accessible account of the major periods of Vygotsky's career, reviewing the development of Vygotsky's thinking in plain and often witty language, a service of immeasurable importance, given Vygotsky's notorious indifference to his readers' sensibilities... This volume is straightforward and edifying enough for undergraduates, and stimulating and informative enough for those who have been immersed in Vygotskian scholarship for many decades." -  Peter Smagorinsky, The University of Georgia, USA,
> 



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