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[Xmca-l] Re: now out in paperback

Annalisa, thanks for your thoughtful response here, and generally since joining this conversation.

Your consideration of LSV's difficulty as an author provides many possibilities. I can't remember if "indifference to readers' sensibilities" was a line I got from a source, or one I made up based on sources. If "indifference" is the problematic term, then I'm sure something more gentle could be identified. 

I'm not too good at mind-reading, so don't think I can speak to LSV's motive, even if claiming his indifference, or however you might alternatively phrase it, suggests that whenever I wrote those lines, I thought I could. So I need to get out of the business of attempting to explain his motives, only the outcome: Most people agree that reading Vygotsky is pretty challenging, and for those of us who speak no Russian and rely on translations, often unreliable.

I will offer another contextual factor in addition to others I've suggested (He wrote quickly and prolifically because his illness might end his life at any time; he wrote by hand or dictated and did not appear to revise, a problem that I've also heard contributed to difficulties in reading Piaget--from Irving Sigel, I think, before he died.) This latter problem, I suspect, was exacerbated by terrible paper shortages in the Soviet Union. One of the most remarkable testaments to this problem concerns Bakhtin and his insatiable tobacco habit. During one severe paper shortage, he began rolling cigarettes out of his written manuscripts, thus depriving us of his whole corpus. (I think this story is related in the introduction to Speech Genres and Other Essays.) So even if Vygotsky had been inclined to revise, he might not have had the paper to do it with. 

Complicated stuff! p

-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of Annalisa Aguilar
Sent: Tuesday, January 27, 2015 6:34 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: now out in paperback

Hi Peter!

Thanks for your very robust and bursting reply. Here's my reply in kind and kindness.

I do not disagree with anything said about the difficulty we all face when we face the texts we have inherited from Vygotsky. So for this train of thought pulling away from the quay, I'd ask you leave that concern on the platform.

What I troubles me, I suppose, is the notion that he "was indifferent to his reader's sensibilities." I don't believe that that is a fair representation of the historical facts, and perhaps all we are doing is arguing about interpretations of the history and the facts, and that is certainly fair game.

However, what I see in Vygotsky, when I think about Vygotsky and his texts, is a great comet in the sky ready to burn out at any time and the faster he writes the brighter he burns. 

What I cannot help but see, employing my top-down-thinking sensibility, is that Vygotsky may not have been interested in inner speech of children _just because_ it was an intriguing phenomenon uncovered by Piaget, that it was the "cool hot topic," as we might say in today's vernacular. Could it be that Vygotsky had a *personal* interest in inner speech? that this was the shape of his own thought? an awareness and understanding of his own way of thinking? Perhaps the writing that he left behind was not written down as indifference to his readers, but because he knew he lived in a time and space in which the light might go out in his life at anytime. Perhaps the man didn't want to lose that thought which would lead to the very next thought and the train that would reveal more amazing vistas of the countryside of thoughts.

In other words, the man was in a hurry to see a man about a dog.

Or if I might decode that metaphor as I mean it: all his own work began as inner speech, as a technique to capture his own thought. The written fragments we have before us are archeological remains of these flights of thought. He wasn't indifferent, it's just he wanted to interact privately with himself, a kind of inner speech. 

As I write this myself I suddenly thought, perhaps the writing was nothing more than a tool to help him think, like the Einstein and the chalkboard. And maybe when Vygotsky first began the practice of writing down his inner speech, he thought he'd have more time to decode, but as it became nearer the day for his comet to leave our orbit, he couldn't stop the train to revisit past stops, the train was fast in motion and what motivated him was to get to his destination rather than considering where he'd already been. Late trains have few opportunities to dilly-dally.

Is it possible for us to look at his commentary about inner speech in children, and then "decode" his own writing? I don't know! But it was a thought of mine I'd had while reading your text.

I also wonder, naively of course, whether the shards of his writing are actually carelessness, but "formlessness" ?

Here's another emerging thought: Could this formlessness have been a possible obfuscation for political reasons? To my mind, if that were true, such political reasons cannot be justly rendered as indifference, but a whole heck of a lot of care and carefulness.

These are not claims I make strongly, but rather thinking out loud, to offer that Vygotsky did not seem to me in any way a muscular academic speaking to his own tribe with a devil-may-care attitude for everyone else. What saddens me is that your phrase promulgates that kind of idea, at least it did for me, and this possibly creates further obfuscation, something of which we require less not more. My heartfelt wish is that you might reflect on other possible reasons why the writing came to us in the forms that they have.

At first we can think, "Confounded these hieroglyphics!" or we can instead look closer and realize there is actually a Rosetta stone before us. If so, it means we have some decoding work to do, and that is just the way it is. But we also have a responsibility to make those who come after us understand why it is Vygotsky must be handled with care. That seems to be something you and I share when thinking about his writing.

But it was the affect effect that I had, a little disruptive "Oh my!" when I'd read your interpretation that included this word "indifference," for I think if you look to his character, "indifference" would be the very last word I would use to describe him. 

Kind regards,