RE: ZPD/Chaiklin and Vygotsky/Bakhtin

From: Eugene Matusov (
Date: Sat Jan 17 2004 - 18:43:11 PST

Dear Ana and everybody-


Nice points, Ana! I think that imitation is always distortion that involves
"revoicing". It has not only cognitive aspects like modeling, reflecting,
representing and affective aspects of feeling how other person may feel so
correctly described by Ana but also dialogic properties. Bakhtin argued that
we can never say the same thing with the same intonation. When we repeat
other people (imitating them), we actually quote them. By doing that we let
their intentions, their feelings, their thinking in our actions but in
separate life in tension with our own intentions, our own feelings, our own
thinking. When this dialogic tension disappears, the imitation disappears as
well. For example, it is silly to say that I imitate English words in this
message even though it is true that I did not invent the words I'm using
here - the words invented by others that in past I imitated while learning
to write in English. My voice took over all the voices that I used to hear
before when I was learning how to write in English. I'm now in another
dialogue with other people about other things then when I was learning
English. My place in English speaking communities has been changed. This
process of "re-dialoguing" can't be described by such misleading metaphors
as "transmission of knowledge", "acquisition of language" or "appropriating


What do you think?





From: Ana Marjanovic-Shane []
Sent: Saturday, January 17, 2004 8:13 PM
Subject: Re: ZPD/Chaiklin and Vygotsky/Bakhtin


Dear Eugene and everyone,

I just want to add my two cents. Anther way to think of "imitation" is in
terms of learning through "putting yourself in the shoes of another", to
"see how it feels when you behave like another". Perfect imitation is
something that has to be achieved, it just does not exist "naturally". Think
of the learning process as imitation, and the highest level is achieved in
the art of impersonation. I wonder what are all the skills that need to be
developed in order to be a good impersonator.

"Normal" imitation, like in the role taking games, always consists of a
degree of "modeling" in the sense that one has to construct a model, or a
conceptual structure of the imitated. I am using word "model" in the sense
of "blue-print", or a plan. In that sense, behavior which is imitating is
also symbolic behavior, behavior, as Bateson said, that is not what it
represents, and it is not even the same as that what is represented.
What do you think? (I am imitating Eugene now --mindfully stealing with
acknowledgment :-) )


Eugene Matusov wrote:

Dear Peter and everybody-
Thanks for your insightful question about Russian-English meaning of
"imitation". I constantly teach my students, preservice teachers to "steal"
ideas and approaches from their cooperating teachers and classmates (I call
it "mindful stealing with acknowledgement"). The reason I'm talking about
"stealing" because it much better communicates Russian use of the term
"imitation". My reading of Vygotsky is that he never meant "mindless copying
for the sake of pleasing the teacher" by his use of the term imitation (you
can find his critique of "mindless copying" in Vygotsky's discussion of
Montessori's teaching very young children to write in Mind and Society
I think that Phil's recent example from Newman and Holzman is good
illustration of how, I think, Vygotsky understood "imitation". For Vygotsky,
role-taking plays are imitations that involve re-thinking adult activities
imitated in the plays. Imitation has always representational and symbolic
function that is pregnant with (critical) reflection. That (along with other
reasons) is why I'm very uncomfortable with such terms as internalization
and appropriation (do not confuse the latter with my term of "mindful
stealing"! :-) Imitation, that Vygotsky was talking about, is always
transformative to what it imitates, in my view.
What do you think?

-----Original Message-----
From: Peter Smagorinsky []
Sent: Wednesday, January 14, 2004 10:44 AM
Subject: Re: ZPD/Chaiklin and Vygotsky/Bakhtin
David, I'm not sure how to cite it, except as an email message. If time
allows I'll develop it into something else, but haven't yet found the


I'm wondering if imitation has a slightly different meaning in Russian


English--Mike, Eugene, others, can you help us with this one?
I remember resisting my reading of Vygotsky's ideas on imitation initially
because of my own instantiations of imitation as rigid and mimetic, which
in our constructivist mindset suggests simple reproduction of form rather
than reconstruction. At the same time, I think of Benjamin Franklin's
autobiographical endorsement of imitation in his learning to write:
At about this time I met with an odd volume of the Spectator. . . . I
bought it, read it over and over, and was much delighted with it. I


the writing excellent, and wished, if possible, to imitate it....
This, he says, is how he learned to write well.
The problem comes when in school imitation (e.g., imitating models of
writing) is accompanied by nothing procedural which allows for
appropriation of something conceptual. Reproduction, rather than
reconstruction, becomes the goal.
At 09:06 AM 1/14/2004 -0600, you wrote:

Pity the theoretical excerpt was not included in the article. I find the
section on imitation very useful, and would like to cite it. Can you
suggest to me how APA might want me to do this (or give me whatever
elements might need to be included in the citation of this unpublished
work)? Also, please share any further insight you might have on the
seemingly contradictory proposal that "Imitation, in contrast to the
mimetic habituation involved in training, is part of what Vygotsky [1987]
calls 'instruction' in which one learns something 'fundamentally new' (p.
210). I'm intrigued by Van der Veer and Valsiner (1991) reading of
Vygotsky that "'children are capable of intellectual, insightful
imitation.' (pp. 344-345)."
David Kirshner
                       <mailto:smago who-is-at coe.uga.edTo:xmca@weber.ucsd.eduu>
<smago who-is-at coe.uga.ed To: <mailto:smago@coe.uga.edTo:xmca@weber.ucsd.eduu>
 <mailto:smago who-is-at coe.uga.edTo:xmca@weber.ucsd.eduu> u>
cc: (bcc: David H
                                               Subject: Re:


and Vygotsky/Bakhtin
                      Please respond
At 06:00 PM 1/14/2004 +0700, you wrote: A question based on the article
that might be worthwhile pursuing once the discussion of Paul's paper has
subsided is based on Mike's observation of the underplaying of the idea


imitation. What is the "special" meaning that LSV attaches to the word
For the article I recently attached on learning to teach the


theme, we had originally written the attached theoretical section, which
the reviewers recommended that we eliminate as irrelevant to the study.
I've set it aside for potential use later, but it relates to Vygotsky's
beliefs about imitation in relation to his discussion of the zpd and may
contribute to a consideration of Phil's question. Peter(See attached


The Zone of Proximal Development.doc)(See attached file: The Zone of
Proximal Development.doc)





Ana Marjanovic-Shane 267-334-2905 (cell) 215-843-2909 (home)


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