RE: Question concerning Vygotsky

From: Peter Smagorinsky (
Date: Sun Feb 22 2004 - 06:01:17 PST

I don't know if this quite answers Eliza's question, but perhaps in a
related vein, Vera John-Steiner and Theresa Meehan (2000; in C. D. Lee & P.
Smagorinsky (Eds.), Vygotskian Perspectives on Literacy Research, Cambridge
U. Press) write:

Long continued collaboration between a more and a less experienced partner
may lead to the beginner's becoming imitative as a result of too much
internalization. The novice can resist that danger by keeping open to more
than one mentor or distant teacher. For many of us, Vygotsky is a distant
teacher, a scholar whose work evokes a special resonance in us, whose
writings we try again and again to understand and interpret. And although
his work has had a major influence upon our thinking, he may not be the
only one. Some in the sociocultural community (e.g., Ball, Wells, this
volume; Wertsch, 1991, 1997) have combined his work with that of Bakhtin.
Others have looked at connections with the American pragmatists. In
analyzing the impact of multiple mentors, Howard Gruber (1985) used Mozart
as an example. He wrote:
Recently, one of my students analyzed two series of string quartets
composed by Mozart, the first in 1773 when he was 17 years old and the
second, begun after a lapse of 9 years, from 1782 to 1785. . . . Both
series were immediately preceded by the appearance of string quartets by
Haydn, and both owed much musically to him. The first series are imitative,
well schooled, formal and a little dull. The second series--richer, more
subtle and more flowing--were begun shortly after Mozart made his personal
discovery of Bach whose music he studied with ardor. Mozart dedicated the
1782-85 quartets to Haydn and wrote to his friend and master a letter
openly acknowledging his debt . . . . when Mozart had grown musically
independent of his older model, and had time to assimilate other influences
into forms that were more and more "Mozartish," then he could acknowledge
his origins with gratitude. (p. 251)
         Constructing the new requires the mastery of varied psychological
tools (including different musical traditions). It is also sustained by the
lengthy and complex transformations of knowledge appropriated from mentors
and distant teachers. Central to this process is synthesis; Vygotsky
consistently synthesized perspectives, opposing ideas, and disciplinary
traditions (see Wertsch, this volume). Van der Veer and Valsiner (1991)
write: "Throughout his life Vygotsky persistently tried to create novel
ideas by way of dialectical synthesis" (p. 390). He integrated the ideas of
his contemporaries, his collaborators, and his distant teachers as part of
his on-going construction of new ideas. These authors describe his
dialectical method: "For Vygotsky any two opposing directions of thought
served as opposites united with one another in the continuous whole--the
discourse on ideas . . . . for Vygotsky it was the reasoning against other
viewpoints that could lead his ideas to reach a breakpoint for a novel
synthesis" (p. 393). It was his willingness to explore other systems of
thought, by moving inside of them, as it were. We think of this immersion
as going through a tunnel. When you emerge at the other end you are able to
stand up again.

At 05:35 PM 2/21/2004 -0500, you wrote:
>Dear Alisa-
>Interesting question! I do not know any writing by Vygotsky or his
>students/colleagues addressing this question. I wonder if it was not a
>legitimate issue of psychology in those days....
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: []
> > Sent: Saturday, February 21, 2004 1:36 PM
> > To:
> > Subject: Question concerning Vygotsky
> >
> >
> > Hi,
> > I have observed that a number of people develop an interest in a certain
> > discipline or field of research because of their personal admiration for a
> > certain teacher who is seen more as a mentor. My
> > Question is did Vygotsky or his students research this aspect of teacher-
> > learner relationship? If so, where could I find written references on this
> > English or German?
> >
> > Alisa Levy (Librarian & Student at the Hebrew University)
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > -------------------------------------------------
> > This mail sent through IMP:

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