RE: [xmca] review of Italian translation of Thinking and Speech: In defence of van der Veer and Meca

From: larry smolucha <lsmolucha who-is-at>
Date: Fri May 30 2008 - 13:38:02 PDT

Message from Francine Smolucha:
The current thread about the veracity of Vygotsky texts (in Russian and
in other languages) is an example of the conundrums that the Classical University
approach yields. Like archeologists searching for missing artifacts, the translators
can occupy themselves by debating passages from various texts and bemoaning
missing texts. It is hard to accept the fact that we will never really know what
Vygotsky was thinking on any particular topic or what revisions he might have been
contemplating. He died too young to see his works published in foreign languages
and to oversee the anniversary editions of his works in Russian.
As an English translator of Vygotsky's works in Russian, I will suggest that the
most productive approach to take is to identify the specific interpretations of
Vygotsky's theory that are supported by particular Russian texts and by particular
foreign translations. Are there rivals interpretations of Vygotsky's theory?- let's
get them out in the open. I am aware of two areas where rival schools of Vygotskian
thought have gone head-to-head.
1) The view that Vygotsky renounced his earlier writings (and theory) at the end of
his life (1932-1934) and was in the process of formulating the Activity Theory (of Leontiev.)
This makes Leontiev's Activity Theory the legitimate heir to Vygotskian theory.
When Norris Minick put forward this position during his post-graduate year at the
University of Chicago (1986), I asked him what the source was. Norris said it was
in Vygotsky's paper Problems of Age - I read it (in Russian) but found no support for
the position that Vygotsky had renounced his earlier theory.
2) Does children's pretend play create a zone of proximal development through the
internalization of the speech and play techniques of a more knowledgeable play partner?
or through the solitary pretend play activity of the child in Leontiev's sense of
activity as a cultural artifact even when one works or plays alone? This is actually
the debate from the first point (above) applied to the topic of play.
I am sure there are other theoretical debates out there about Vygotsky's theory
that tie directly in with issues of translations. I was schooled to look at such differences
of opinion as scholars and scientists doing what they are supposed to do - clarifying
theoretical positions so that research could add to our knowledge and enable us to
better apply this knowledge to everyday life. But we know through the history of science
it can get personal.
I am just curious about what theoretical issue underlies the ongoing discussion
about the various translations of the Vygotsky's texts.
> Date: Fri, 30 May 2008 12:15:59 -0700> From: lchcmike who-is-at> To:> Subject: Re: [xmca] review of Italian translation of Thinking and Speech: In defence of van der Veer and Mecacci> CC:> > Anton--> > I have not been able to find Mecacci's email so far, but perhaps you could> enlighten us> on the major, meaning-shifting differences between the 1934 and 1982 Russian> editions.> > I am also curious about your view on the translation of Myshlenie as> Thinking rather than> Thought. Seems like it could to either way and a case could be made for the> noun form> rather than the verb. Its an issue we discussed a lot in the mid 1990's with> no clear> resolution.> mike> > > On 5/30/08, Anton Yasnitsky <> wrote:> >> > > On Thu, May 29, 2008 at 4:05 PM, David Kellogg> > > <>> > > wrote:> > > > I think what the review says about the Italian translation is simply> > > > wrong.> >> > I think what this comment says about van der Veer's review is simply> > wrong. I feel it is my sad duty to correct this misrepresentation of the> > case and, specifically, address several dubious or even totally false> > statements.> >> > 1. > > Kozulin's (re-)translation into English is based on the 1934> > > edition, not the later editions.> >> > Wrong. Kozulin did say that "this new translation is based on the 1934> > edition of Myshlenie i rech', etc", but perhaps made realy bad use of this> > edition. Thus, on the same page adds that "substantial portions of the> > 1962 translation made by the late Eugenie Hanfmann and Gertrude Vakar have> > been retained" (Kozulin, 1986, p. lvi), which, to me, makes the> > translation quite unreliable. Finally, comparison of the texts shows that> > Kozulin's text is at times quite different from Vygotsky's 1934 text (I do> > have a copy of this 1934 text and did compare the two).> >> > 2. > > It's also quite contradictory and unconvincing in other ways. For> > > example, it claims that Piaget was probably familiar with Vygotsky's> > work> > > simply because Vygotsky had written a preface to his work.> > ...> > > > There's a language barrier here that we are still up against; as far> > > as we know, Piaget did not read Russian well (I read somewhere that> > Piaget's copy> > > > of the 1934 edition of "Thinking and Speech" was apparently unread> > > when he> > > > died). Yes, he corresponded with Luria and even received letters from> > > > Vygotsky, but they were probably in French. No English or French> > > translation> > > > of "Thinking and Speech" existed.> >> > Generally, interrelations between Piaget and Vygotsky is a fairly obscure> > topic and a recent article by Susan Pass (2007) unfortunately does not> > clarify the issue at all. For this reason, I suggest that we first need to> > have a look at "convincing argumentation" by Mecacci. What van der Veer> > says is that "Meccacci convincingly argues that this statement is wholly> > unlikely in view of the fact that, among other things, a) Piaget> > corresponded regularly with Vygotsky's close collaborator Luria since the> > early nineteen-thirties, and b) Piaget wrote himself a foreword for the> > Soviet edition of two of his books, which also included a lengthy critical> > introduction by Vygotsky".> >> > According to van der Veer, Mecacci discusses "Piaget's claim that he had> > not acquainted himself with Vygotsky's critique until 1962" but not the> > availablity of translation of Vygotsky's book. Thus, I personally doubt> > that the language of correspondence between Luria and, possibly, Vygotsky> > with Piaget has anything to do with Piaget's possibly being acquainted> > with Vygotsky's critique. For instance, as we now know, in 1935-36 Luria> > was preparing a memorial volume for the late Vygotsky, and Piaget was one> > of those who agreed to contribute (King & Wertheimer, 2005, 270-279). In> > his letter to Luria, Piaget wrote (in my second-hand translation from> > Russian): "Let me tell you how deeply I am saddened by the [new of the]> > death of Vygotsky about whom you told me so much and who--I know--takes> > such a [prominent] place in psychology", etc. (Vygodskaya & Lifanova,> > 1996, 331). This is all hypothetical, and we do not have a statement by> > Piaget that he knew of Vygotsky's criticism of his work, but I believe it> > is highly unlikely that Piaget who, according to his letter, was quite> > well familiar with Vygotsky's work, was not aware of his critique of his> > works.> >> > Anyway, my point is that van der Veer is not THAT "contradictory and> > unconvincing" is it may seem to somebody.> >> > 3. > > What is written about the Russian editor is very contradictory. On> > > the one> > > > hand, we are told he was responsible for distortions of the text. How> > > could> > > > we know, unless we had access to some ur-text BEFORE the 1934 edition?> > > As> > > > far as I know, no such text exists.> >> > Answer: from the editor himself.> > Kolbanovsky, in his Editor's preface (1934) to the first publication of> > Myshlenie i rech' on different occasions remarks that the work of Vygotsky> > can not without reasonable doubt be regarded as "the expression of> > Marxist-Leninist theory in development of the problem of thinking and> > speech" (p. iv), and that "sometimes, in critical and experimental studies> > by Vygotsky, particularly in his early works, digressions from> > consistently materialist perspective, some infatuations [uvlecheniya] and> > mistakes occur" (p. v). Then, Kolbanovsky concludes that he attempted to> > preserve the word of Vygotsky as is and made only the "most necessary> > corrections".> >> > Back to van der Veer's review, the author states that "Kolbanovsky changed> > some of the wordings to make the book more palatable for the ideological> > leaders". This is highly hypothetical and conjectural, indeed, yet most> > likely given the historical and social context of Vygotsky's posthumous> > publicatiion.> >> >> > 4. > > According to Levitin, he played a heroic role. Kolbanovsky was at> > > first> > > > dispatched to dispatch Vygotsky and on meeting the man realized his> > > genius> > > > and ensured publication of the work after his death, even though he> > > probably> > > > knew the risks better than anyone else.> >> > According to [an interpretation of] Levitin, indeed.> >> > 5. > >After publication (which as we> > > know> > > > contained some much more dangerous passages than simply references to> > > > pedology and testing) Kobalovsky disappeared.> >> > First, "Kobalovsky" was in fact Kolbanovsky.> >> > Second, he did not disappear. On the contrary, in 1936, when the Communist> > Party degree on "paedological perversions" came out, V.N. Kolbanovsky was> > the Director of the Institute of Psychology in Moscow--from 1932 and until> > 1938 (Nikol'skaya, 1994). Even after 1938, when Kolbanovsky was displaced> > from the directorship and K.N. Kornilov was again appointed the Director> > of the Institute, Kolbanovsky did not "disappear" and remained one of the> > top figures in the official Soviet psychology. For the list of Kolbavsky's> > publication please see .> >> > Third, on the role of Kolbanovsky and his "heroic role" in the history of> > Vygotskian legacy. Please consider a fragment of Kolbanovsky's> > presentation during one of the "public discussions" of Vygotsky's> > scientific contribution that was organized in 1936 at the Institute of> > Psychology immediately after the decree on paedology:> >> > Kolbanovsky: "What is wrong in the system of L.S. Vygotsky? It is his> > initial methodological perspective, that is, his cultural-historical> > theory. Is Vygotsky a Marxist in this respect? Obviously he is not... What> > do I think about this theory? I would say that I never identified this> > theory as Marxist or approaching to Marxism. But if we look deeper into> > the roots of the theory itself [we will see that] it requires now most> > profound critique as an anti-Marxist theory, as a theory that does not> > exceed the boundaries of the bourgeois understanding of the history, and,> > is, therefore, essentially hostile to Marxism" (cit. by Vygodsky &> > Lifanova, 1996, p. 143).> >> >> > 6. > >So how is it that he is> > > now> > > > responsible for distortions?> >> > This must be a rhetorical question, eh?> >> >> > __________________________________________________________________> > Be smarter than spam. See how smart SpamGuard is at giving junk email the> > boot with the All-new Yahoo! Mail. Click on Options in Mail and switch to> > New Mail today or register for free at> >> _______________________________________________> xmca mailing list>>
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Received on Fri May 30 13:39 PDT 2008

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