Re: [xmca] Chukovsky-Vygotsky

From: Ana Marjanovic-Shane (
Date: Sun Nov 12 2006 - 09:34:27 PST

This is all very new to me, although I have read Chukovsky's "From 2 to
5" and also used some of his examples. It is very intriguing and I am
paying close attention to more information.

Mike Cole wrote:
> I will be following up on all this, David.
> I view Chukovsky (as well as LSV!) a very complicated figure. I have
> taught
> "From 2-5" in dialogue with "1984", which, given what you say about
> Chukovski's antisemitism and
> stalinism is just a little ironic. I have ordered his book on translation
> from the library. I will be interested in what others think about the
> substance of the two men's ideas in the 1920's
> and early 1930's. LSV changed a good deal between pedagogical
> psychology and
> thinking and speech and in his thinking about imagination (the Lindqvist
> piece points to this). And
> I hear somewhere the Chukovsky as an expert on aespopian language, but
> cannot find any refs.
> Perhaps Natalia Gajdamashko can help here? She is very busy but
> perhaps has
> some relevant historical knowledge.
> mike
> On 11/11/06, Kellogg <> wrote:
>> Dear Mike:
>> The hostility between Vygotsky and Chukovsky is, I think, quite a story,
>> and it's almost completely untold. Yes, there is some stuff available
>> on the
>> web, but my feeling is that there's a lot more to it. Here's my
>> contribution, for what it's worth
>> Well, to begin there's the famous footnote to Esthetic Education, on p.
>> 270 of Educational Pedagogy, to wit:
>> "So fashionable and, now, so popular a work as Chukovskii's Crocodile,
>> like all
>> of Chukovskii's stories for children, is one of the better examples of
>> this perversion of children's poetry with nonsense and gibberish.
>> Chukovskii
>> seems to
>> proceed from the assumption that the sillier something is, the more
>> understandable and the more entertaining it is for the child, and the
>> more
>> likely that it will be within the child's grasp. It is not hard to
>> instil
>> the taste for such dull literature in children, though there can be
>> little
>> doubt
>> that it has a negative impact on the educational process,
>> particularly in
>> those immoderately large doses to which children are now subjected. All
>> thought of style is thrown out, and in his babbling verse Chukovskii
>> piles
>> up nonsense on top of gibberish. Such literature only fosters
>> silliness and
>> foolishness in children."
>> I've always felt that was a little harsh, since I have liked what little
>> I've read of Chukovsky (remember, I have no Russian). But when I read
>> Chukovsky's book, "From Two to Five" I realized that the feeling was
>> mutual.
>> See Chukovsky's comments about the Kharkov school (Vygotsky and his
>> students) in the year 1929 (p. 188 of From Two to Five), Chukovsky's
>> disparaging reference (p. 127) to pedagogues from Gomel (Vygotsky's
>> hometown) and Chukovsky's attacks on "leftism" (p. 130 passim).
>> Part of this antipathy is probably Chukovsky's not very well concealed
>> anti-semitism. Yale University Press recently published his diary,
>> and there
>> are coy hints of anti-semitism throughout.
>> On 215, for example, we read that he goes to visit Krupskaya about the
>> "pedagogue's" criticisms of "Crocodile" and succeeds in thoroughly
>> offending
>> her. He is consoled by Demyan Bedny, with the following words, which he
>> quotes approvingly: "Have you noticed that the opposition is 1) all
>> Jews and
>> 2) emgres? Kamenev, Zinovyev, Trotsky. Trotsky will announce any day
>> now,
>> 'I'm going abroad', but we Russians have nowhere to go. this is our
>> country,
>> our spiritual property". (Both Demyan Bedny and Chukovsky were slated by
>> Trotsky in "Literature and Revolution".)
>> On p. 281 of the diary, Chukovsky says his hatred for Trotsky is "an
>> aesthetic viewpoint: his hair, his weak chin, his cheap provincial
>> demonism--he's a combination Mephistopheles and court clerk."
>> Interestingly, on p. 161 of the diary, Chukovsky worriesthat he might
>> turn
>> out to be Jewish himself--his mother is of good Ukrainian peasant
>> stock, but
>> he is illegitimate and doesn't know who is father was. He needen't
>> have been
>> concerned, of course; you need a Jewish mother to be a real Jew.
>> Howevery, I think there is more to the Chukovsky-Vygotsky antipathy than
>> racial hatred and Chukovsky's finely tuned instincts as a future
>> Stalinist
>> hack. Chukovsky believes that semantic meaning is learned partly by
>> flouting
>> it; no sooner does the child learn the meaning of a horse than the
>> child is
>> flouting it by talking of saddled flies and flying horses. Vygotsky
>> shares
>> this view, but for rather older children; he believes that
>> imagination is
>> something that comes to the child from the outside, through social
>> practices
>> such as imaginary play.
>> I think I want to take up your suggestion to continue the dialogue on
>> forgiveness in a separate thread, possibly even under a new subject
>> line,
>> because it occurs to me this morning that it might indeed be possible to
>> have recontextualization without decontextualization, and that to a
>> certain
>> extent that is exactly what is involved in metaphor.
>> David Kellogg
>> Seoul National University of Education
>> PS:
>> Some refs:
>> Chukovsky, K. (2005) Diary 1901-1969. New Haven and London: Yale
>> University Press.
>> Chukovsky, K. (1928, 1963) From Two to Five. University of California
>> Press: Berkeley.
>> Vygotsky, L.S. (1997) Educational Pedagogy. Boca Raton: St. Lucie.
>> dk
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Ana Marjanovic'-Shane,Ph.D.

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