[xmca] Footnote to Vygotsky 2004

From: David Kellogg <vaughndogblack who-is-at yahoo.com>
Date: Thu Aug 02 2007 - 20:40:06 PDT

This is by way of a textological footnote to Vygotsky 2004, "Imagination and Creativity in Childhood". The editors expressed some frustration that Vygotsky's text doesn't match the picture. Interestingly, Vygotsky's text DOES match Ribot's. But his picture DOESN'T.
  On p. 140 of Ribot's 1908 "Essai sur l'imagination creatrice", Ribot presents the chart that Vygotsky uses. The picture is very similar but not exactly identical to the graph found in Vygotsky 2004: 33. Crucially, in Ribot¡¯s version the dotted curve RO and the solid curve IN actually do meet at a point called M on the solid curve IN and X on the dotted curve RO. It is clear from Ribot¡¯s text, but not from Vygotsky¡¯s, that the ¡°first period¡± does not refer to the period between I and R, but rather to the whole period between I and M on the solid curve IN and RX on the dotted curve RO. The vertical ordinate at R is not merely meant to mark the beginning of rational thought; it is not meant to mark the end of childhood and the beginning of adolescence; according to Ribot the first period encompasses the whole of childhood, adolescence and ¡°youth¡± [that is, young adulthood], whereas according to Vygotsky it merely encompasses childhood and NOT adolescence).
  La courbe IM est celle de l¡¯imagination pendant cette premiere pe/riode. Elle s¡¯e/leve d¡¯abord assez lentement puis atteint une ascension rapide et se maintient a` une hauteur qui marque son apoge/e sous cette forme primitive. La ligne ponctue/e Rx figure le de/veloppment rationnel (140) qui commence plus tard, marche avec beaucoup plus de lenteur, mais progressivement arrive en x au niveau de la courbe imaginative. Les deux formes intellectuelles sont en pre/sence comme deux puissance rivales. La portion MX de l¡¯ordonne/e marque le de/but de la deuxie`me pe/riode.
  (Ribot: ¡°The curve IM is that of the imagination during this first period. It rises at first slowly enough and then attains a rapid ascent and maintains itself at a height that marks its apogee in this primitive form. The dotted line RX represents rational development (140) which begins later, rises much more slowly, but progressively arrives at point X on the imaginative curve. The two intellectual forms confront each other as two powerful rivals. The portion MX on the ordinate marks the beginning of the second period.¡±
  Vygotsky: ¡°The curve IM represents the course of development of the imagination during the first period. It rises sharply and then remains at the elvel achieved for a relatively long period of time. The dotted line RO represents the development of the intellect or reason. This development, as the figure shows, starts later and rises more slowly because it requires a greater accumulation of experience and more complex transformations of this experience. Only at point M do the two lines&#8212;development of the imagination and development of reason&#8212;coincide.¡±
  We can see that Vygotsky is doing two seemingly contradictory things. First of all, he is taking sentences verbatim from Ribot (e.g. the sentence beginning ¡°The curve IM represents¡± which would be close enough to plagiarism to land him in serious trouble with the dean if he were a composition undergraduate). Secondly, he is interpreting freely (e.g. ¡°the first period¡± represents childhood rather than childhood + adolescence + youth, and he explains the slower rise of the curve representing rationality by the necessity of accumulating experience and carrying out complex transformations thereof, an explanation found nowhere in Ribot. It is quite possible that Vygotsky¡¯s refusal to show an INTERSECTION of the two curves is in the nature of a free interpretation; that is, Vygotsky is claiming that rationality NEVER catches up with imagination. Of course, it is also possible that he was a sloppy plotter.)
  Ribot is ALSO rather careless in matching text to graph:
  Deuxie`me pe/riode. C¡¯est une phase critique de longueur inde/termine/e, en tout cas, toujours beaucoup plus courte que les deux autres. (??? The graph shows that it is considerably longer than either and as long as both put together!)
  Ribot then distinguishes between oridinary people, who allow their imaginative curve to fall to N¡¯ on the abscissa.
  141: ¡°c¡¯est la chute de la¡¯amour qu¡¯on traite en chime/re, on enterre ses re^ves de jeunesse, etc. Ceci est une re/gression, non une fin; car l¡¯imagination cre/atrice ne disparai^t comple`tement chez aucun homme; seulment elle deveient un accident.¡±
  And, on the other hand, true ¡°imaginatifs¡±:
  ¡°ce n¡¯est plus imagination pure, elle devient une forme mixte (ce qui est indique/ dans la figure par l¡¯accollement des deux lingnes imaginative MN et rationnelle RO. Tel est le cas des imaginative vrais, chez qui la puissance d¡¯invention reste longtemps jeune et vivace.¡±
  This portion is rendered in direct quotation by Vygotsky on pp. 35-36.
  ¡°Both of these intellectual forms¡¯, writes Ribot, ¡®now confront each other as rival forces.¡¯ The imagination ¡®continues to operate, but undergoes a preliminary transformatoin involving adaptation to rational requirements. It is no longer pure imagination but a combined form.¡¯ However, this does not occur in everyone. In many people development takes another pact, and this is depicted in the graph by curve MN (Vygotsky means MN¡¯ and not MN) in Ribot¡¯s curve) which falls rapidly, indicating a decrease or curtailment of the imagination. ¡®Creative imagination diminishes&#8212;this is the most common instance. Only the particularly richly endowed imagination constitutes an exception, the majority of people gradually get lost in the prose of everyday life, bury the dreams of their youth, consider love an illusion and so forth. This however, is only gregression but not annihilation, because the creative imagination does not disappear comletely in anyone it merely
 becomes incidental.¡¯¡±
  As can be seen, Vygotsky¡¯s version is quite plausible, and unlike Ribot¡¯s (who also, with considerably less excuse, does not match his text to the graph very well) it focuses on the psychology of the adolescent rather than the disenchantment of middle aged men. Indeed, Vygotsky goes on to discuss the example of children who, dissatisfied with their drawings as imitations of life, give up art.
  David Kellogg
  Seoul National University of Education

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