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Re: [xmca] When the Message Takes Over the Bottle


I am seeking a copy of the Russian original for this poem because
issues of translation play so large a role in how we interpret it. And
of course, even in the original there are a lot of "its" -- so many
aspects of what one takes from the multivocality even of carefully
crafted poems.

Here it is:
Воспроизводится по изданию: О.Э. Мандельштам. Собрание сочинений в 4
т. М.: Арт-Бизнес-Центр, 1993. Т. 1


Я слово позабыл, что я хотел сказать.
Слепая ласточка в чертог теней вернется,
На крыльях срезанных, с прозрачными играть.
В беспамятстве ночная песнь поется.

Не слышно птиц. Бессмертник не цветет,
Прозрачны гривы табуна ночного.
В сухой реке пустой челнок плывет,
Среди кузнечиков беспамятствует слово.

И медленно растет, как бы шатер иль храм,
То вдруг прокинется безумной Антигоной,
То мертвой ласточкой бросается к ногам
С стигийской нежностью и веткою зеленой.

О, если бы вернуть и зрячих пальцев стыд,
И выпуклую радость узнаванья.
Я так боюсь рыданья Аонид,
Тумана, звона и зиянья.

А смертным власть дана любить и узнавать,
Для них и звук в персты прольется,
Но я забыл, что я хочу сказать,
И мысль бесплотная в чертог теней вернется.

Все не о том прозрачная твердит,
Все ласточка, подружка, Антигона...
А на губах, как черный лед, горит
Стигийского воспоминанье звона.

Lets take just the first two lines, which are the epigram of the
chapter. It will take me a LONG time to work down through it, but I
think this will be as interesting as your discussion following the
translation you sent suggests. You simply move way too fast
for me to keep up!! So, just the first two lines. to being with.

Я слово позабыл, что я хотел сказать.            I forgot the word I
wanted to say                      <Mike's translation
Слепая ласточка в чертог теней вернется,     The blind swallow
returned to the hall of shadows.

What had I wanted to say? I forgot.
The blind swallow flies back to Pluto's palace    <---- Translation
provided by David.

I have found others on the web, but just starting here, its clear that
no "Pluto's palace" appears in the translation AND
it is clear that "the word, unembodied" has been substituted for the
swallow in the Minnick version.

Later, of course, LSV makes it explicit he is talking about words as
in "the thought is completed in the word."

I am going to copy Boris M from whom I got the original. He sent me an
article on the significance of the use of "swallow" in Russian
poetry that might help us here, but figuring out how much of
Mandelshtam's poem informs Vygotsky's ideas is going to take a while!!

I am also thinking more about the unicorn. You focused on the way in
which a concept can be made of parts of other concepts. I was focused
a little elsewhere....... that they fed it, not with corn, but with
the possibility of being, and that they left it space and that in
that "unpeople space" it gathered power to enter into human affairs
(so to speak).

I love this form of exploration, but will be slow and uneven. If our
real Russian speakers could help out, it would be great.

I am still thinking about what you took away from The Unicorn, a
translation I really like, but there are others that I do not like so
well and from which some of the key
ideas I like from THIS translation are opaque or absent to me (maybe
not to others, maybe not in german).

In particular,

They never knew it, and yet, none the less,

they loved the way it moved, its suppleness,

its neck, its very gaze, mild and serene.

Not there, because they loved it, it behaved

as though it were. They always left some space.

And in that clear unpeopled space they saved

it lightly reared its head with scarce a trace

of not being there.
I have been seeing this poem as, among other things, about the formation of
words and it has that combinatorial aspect you note, but I am at present
particularly focused on "they always left it space" and "

On Tue, Jun 9, 2009 at 6:39 PM, David Kellogg<vaughndogblack@yahoo.com> wrote:
> Mike gave us a good poem for Thinking and Speech, Chapter Five, where new concepts are made from the bits and pieces of concrete objects. Here is a Chapter Seven poem, about the difference between subject object reference and subject subject reference, which I think tells me something important about Jay's comments on the (potential) sentience of tools.
> What had I wanted to say? I forgot.
> The blind swallow flies back to Pluto's palace
> On amputated wings, and plays with transparent souls.
> Night songs sing in unconsciousness.
> But no birds sing. Flowering evergreens aren't in flower.
> Night's horses have transparent manes.
> An empty canoe drifts in the dry river.
> The grasshoppers' password is: be unconscious.
> Growing, slowly, like a tent, a temple,
> Now throwing itself to the side, suddenly, like mad
> Antigone, now like a dead swallow throwing itself
> At your feet with Stygian tenderness and a green branch.
> Oh, if I could give back the shame of sensate
> Fingers, the shameful joy of knowing.
> Niobes' tears terrify me,
> And the fog, the ringing, the gaping opening.
> And men can love, men can know,
> Even sound pours itself into their fingers,
> But I forgot what I want to say
> And the unbodied thought goes back to the palace of ghosts.
> That transparent thought keeps repeating the wrong thing,
> Keeps fluttering like a swallow, my friend, Antigone. . .
> And echoes of Stygian ringing
> Burn on her lips, black like ice.
> (The Swallow, by Osip E. Mandelstam, 1920)
> Why does Vygotsky choose THIS poem, and THESE ideas for his epigraph? Up to this moment, Vygotsky has been showing us the "outside-in" development of the child's thinking:
> a) Social speech
> b) Word meanings
> c) Inner speech
> d) Thinking
> But that is how the system develops. Vygotsky is now going to show us how, microgenetically, his system acts. To do this, he adds, as Mike Levykh has pointed out, a new layer, the affective disposition, or the volition to speak:
> a) Affective tendencies, Volitional motives
> b) Inner speech
> c) Word meanings
> d) Social speech
> The intention to speak must change microgenetically, from something that is mutable, changeable and idiosyncratic to something that is more fixed, stable, and conventional in order to be understood. That is how it moves from being intra-mental to being inter-mental.
> For Mandelstam, symbols are "utvar", or utensils: that is, they absorb the warmth of human interaction and become part of humanity itself. This is from Mandelstam's essay  "On the Meaning of the Word", in Mandelstam, O.E. (1977) Austin: University of Texas Press. Selected Essays. (Translated by Sidney Monas.)
> "In Hellenic terms, the symbol is a utensil, and therefore any object drawn into the sacred circle of man can become a utensil; and therefore a symbol too (...) Hellenism means consciously surrounding man with utensils (utvar) instead of indifferent objects; the metamorphosis of these objects into the utensil, the humanization of the surrounding world; the environment heated with the most delicate teleological warmth. Hellenism is any stove near which a man sits, prizing its warmth as something related to his own inner warmth. Finally, Hellenism is the boat of the dead in which Egyptian corpses set sail, in which everything is stored that is needed for continuation of a man's earthly wanderings including even an aromatic jar, a hand mirror and a comb. Hellenism is a system, in the Bergsonian sense of the word, which man unfolds around himself, like a fan of phenomena liberated from temporal dependence, commonly subordinated to an inner bond through
>  the human "I". p. 75.
> For the Hellenist Mandelstam, influenced by Nietszchean ideas, this is something of an Appolonian tragedy, stately and dignified (even though Apollo was responsible for the tragedy of Niobe!). Hence the reference to Sophocles' Antigone, and to the tears of Niobe (and maybe also Hamlet, where Niobe's tears are recommended to Hamlet's mother), and above all to the Greek underworld (so like the Jewish idea of Gehenna) where human subjects are transparent and disembodied; this is the underworld of speech.
> If Mandestam is an Apollonian, then Vygotsky is Dionysian. Here is how Mandelstam describes the moment of development where smysl is overthrown by znachenie:
> p. 76: "Man was no longer master in his own house; it would turn out he was living in a church or in a sacred druidic grove. Man's domestic eye had no place to relax, nothing on which to rest. All utensils were in revolt. The broom asked holiday, the cooking pot no longer wanted to cook, but demanded for itself an absolute significance (as if cooking were not an absolute significance). They had driven the master from his home and he no longer dared to enter there. How is it to be then with the attachment of the word to its denotative significance? Isn't this a kind of bondage that resembles serfdom? But the word is not a thing. Its significance is not the equivalent of a translation of itself." P. 76
> For Mandelstam the denotative significance, the "znachenie", meaning as something "self-similar", words that "keep repeating the wrong thing" is seen as bondage that resembles serfdom, because the slave-word will no longer bend to the master's will.
> For Vygotsky, it's really the other way around. "Smysl" is almost literally bound to the soil. It is the tying of significance to the serfdom of the immediate grounds of perception, and the "here and now" of (relatively) unmediated reference. Unlike Mandelstam (and rather more like Bakhtin) LSV sees liberation in shared significance; he sees freedom in the idea that one's words talk back.
> Shared significance is the moment of development where the word must give up the essential pliability and mutability of the "theme" that we see in the indicative function ("the", and "this", and "there", and "then" all of which have contextually bound "smysl" but no denotative "znachenie") and instead take on the hypostatic "meaning" that we see in the signifying function ("apples").
> Dictionaries become possible. Yes, of course, a dictionary is only the translation of a word into the equivalent of itself, using the process that Vygotsky described in his section in Chapter Six on the measure of generality. But a possibility is by its very nature not serfdom or bondage; we now have a real choice where none existed before. After all, the older meanings of smysl are not suppressed by znachenie; on the contrary, they are radically multiplied.
> For Mandelstam, the poet, this is a tragedy; it is the end of Hellenism. But for Vygotsky, the modernist, this is progress. Ancient Greece was after all a slave society, and the moment when the slave broom refuses to sweep is the moment when it begins to speak with its own voice.
> Even Mandelstam says:
> "The word in the Hellenic conception is active flesh that resolves itself in an event. Therefore, the Russian language is historical even in and of itself, the incessant incarnation and activity of intelligent and breathing flesh." p. 69
> For flesh to speak, it must breathe. But speaking is not reducible to breathing; for one thing, it is more voluntary. That volition is absolutely irreducible; it's something we see in every slave and not in any tool. And because every word is a generalization, we can also see volition in every cultural symbol and not in any mechanical signal.
> David Kellogg
> Seoul National University of Education
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