Dear Mike and Huw:
Yes, I think that Huw's right: Shakespeare, and Vygotsky, see procrastination is a very powerful moral force as well as an aesthetic one (Vygotsky believes that esthetics and ethics are differentiated from a common concept, roughly emotion reflected upon in tranquility).
Procrastination allows Hamlet the time to reflect on whether the ghost is really his father (Elizabethans were either skeptical about ghosts entirely--as Horatio and Hamlet, fresh from their rationalistic studies in Wittenberg, are initially--or they believed that they were devices of the devil intended to entrap their souls into sinful acts which would bring about their damnation and therefore augment demonic suzerainty over man). Procrastination creates a very primitive form of Luria's "lie detector" (the "Mousetrap" play within a play). And procrastination is above all the device which allows Shakespeare to create the world's first entirely psychological horror story.
From it, I think Vygotsky creates more than just Psychology of Art, which I see as a rushed, and therefore flawed, attempt to link the fable, the short story, and the tragedy using the argument of "form subduing content" that was popular among the formalists but which really went directly against Vygotsky's materialism (and in the end, in all three genres, what we have is really reflection and emotion short-circuiting each other rather than one dominating the other).
I thnk that Veresov is right when he says that the model of human verbal thinking presented in Chapter Seven of Thinking and Speech, with the separate stage planes of feeling, thinking, inner speech and external speech, is essentially dramaturgical: Vygotsky's 'planes" are planes of Shakespeare's stage, and Shakespeare's Hamlet is essentially a presentation of mind.
When I was trying to subscribe to xmca from my old work address, I tried to send something on language and higher functioning, Mike. It wasn't based on my work, though; it was based on the work of a Chinese artist (a friend of a friend) who was in town with an exhibition of text and photographs on sex work in China.
There was something very ASIAN about it, the whole idea of combining TEXT and PICTURES, not at all like Cezanne or the impressionists or Merleau-Ponty. On one wall, there was a set of pornographic 'art' photographs (composed according to certain iconic images, such as planting the flag on Iwo Jima, or Manet's "Dejeuner sur l'herbe". On the facing wall was a set of hundreds of huge portraits of the sex workers faces done in very sharp contrast, with every discoloration and even every pimple suggesting violence or bad make up. (It made me think of the last page and a half of Vygotsky's Hamlet essay, where he suddenly takes what appears to be a digression into portraiture that actually explains the whole essay!)
On the other two walls of the gallery were texts: one letters home to the sex workers' home villages, sending money and providing an account of their lives in Shanghai. The other an English account of a single working day with four different clients and half a dozen sex acts (mostly written from a man's point of view though!) I asked Xu Yong, the artist, why the writings of the young sex worker in the exhibit read so much like they were written by a man (they were quite pornographic and included details about the sexual experience that only a man would know, and in addition there was an awful lot of dialogue, all of it by the man and none of it by the woman).
Xu Yong insisted that it had been written by the woman, but he admitted that it was translated by a man and that he had edited it very heavily (and in particular that he had taken out all the non-pornographic parts!) I asked him why he had censored this poor woman's attempt to explain why she was doing what she was doing. He said he thought it was irrelevant (irrelevant to what?)
I think, actually, Xu Yong, and also my friend Shu Yang, has a very western suspicion of all forms of text and verbal meaning. They are Chinese artists, they see meaning as connected ineluctably to ideology (which of course it is) and for that reason they try to reject it (which of course they cannot).
The result is a terrible weakness in their art, or at least in their theory of art. Much of it, predictably, is about the human body. But at bottom they do not really believe that a human body is any different from that of an animal. And in the end the result is a really non-verbal--even anti-verbal--attitude towards gesture. The result is Leontiev ("A gesture is nothing else than a movement separated from its result, i.e. not applied to the object at which it is aimed") but not at all Vygotsky ("A gesture is a sign").
Hamlet is full of gestures, and movements that are separated from their results. But to say that they are nothing more than that, to say that they are not signs, is to ignore at least two walls of the exhibition.
Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
subsequent demonic coeither did not believe in ghosts, as Horatio , and Shakespeare does see procrastination as a powerful moral force, allowing
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