The idea of freedom of understanding is very attractive, but it is socially and pedagogically adequate only in case there is a balance of freedom and culture. Partly it is connected with the fact of humans being not only reactive but also (and mainly) reflective.
REFLECTIVITY VERSUS REACTIVITY: A PROBLEM IN THE CONTEXT OF COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT OF MAN AND MANKIND
Understanding, a synonym of intellect, is the strongest manifestation of the dignity of the human race. In the long run it is rooted in the natural ability of the organism to react to stimuli from agents in the environment, i.e. to "answer" to all kinds of natural influences. Natural also is the ability to associate the effects of these influences and to actualize the association: if one term of it appears, then it brings about a regular upshowing of the other term of the association.
It is treacherously easy to form a semiotics monkeying the named stimulus/reaction relations and ascribing them to humans' acting with signs, the more so as all animals' procedures really consist of reflexes and associations. This limits sign-based human acting to reflexes and associations, or to their discursive interpretation. In such a flat semiotics the properly human understanding is limited to comprehension and the latter to sound/image correlation. However, it may be proved that human (and only human) acting (not procedure!), though phylogenetically coming from primitive associations, does not come to the same original. It is extremely important that in ontogenesis and in social existence human acting with language is qualitatively different from the associative source. Understanding, one of the most important properly human activities, is regulated by this very difference: all living creatures are acquiring experience through sensory channels; however, humans are not only sensory but also reflective. Reflectivity is the link between the gnoseological image and the lived experience. This link contributes to the image being coloured with the lived-through experience as well as to the change of attitude towards the experience. Thus every reflective act changes the human creature, the substance of his or her understanding included. Understanding is a hypostasis of reflectivity; its relation to reflectivity is that of the specific to the generic.
Reflectivity is the second source of experience, sensorics being the first, and for example artistic effects are more reflective than sensory, the artisticity of a text being the optimal measure of reflectivity awakened. Reflectivity may be discursively represented to consciousness, but in the everyday text understanding practice a non-discursive ("commonplace") reflectivity is most widely spread. While the reflective process remains unnoticeable to the subject, the trace of the process comes to the fore at the moment of the reflectivity fixation. The fixation of reflectivity is its objectivation in a hypostasis which is no more reflectivity itself but some specific spiritual phenomenon - decision, properly human feeling, evaluation, problematizing, thought, meaning, understanding, knowledge etc. . . .
Man applies to this commonplace sort of reflectivity at every moment of being awake, which brings about quite a number of types of understanding, as well as quite a number of types of reflective techniques of understanding. According to the Tver group of hermeneutic research the number of techniques of understanding runs to more than a hundred: intending ("displaying") the existential loci of man's ontological construction; stretching the meanings and turning them into metameanings and ideas (artistic ideas e.a.); fixing the stretching threads of meanings synchronically; reference jointing (in comprehension and cognitive understanding); the hermeneutic circle (fixations of reflectivity simultaneously in the three principal belts of the systemic mental activities according to the scheme of G.P.Shchedrovitsky); individuation (planning, on the basis of the text features, the further process of reception and attitude-formation); reflectivity fixations completing (in case the belts for these fixations are not obvious) and a hundred more.
It is both immoral and prospectless to teach the younger generation such a thing as "ready-made understanding:" freedom is the main principle of education. But freedom of understanding is to form a balance with culture of understanding, which presupposes the great problem of teaching reflectivity. This problem is insoluble without teaching techniques of understanding.
TECHNIQUES FOR UNDERSTANDING TEXTS: A SYSTEM
Techniques of understanding texts of culture form a systemic complex
of devices in the systemic mental activities. These devices change non-understanding into understanding as the turn of reflectivity upon the world of lived-through experience correlative with the new gnoseological image now and here presented for understanding.
The mastery of techniques of understanding is the greatest skill of mind similar sometimes to real artisticity. This mastery is to be taught and to be learnt,
but the direct object of teaching and learning is not understanding itself but readiness
for it. This readiness is hidden in human reflective ability, that is why teaching
means here teaching reflectivity. As for understanding, the human subject is to find in every new situation of life activities an understanding of his own, which is opposite to teaching ready-made understanding. Techniques are all based upon reflectivity: when reflectivity is fixed, it stops being itself and changes into understanding (according to the subject's intention it may also turn into meaning, evaluation, properly human feeling, experience [Erlebnis] and many other hypostases). The social adequacy of understanding depends on the methods of forming the mosaic of fixations in different belts of the system of mental activities.
Every technique implies a subjective effort, "doing something with one's own soul", the latter being the "place" of lived experience sedimentation. The effort organizes the effects of reflectivity fixation and the effects of meaning development or modification also due to human reflective ability. Today the Hermeneutic Group of Tver knows 105 techniques, but for sure the list is not complete, though a rough variant of systemizing does already exist.
A TECHNIQUE FOR OVERCOMING THE LOSS OF MEANING AND ITS REPLACEMENT BY CONTENT
A hermeneutically helpless reader takes the book - let it be M.Bulgakov's "White Guard" - and begins reading:
Great it was, and terrible it was, the year from the birth of our Lord Jesus nineteen hundred and eighteenth, from the beginning of the Revolution, the second. Then abundant in summer was sunshine, and in winter, snow, and high above in the heaven two stars kept standing - the star of the shepherds named Venus, and the red and trembling Mars. But the days in the years of peace and quietude, and the days in the years of bloodshed are flying like an arrow and the young Turbins did not notice how in the strong frost December appeared, all white and fluffy like a Christmas keepsake, the toy kitten. Where are you now, Santa Claus, the master of the festive fir-tree, all shining with snow and with joy? Mummy dear, the Queen of Light, where art thou?
This translation is aimed not at the exact system of bilingual compensations, but at the retaining the mosaic of fixations (objectivations) of reflectivity: the two mosaics consisting of the points of fixations of reflectivity in the three belts of the systemic mental acting coincide in the Russian original and its English translation, though the difference in the meanings of a few words in the original and the translation is not always exactly compensated; that is the hermeneutic idea of translation: not semantic lacunae are filled in but breaks in understanding, the latter being a hypostasis of reflectivity.
Generally, there are three types of understanding; SEMANTIZING, COGNITIVE AND THE ONE RESTORING THE SITUATION OF THE AUTHOR'S MENTAL ACTIVITIES (ENTGEGENSTAENDLICHENDES VERSTEHEN).The aesthetically prepared reader's reflective ability tends to changing into the latter type of understanding, the source of metameanings and metametameanings (aesthetic ideas). But this changing of reflectivity implies its fixation? Without which reflectivity can't stop being itself and become understanding (in some other situations it may become an evaluation, an opinion, a piece of knowledge, problematization, the properly human feeling, attitude etc.).The fixation of reflectivity happens in the three belts of mental systemic activities, each representing one type of the logical space of activity (Wirklichkeit). The TECHNIQUE OF THE HERMENEUTIC CIRCLE caused by M.Bulgakov's text, if schematically represented, looks like this:
ADAPTED AFTER G.P.SHCHEDROVITSKY; (x - points of reflectivity fixations)
If the fixation happens ONLY in belt 3, the understanding is lame and brings about an emptiness of non-spiritual impressivity and impulsivity ("Oh, I see the image : a dead horse lying in the middle of the square near the church, and close to it The Red Guards are trying to get warm near the fire" - and further on on the basis of reminiscences from a number of films about the revolution of 1917. - Stupid teachers praise such talks in the classroom: "Oh, how bright! Your thinking is based upon an emotive perception of images!")
If the fixation happens ONLY in belt 2, the understanding is lame, it brings about only empty talks about the text form without any connection with the meaning of the situation: "I see the style of Orthodox homiletics from the very first syntagm, then I see the introtextual author able to remember the names of planets" and further on on the basis of some manual devoted to theory of literature. - Stupid teachers praise such talks in the classroom: "Oh, how bright! Your thinking is based upon a deep penetration into the correlation of the form and the content!"
If the fixation happens ONLY in belt 1, the understanding is lame, it brings about only empty talks about categories of pure thinking without any connection with what is categorized: "Oh, all these sufferings of the people show the inevitability of the historically conditioned victory of the Red Guard (an equal variant of empty talks: of the White Guard), of the new (variant: old) social order as the incarnation of the people's craved justice" and so on in the form of quoting from newspaper publications on the problems of philosophy of history. - Stupid teachers praise such talks in the classroom: "Oh, how bright! Your thinking is based upon a deep penetration into the correlation of Progressism and Conservatism!"
Only in case the fixation of reflectivity happens simultaneously in all the three belts of systemic mental activity, does the principle of universal reexpressiveness work bringing about a socially adequate understanding of the artistic (or some other) idea (here this idea is that of "Russia Crucified"). The technique is described as the hermeneutic circle moving across the borders of the three belts. In case all this goes on successfully, the identifications of the texts of culture stop being impenetrable and start being wise and socially adequate.
A TECHNIQUE FOR DIFFERENTIATING TYPES OF UNDERSTANDING
Multidimensional Semiotics -- multi-dimensional Hermeneutics
The difference mentioned has its basis in the difference between, on the one hand, semantizing understanding (mentally establishing the referents) and cognitive understanding (establishing connections and relations within the syntagmatic system of referents) and, on the other hand, understanding restoring or trying to restore the mental situation of the producent. In English there is no term for this kind of understanding, but the German words entgegenstaendlichendes Verstehen exactly correspond to this method of mental acting (the rhetorical correlate is called Vergegenstaendlichung). The differentiation of the types of understanding forms one of many techniques of understanding. The differentiating type of techniques consists of two dozen units, but here it would be most appropriate to mention the technique of differentiating the content and the meaning. The former is a chain of predications within a propositional structure; the latter is the configuration of multitudes of connections and relations of all kinds within the two types of matched situations - those of mental acting and those of communicating. The configuration is restored or created in the reflective process one of whose hypostases is understanding taken as meaning-formation. Thus mentioned are only two types of differentiation whose absence is enough to bring about a flat semiotics, but the better the text the greater the danger of lapsing into flatitude (and platitude). Galsworthy writes: The happy pair were seated, not opposite each other but rectangularly, at the handsome rosewood table. They dined without a cloth - a distinguishing elegance - and so far had not spoken a word. The poor reader (flat practical semiotician) "interprets": "There was a happy family. They had the habit of expressing their love through sitting at the right angle to each other. They were rich and fashionable. O-o-oh! I have read the novel. . .so the word happy - it is irony." Meanwhile the three typographic lines are written according to meaning at large, which is retrieved through reflectivity and not through the technique of decoding. The later is adapted to the understanding of what is constructed according to the content. Within the quoted passage there are more than two hundred meanings different from the tenfold lesser number of denotations as content units. One cannot reach the meanings without Entgegenstaendlichung - just as Galsworthy in his artistic rhetoric would not have been able to create this spiritual wealth without Vergegenstaendlichung. The typology of meanings (as well as metameanings and metametameanings, i.e. artistic ideas) represents a striking variety: meanings-reminiscences, meanings-experiences, meanings-problematizations, meanings-evaluations, meanings-reincarnations of the introtextual author etc. The bad reader - a fruit of bad pedagogical reexpression of flat semiotics - is regularly deprived of the spiritual wealth of all arts, especially if the school is insufficiently tending to reflectivity as the main didactic principle. Let us assume the miserable reader or the disoriented interpreter does notice something like the plural in the grammatical government of the noun pair (with the meaning of `alienation'). Still even in this case he or she cannot systemize the meanings with a socially relevant adequacy: this demands a number of techniques of understanding, of which it is possible to mention the technique of the hermeneutic circle. As it is already mentioned above, this technique presupposes a special organization of fixations (objectivations) of reflectivity within the three belts of the system of mental activities. Each belt (according to the famous methodologist G.P.Shchedrovitsky, 1929 - 1994) forms a specific acting-space (Wirklichkeit, not translatable as "reality"). The fixation of reflectivity gives good rhetorical or hermeneutic results in case all fixations of reflectivity happen simultaneously in the three belts. Otherwise we may get empty spiritlessness and declarativeness. This reflective technique (as all the other) may be regularly taught to young students of schools (sometimes kindergartens) making them more efficient in thinking, communication and work.
SOME TECHNIQUES are very old, but actual today all the same:
INDIVIDUATION IN THE MEDIEVAL SCHOLASTICS AND THE TODAY'S GENOLOGICAL PROBLEMS
There are many reverberations of the European Middle Ages even in the new buildings of our town. E.g. the central universal shop "Tver" awakens reflectivity upon the castle of Villandry in France (finished 1532). As for the Russian Middle Ages, there are a few absolutely delapidated medieval friaries and a church (White Trinity, 1565, erected in honor of the Russian victory of Kazan). Many medieval buildings of great historical value were pulled down in the 1930's in the process of the "struggle against religious dope." Thus life in such a town awakens reflectivity on the Middle Ages not as a generator or things but as a generator of ideas, methodological, aesthetic, scientific. Among thousands of methodological ideas of the kind, the concept of Individuation may be mentioned. According to the Medieval Scholastics, Individuation is the dividedness of the Universal into the Individual (the special). Principium individuationis is the basis of the existence of any species and of anything special. According to St. Thomas Aquinas, principium individuationis could be given from the very beginning of the world, along with time and space. Generally this notion was an object of many medieval philosophical discussions continued even in the New Age (Locke, Schopenhauer, Schelling, Leibniz e.a.)
Later on it became clear that individuation may be treated as establishing what is being perceived at a given moment, what is "given to our eyes' and "what is heard" by our ears. Usually this is a speech product, that is why the concept of Individuation was philologically oriented, especially as it may help define the genre of the text as a speech product. Most important this applicability has proved to be in connection with texts of Modernism and Postmodernism where genre is defined for the sake of organizing the recipient's mental activities so as to prognosticate HOW TO ACT FURTHER from the point of view of knowing, feeling, experiencing, applying the techniques of understanding in the forthcoming encounters with the textual situations of the text sequel. All this makes understanding a kind of restoring the mental situation of the author, a reexpression of another technique, that of Entgegenstaendlichung, also known to St. Thomas, who was the first to scientifically and optimally combine Realism and Nominalism. The techniques of individuation and Entgegenstaendlichung are most important for works of Modernism: here the ideal realities (meanings) represented in the text are optimally reincarnated in the secondarily-material realities of text-forming components. Here again the sociocultural situation of St. Thomas is represented.
All this is practically important. E.g. Anton Chekhov's "Cherry Orchard" comes to be unintelligible if the recipient at an early stage of reading, seeing or watching did not notice that the play was and is a kaleidoscope of unmasked and exposed manifestations of triteness - triteness gentlemanly, commercial, sexual, progressive, regressive, any. Underestimation of the Medieval techniques of understanding in Humanities brings about inadequate identifications and interpretations of the texts of culture, but not only of them.
More often than not techniques are combined when applied to one and the same text or group of texts. An example of this:
HOW WE UNDERSTAND THE CHANGES IN ARTISTIC ATTITUDES TOWARDS THE IDEA OF THE HUMAN BODY
Every epoch in every national culture finishes in a Modernism and a Post-Modernism of its own. The corresponding (comparatively short) periods have always been the real locomotives of the general development of art. Sometimes it is difficult to notice the very fact of there being such periods: the corresponding artistic achievements for many centuries did not temporally coincide in different national countries. Only the fin de siecle about 1880 brought about a sort of simultaneousness in the artistic progress in a number of European countries. Of course, nothing of the kind existed when, for example, the Etruscan painters in Tarquinii made the famous portrayal of singers and dancers. Though painted two millennia and a half ago, the bodies of the Singers and Dancers are far from being mere envelopes of their souls. Still the Portrait of the Actress Jeanne Samary by P.A. Renoir has little in common with the Etruscan portrayal: reflectivity on the typical in the represented human body is replaced by the individual in it. As compared to all the preceding Modernisms (the portraits from al-Fayum included) this Impressionistic individualization has proved to be a real revolution in the choice of objects towards which the reflective bridge from the picture may be built. For example, in his Descent from the Cross (1917) Max Beckmann tries to awaken our reflectivity on the Invisible, and the reflective bridge to that begins from the various gray tones in the portrayal of Jesus. Emil Nolde's St. Simeon and the Women (1915) makes the reflective bridge influence our experience still more effectively: depravity is portrayed in order to make us see that God's unfathomable wisdom is present even in dereliction. So dereliction portrayed comes to be an instrument of making the recipient concentrate upon his experience of sacrality.
It is not only the massiveness of the reflective bridge that is enhanced in such hermeneutic situations: the number of techniques for "reading the body" also increases. There are dozens of techniques of understanding, but the most relevant one for considering the body by itself, with all its susceptibility and vulnerability, is the TECHNIQUE OF INTENDING.
The Medieval term Intending denotes pointing out an existential meaning, not "wishing" or "desiring;" the term is used in methodology in the sense in which the it was used by St. Anselm of Canterbury, Franz Brentano and Edmund Husserl. As all the techniques of understanding this one is one of the hypostases of reflectivity. The latter in practical creative situations is equal to setting oneself in front of questions of the type "I have understood, but what have I understood?", "I see, but what do I see?" and the like. At the same time secured is the directedness of the reflectivity ray upon the ontological construction ("spirit" as the receptacle of semiotically objectivated existential meanings forming the concrete loci of the construction).
Intending presents a kind of circular movement. The loci mentioned are at the same time points of departure for the outside-directed ray of reflectivity. Here reflectivity acquires the property of the link between the lived-through experience and the new gnoseological image; resulting from the activity of that link the new image is coloured with the tints of the lived-through experience; on the other hand the attitude towards this experience is being changed, which gives life to new experience. Here is the source of innovations in both human abilities - that of expressing and that of understanding, the basis of new creativity in operating both the ideal (das Ideelle, not Ideale!) and the forms of its portrayal. The outside-directed ray of reflectivity prior to its step of returning to the "spirit" crosses (in the space of mental activity) the reflective reality (the "soul" of the subject), a real trap of experience-sedimentation.
The essence of a new way of considering the human body is of what lies in the "soul" (debris of meanings included) in the form of its in the form of its reexpression for the sake of appearing in spiritual space. Coming out of the reflective reality the ray of reflectivity loses the quality of outside-directedness and acquires the quality of inside-directedness. From that moment on the moving ray is saddled by myriads of noemes (the minimal units of meaning --Sinn, not Bedeutung! These meanings are meanings of all kinds of artistic means at large) and is crossing the orthogonally set planes of a number of techniques of understanding. On the border of the ontological construction of the subject (his or her "spirit") the noemata are getting arranged so as to optimally intend (point out) the corresponding loci of the "spirit."
The impressions as yet described mainly are connected with the experiences caused by painting. When reading literature one may be impressed differently: it may even seem that the presentation of the human body in verbal texts is done in an opposite way. One may say, "When reading Gospel, I almost physically experience the perceivable image of Corpus Christi crucified. And when I pass to the image of "Russia crucified" in the process of reading M.Bulgakov's The White Guard, the very acquiring of an ability to perceive the image of RUSSIA CRUCIFIED requires forcing one's way through the thick strata of metaphors and implications.
A DEEPER PENETRATION INTO THE TEXT MAKES US SEE THAT THIS POINT OF VIEW IS ERRONEOUS. Let us come back to the first paragraph of the novel. If we take our matter a bit deeper, we will see that the method of considering the human body is not so different in painting and in literary text. Mainly the difference lies in the tendency to be oriented to an interpreting recipient. Because of a more analytical structure the verbal text demands this interpretiveness to a stronger degree than we find in the practices of painting and perception of painting. We speak of interpretation as one more definition of reflectivity for interpretation by itself is reflectivity enounced. Reflectivity defined in this way is not discursive: the subject's conscious attitude does not concern the process of reflectivity, it is only its result that is consciously noticed. We may call it "everyday" kind of reflectivity. The normally developed everyday reflectivity on the human body manifests itself in the text in a way hardly known to the preceding Modernisms: in Russia it begins from N.Gogol (1809 - 1852) and in Britain, from Dickens. The tradition is long enough, and the developed Russian reader sees a presentation of the human body in the text quoted, and this presentation completely answers the requirements of the today's Modernism. Of course the attitude towards the body is not the only object to be perceived in this text; each object undergoes some specific perceptive procedures, and the procedures for representing the human body are based upon the dynamism of the introtextual author - the one whose voice the reader is to hear all the time. The introtextual author is a real sorcerer: he is able to get into the subjectivity of any character and speak in his/her voice.
The text by Bulgakov begins in the syntactic manner well known in the Russian Orthodoxy as one representing the voice either of the Holy Scripture or of a clergyman preaching - so great is in Russian the power of the inversion: great was. . . the year, which is confirmed by the homogeneous predicative terrible falling out of the inverted position. No human body is heard in such voices yet, but already the very mentioning of "the stars" introduces an adolescent voice - the one that knows where Venus is and where Mars. And even the fluffy snow gives an implication of the body - the body of Teddy-bears, fluffy Christmas toys, kittens and puppies. And then the big boys with their big and strong bodies are heard to weep: we were coming back from the World War, we hoped for the home of our childhood, and instead we have come across a civil war, and there will be no Christmas trees, no Teddy-bears, only death and devastation, we have come here, and Mummy is gone, and from somewhere above the voice of threatening warnings is heard as it was heard in the days of our Lord's being crucified, and here is sour fate, and there is nobody to defend us, even Mummy and Santa Claus will never be back. So the human bodies though not so clearly seen, still ARE seen as objects of a holocaust coming. . . Maybe after the Second World War the helplessness, fear and suffering of the bodies of the big boys are even better heard from the text: isn't it time to stop trampling our bodies with the caterpillars of tanks, - the metameaning of the question almost coinciding with the question: why have you stolen my Teddy-bear?
Generally, there are three types of understanding; SEMANTIZING, COGNITIVE AND THE ONE RESTORING THE SITUATION OF THE AUTHOR'S MENTAL ACTIVITIES (ENTGEGENSTAENDLICHENDES VERSTEHEN).The aesthetically prepared reader's reflective ability tends to changing into the latter type of understanding, the source of metameanings and metametameanings (aesthetic ideas). But this changing of reflectivity implies its fixation, without which reflectivity can't stop being itself and become understanding (in some other situations it may become an evaluation, an opinion, a piece of knowledge, problematization, a properly human feeling, attitude etc.).The fixation of reflectivity happens in the three belts of mental systemic activities, each representing one type of the logical space of activity (Wirklichkeit).
For sure my schemes do not depict any principally new fact. The hermeneutic circle has been in factual use for millennia of human cultural development. Still there are some specific features in the use of such techniques for a new vision of the human body in the system of Modernism and Postmodernism:
1.The number of noemata appearing at the moment when the outward-directed ray of reflectivity is replaced by the inward-directed ray is thousandfold greater in Renoir's paintings and Bulgakov's writings than even in the best Scythian sculptures and Etruscan paintings.
2.Traditionally the fixation of reflectivity in belt 2 was followed by fixation in belt 3. Thus the textual form of presentation was traditionally considered to be a kind of preparation for demonstrating the recipient's ability to see the Perceivable. Modernism obliged the ray of reflectivity to move in the direction of the metameanings, of the artistic ideas immediately from belt 2 to belt 1. This greatly extended the moral and mental substance of all arts from ornament to literature.
3. This type of movement from one belt of mental Wirklichkeit to another contributes to still another peculiarity, which is connected with the system of the historical types of reflectivity as, so to say, "not ergon, but energeia". There are three historical types of reflectivity:
a.Ontological reflectivity. It controls the progressive enhancement of knowledge.
b.Gnoseological reflectivity. It controls the subject-object relations in the progress of human mastering the world.
c.Methodological reflectivity. It controls the transition and the translation of everything connected with the reflective act into INSTRUMENTS of the future and further activities.
Just as we have already noticed it when discussing the problem of seeing the human body in the Modernist picture, here again this methodological, instrumental type of reflectivity is advanced and prevalent, and Art is really the main Supporter and Teacher of Human understanding, human love, human creative activities.
SOME MINOR PROBLEMS
SYMMETRY OF REFLECTIVE FIXATIONS AS A PRINCIPLE OF TRANSLATING
Artistic texts cannot be translated without considering reflectivity as the human generic property found in every recipient, the more so as artisticity is the optimal measure and variant of the awakening of the recipients' reflectivity. As it was shown by G.P.Shchedrovitsky, reflectivity, in its process of changing into understanding and other hypostases, gets fixed (objectivated and turned into non-itself) every time in one of the three belts of the systemic mental activities. The numerous fixations form a unique mosaic within the system. As the understanding of the reader, his evaluations, attitudes, properly human feelings and other hypostases of reflectivity mainly depend upon this mosaic of fixations, a special approach to translation may become necessary. The principle here is translating not only factum and dictum of the original into the symmetrically created text, but also forming there a mosaic of reflective fixations symmetrical to the mosaic stimulated by the original in ITS recipients. This secures to a high extent a coincidence of the meaningful experiencing (Erlebnis)in the subjectivity of both the readers of the original and the readers of the translation. Foreignness of languages stops being an instrument of alienation from the experiences inherent in reading in a mother-tongue.
Of course interpretations of the original by different people form a variety, but the entropy of this variety is seriously counterbalanced and even limited by culture. Culture in this situation consists in the recipient's ability to consider the textual forms as reexpressions of meanings, metameanings and metametameanings (aesthetic ideas). Culture results in application of a number of techniques of understanding to the process of reading. In this particular case the most important technique is that of Entgegenstaendlichung (non-discursively restoring the situation of mental activities of the producer of the text) on the basis of perceiving the text-forming units (syntax, lexis, substitution principles etc.) as incarnations of meanings.
The first sentence in M.Bulgakov's "White Guard" (Велик был год и страшен пн рождестве Христовом одна тысяча девятьсот восемнадцатый, от начала же революдии второй) is traditionally (without considering the recipient's subjectivity) translated like that: "1918 was a great and terrible year." Factum and dictum representing the content are translated, but the content has replaced the meaning, so another technique of understanding is not observed.It is essential that the meaning is given only in the implicative (non-explicative) form. In any event it is not "written", but is being born at the moments of reflectivity fixations happening in the three belts of mental systemic activities.
The translator's "deviations from the exactness" are motivated: e.g. the expressiveness of the style of the Russian Orthodoxy is syntactically strengthened, as what is given by the author may prove to be insufficient for awakening reflectivity on the "church-like experience" taking in consideration the difference of the Orthodox sermon and the sermon in the other branches of Christianity. A similar rule is observed when we strengthen the syntactical expressiveness in the presentation of the Perceivable in the end of the paragraph: "and the young Turbins did not notice how in the strong frost December appeared, all white and fluffy like a Christmas keepsake, the toy kitten. Where are you now, Santa Claus, the master of the festive fir-tree, all shining with snow and with joy? Mummy dear, the Queen of Light, where art thou?" Here something is added to warrant the perceivability of the Perceivable. For example, "белый мохнатый декабрь" immediately preceding the presentation of the Christmas fir-tree is in the Russian situation awakening reflectivity on the "Fir-Tree presents" mainly consisting of toy kittens, teddy-bears and pups who are мохатые not in the sense of shaggy, but in the sense of fluffy. This must be indirectly given in the text - otherwise the absolutely penetrable Russian meaningfulness will really become impenetrable, which is most undesirable, though many semioticians believe it to be inevitable and even necessary. And the penetrable meaningfulness noticeable in the reflectively regulated translation is very simple: seeing your native land crucified is fused with one coming back from a stupid World War I to a fratricidal Civil War and suddenly realizing that nothing is to return - your home, your mother, your dreams, your childhood with its joys and its purity. All this is present in Bulgakov's first paragraph, and there is no method to escape depriving the non-Russians of all this but the method of establishing the symmetry of reflectivity mosaics for the natives and the foreigners. The main drawback of the method is its unwontedness: somebody will say: "You are casting into anarchy the whole business of translating". Let them speak their fill.
Meanwhile the non-technical, antireflective tradition of translation still cannot make the recipient non-reflective, but his reflectivity is fixed only in the belt of the Perceivable.
INTERNATIONAL PENETRABILITY OF AESTHETICALLY RELEVANT TEXTS OF CULTURE AS A PROBLEM OF HERMENEUTICS
Penetration into a non-native culture may be difficult, but it cannot be impossible, in spite of the prejudice according to which this penetration always implies special studies for acquiring special KNOWLEDGE. Correspondingly, all success in such penetration is believed due to the growth of factual information: a Russian to answer in the negative moves his head to the right and to the left, while a Bulgarian expresses negation by means of nodding, which in Russian would have meant agreeing with the interlocutor.
Knowing all such differences may be useful, but they are so numerous that in most cases it is preferable to find support not in positive factual knowledge but in reflective techniques of UNDERSTANDING. In this article it is possible to give an example of one of the simplest techniques - that of Entering the Reflective Position (in practical mental activity the technique usually is combined with many other techniques, which mainly are of reflective type as well).
Here is a passage by a writer belonging to an Oriental culture; to make it handy I give it in an adequate English translation:
It was a second day of Card-Sharping Illi Vshaguj in the dens of Coshrott. Money again had been coming in excess. Money could do all. Now he could afford a little non-business evening walk along the silent lanes of the cozy town. Money could do all. Why should one refuse enjoyments to oneself if one had so much money? His parents had had no joy, but they had no money. And no freedom. And he . . .
Natiocultural specificity is obvious: unicorns, fathers fed to them, one calling himself a father of his torturers though he never had been one etc. It is so easy to say, oh, how specific these natives are, to understand them it is necessary to read half the Library of the Congress; I have never come across such mentality etc. For surer it is more useful to enter the reflective position of mental acting. For example, it is enough to reexpress the "exotic" situation in the forms of one's own Lebenswelt of experience. These worlds of experience, so different individually, are sufficient from the point of view of the social adequacy of the technique. I have not seen unicorns on the Tvertsa River, but I have seen and heard such a talk: "Oh, you don't love me because I belong to the ethnic group of X, and you cannot overcome your prejudice against the X! So go and love somebody who belongs to the ethnic group of Y. Oh, go, go there faster!" Acting like that one makes the trick of Illi in a different, but similar form - protests as to what is unpleasant to him by means of referring to what is socially evaluated as something holy. For most Europeans internationalism belongs to holiness, and for the culture wherein Illi lives an extreme respect to parents is supposed to be holy. It is not necessary to learn beforehand all the details concerning this respect and the ways of its fostering, it is enough to reflectively reexpress that respect for old age in the respect for political internationalism. Neither sort of that respect is essential for understanding, but the methods of attempting to exploit both sorts of respect characterize some special meaning of slyness - the intellect of stupidity, which is inherent to those sly both in the West and in the East. Someone has a different kind of sedimented factual experience, but everyone has some reexpressible experience useful in the hermeneutic situation described.
A young maid-servant was standing at the porch of a strangely big hut. Looking like a decent one, and obedient. A bit too young, but why not to. . . "A nice evening it is. My name is Illi, money is no problem. Let us sleep together". - A loud cry of hers was heard even when she disappeared in the hut, and at once two big man-servants, damned thugs, sprang from the porch and never uttering a word started buffeting Illi. They did not even think of the buffeting ever coming to an end, and Illi shouted, "Oh, feed, oh do feed your father's flesh to the unicorns!" Now and again his plaintive shrieks were heard, "Oh, these frightful unicorns! Oh, do feed them with your father! Oh, let them be fed on your father's blood and flesh! Feed, feed them!"
Universal reexpression of everything perceptible in everything perceived is only one definition of reflectivity: every technique of understanding is a manifestation of some other definition of reflectivity - the main human mental quality. We cannot and must not teach anybody a ready-made understanding, but reflectivity must be taught for many reasons. One of them is the formation of readinesses of international and intercultural understanding of texts of culture. The aesthetic relevance of the latter is obvious.
So we have discussed understanding texts of culture, but on the verge of the system of texts of culture one finds a world of colloquialisms which also implies understanding as hypostasis of reflectivity.
SOME VIEWS ON COLLOQUIALISTICS IN RUSSIA
Interest for non-codified forms of speech has been present in Linguistics in Russia within the three last centuries. After World War II the corresponding studies acquired an organized character. There were three types of studies. First, collectioneering all kinds of "deviations from the normative", especially in popular editions for entertainment. Second, grammars of national languages rewritten in the form adapted to the requirements of the colloquial sublanguage. All this had the character of pedagogical writings useful for the Non-Russian speakers of Russian or some other language aiming at making their speech more natural and less bookish.
Only the third type of colloquialistic writings had a properly linguistic character of a research revealing the hidden mechanisms of the energetic life of the colloquial sublanguages. The great linguist who gave life to this most fruitful scientific direction is Yuri Maximovich Skrebnev (1922-1993). He is insufficiently known abroad as he was deprived of an opportunity to live in either of the Russian capitals and to publish his books there, which is of much importance in Russia with the country's inherent underestimation of "the provincials". His publication in Moscow happened only posthumously ("Fundamentals of English Stylistics") , but his books published in Nizhni Novgorod and Saratov in a limited number of printed copies are by far no less important. The same refers to two hundred smaller writings published dispersedly in dozens of provincial centers every time in one-two hundred copies.
One of Skrebnev's numerous discoveries in linguistics is the fact of every colloquial phenomenon manifesting either the implicative or the explicative tendency in the speech behavior of the communicants. Rather we may say that the two tendencies are present in every speech chain, each alternatively overweighing the opposite tendency. Skrebnev gave many descriptions and definitions of the phenomenon, and the simplest is here: "Implication is the use of a smaller quantity of lingual means than is required by common sense. . .Explication, on he contrary, is the use of superfluous amount of form, of the lingual means."
Within the format of this binary opposition all language phenomena may be considered and discussed, and if we add to it a parallel application of some other binary oppositions found in the text production process (redundancy/entropy, actualization/automation, content/meaning, meaning/reference, distantness/contactness, plural/individual orientedness etc.), we acquire a whole panorama of the principles of text-formation. This panorama is absolutely necessary in he processes both of analyzing and interpreting any text.
Interesting it is that in different languages the manifestations of similar "properly human feelings" have very much alike in the colloquial syntactical forms. Skrebnev used to show these likenesses on the material of a number of languages. For example, Absolute Attribute: I have just seen him at the dance hall. Screaming blue murder. - Aber werden Sie mich nicht verraten? Eine schutzlose Witwe? - Voilla! Pendant pres de quinze ans un homme a vecu ici tout seul. . . Une sorte de sauvage. - Es un vino de provincia. Un buen vino. - Wyjrzalam i zobaczylam pana Piotka. Pana Mohylnego znaczy sie. - Davno ne vizhu etoy osoby. Kat'ki Litovchenko.
All the colloquial phenomena may be treated as characterological material cognizable because of its ability to awaken our reflectivity and stimulate its fixation in different belts of the systemic mental activities of the communicants. When I hear an extremely explicative (schmoozing) colloquial glorification of somebody's happiness and luck, the very form of the speech product supplies me with both the meanings and contents to a much greater extent than the predication present in the words of my interlocutor: "Oh, this happy marriage. For her to catch such a fat goose. . . For him to drag into his bed the sweet young thing. When they sit at the table at their little sweet dinner they sit as only real lovers can sit - so deliciously and perpendicularly" etc. The very colloquiality of the monologue says more about both the object and the subject of the talk than any non-colloquial description. It is possible to prove it by means of honest stylistic interpretation, the latter being the enounced way of reflectivity's existence.
It is difficult to teach someone speaking to perfection colloquially in any language, but teaching the ways of applying reflectivity to the colloquial speech HEARD is quite attainable. Along with reading good literature it contributes to a better understanding of the world of meanings we live in.
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