- スラヴ研究 (ISSN:05626579)
- vol.59, pp.1-23, 2012-06-15
This paper examines Yuri Lotman's analysis of the theatrical culture of the Russian nobles from the eighteenth century to the beginning of the nineteenth century as an implicit response to late Soviet society and as a speculation on how to establish an autonomous "private" sphere, independent of the "official" sphere that penetrated almost the entire society. Soviet semiotics began simultaneously with the blossoming of information science in the "Thaw" period. Semiotics was considered to be an "honest," "sincere," and "universal" science, free from the ideological "dogma" of Stalinism. Having failed to find a way into mainstream Soviet academia, the school of semiotics took refuge in Tartu, Estonia, a "marginal" place in the USSR. Lotman has often represented mainstream academia as the morally corrupt "other," dominated by ideology, but, in fact, the moral values that sustained the Tartu School were largely shared by this "other" in officialdom. As recent studies on late Soviet society demonstrate, the "official" vocabulary was so prevalent in the "Stagnation" period that there was practically no alternative to it. According to Alexei Yurchak, the creation of the "private" sphere was made possible only by a "performative" reinterpretation of "official" formulas. Lotman argues that the everyday behavior of the Russian nobles was "played" like a theatrical role, taken from the example of art (mainly literary) works. He differentiates theatrical culture into two periods: the pre-Romantic era when people played various roles, shifting from one "mask" to another, and the Romantic era when people identified themselves with only one role, considering all aspects of their everyday life as a "stage." The Decembrists, highly evaluated by Lotman, developed this Romantic approach by "sincerely" playing the sole "simple" role that was called one's own "self." Lotman maintains, in agreement with Yurchak to some extent, that the Decembrists incorporated existing norms into their roles/selves. This idea of the "simple" role is described in detail in Lotman's biography of Pushkin, whose life is traced as a passage from pre-Romanticism to Romanticism to Realism or the stage of the "simple" role. At the transition from Romanticism to Realism, Pushkin attempted to shape the "simple" role from the "play of styles." These vague images of the "simple" role become clearer and more concrete in Pushkin's later years: in his endeavor to build an independent "home," the poet expected his family to share his ideal of a "simple" people (narod). This notion of the private "home" is reminiscent of Lotman's view of his school, which was sustained by certain moral values in the prevailing mood of the Thaw period. Although criticized by reviewers for overemphasizing Pushkin's conscious construction of his life through acting roles, Lotman applies the same idea to the biography of Karamzin. This book scarcely ascribes Karamzin's "life-construction" to the theatrical culture of the nobility but instead explains it as a part of the legacy of medieval Christianity handed down to modern Russian literature. In this tradition, a text can appeal to readers only when its author lives a life relevant to the text. It is true that phenomena similar to "life-construction" are found in various periods of Russian literature, such as the Symbolists' "life-creation," Nikolai Evreinov's "theater in life" and Nikolai Chuzhak's "life-building," but as the latter's close relationship with the thesis of Socialist Realism shows, the active orientation to change life according to textual ideas can have a suppressive effect. This dilemma of active "life-construction" is embodied in the two-fold image of the "simple" role: recreation of existing norms or styles, and devotion to the moral values of the narod. They respectively correspond to Isaiah Berlin's notions of negative freedom (from restraint) and positive freedom (to self-determination). Lotman has repeatedly discussed play and contingency (especially latterly), which enable one to have plural options and therefore freedom of choice (negative freedom). In choosing one option, one then needs certain values that justify one's decision. Particular values help one to be an autonomous subject (positive freedom), just as the Tartu School was sustained by such moral values as "sincerity" and "universality." On the other hand, Berlin points out that positive freedom would lead to the imposition of one's values on others. This pitfall of positive freedom that parallels the possible suppressive effect of "life-construction" is all the more serious for Lotman for the fact that his school's moral values are shared with the "official" sphere. Aware of these dangers, Lotman nevertheless considers it vital to establish autonomy by employing positive freedom for securing plural options in late Soviet society.