Korablev’s monograph is comprised of essays unified by the theme of the polyvalent processes currently transpiring in Russian philology. These processes are not only characteristic of scholarly research, but even more so of the political life of the country. I refer to the return of Russian society to Christianity.

          The first part of Professor Korablev’s monograph is called “The Philology of a Secret,” while the last part treats the Donetsk Philological School. Professor Korablev believes that the time has arrived when philology can no longer exist without introducing the accomplishments of history and contemporary religious thought into its scholarly activity. If the element of religious culture were to be eschewed from philology, philological scholarship could not further develop. Korablev derives the methodological  bases of this precept from the teaching of Mikhail Bakhtin about the dialogism of cultures. The theorist wrote: “Dialogic thought is equally necessary in the religious sphere, in science and in art – without it there can be no resolution of ecumenical problems, without it science becomes dangerous and art inferior.” (Bakhtin, Estetika slonesnogo tvorchestva, 1979, 6).

                  Constant references not only to Bakhtin but also to Sergei Averintsev are characteristic of Korablev’s writing: “Philology is a special science, directly connected with art and religion as a “means to understanding”” (Averintsev). This supports the idea of interaction among and mutual completion of other means, even those that are incompatible with philology, so that it also corresponds to its own purpose. To this end it must extend beyond the borders of its own scientific objectives per se (Bakhtin 6).

         As we can see, the scholar sets as the task of philology that it be a science, no matter how much science in this sense deviates from its primary purpose. The author of the monograph frankly steers in the direction of declaring philology to be a metaphysical science: “the problem is that it is impossible to embrace being while remaining within the confines of scientific method as such [italics mine].

          Korablev’s chapter entitled “On the Religious and Scientific Nature of Philological Knowledge” is extremely interesting. Here the author speaks of the discussion conducted among such leading philologists in the country, such as Sergei Bocharov and Valentin Nepomniashchy. Korablev cites Bocharov: “In other words, ideological interference in the affairs of art and science of a sort well know since Soviet days has been taking place” (20). Bocharov points, in a word, to the possibility of a transmutation of philology into ideology, that is to say, at the undesirable consequences of the aforementioned “radical expansion” of the latter.

          Korablev consistently suggests extremely original structural schemes by means of which the development of literature is represented as a certain unified organic process – full of religious content, it should be noted. Here is one example of such a structure: “‘Art for art’s sake” was the spiritual genotype of creativity, “art for the people” was its earthly correlative, Slavophilism addressed itself to the memory and proto-memory of the nation, Westernization impelled society to look to the future and wed itself with world civilization. On the whole it realized a marriage of  Heaven and Earth, of the Native and the Universal, it brought about the realization of the life of literature” (49-50).       

          One assumption the book admits reveals the authors obvious sympathy for Nepomniashchny’s point of view: “Let us assume that the third testament is not a poetic license, not a metaphor, not a rhetorical turn of phrase, but that Russian literature of the 19th-20th centuries revealed to the world a certain Truth, comparable to the revelations of the old and new testaments” (50).  The problem tied to such an assumption is that the limits of philology are radically expanded here, not allowing the application of known scholarly methods to test such assertions.

         The author’s thesis in this monograph is that religious feeling leads to the “super-canonization” of Pushkin and other Russian writers:  “Pushkin is the prophet of Isaiah, Gogol  of Jeremiah, Dostoevsky of Ezekiel, Tolstoy of Daniel. The Golden Age isomorphs into the New Testament, the Silver Age into the New Testament” (53).      Strange as it may seem, such an approach does not stop the scholar from suggesting this very interesting pattern: “Symbolism overcomes  Pushkin, acmeism rethinks him, futurism repeals him, and then “various forms” lead us back to Pushkin again” (54).  According to Korablev, Pushkin has not yet been properly read, so he proposes a Pushkinian reading of Pushkin, but as far as I can tell he does not suggest any exact criteria for a such a reading.

        One of the best parts of the book consists of the chapters devoted to the work of Mikhail Bulgakov. Particularly interesting is the chapter dedicated to the “Notes of the Young Doctor”. Reading between the lines of these notes, the author brilliantly demonstrates the genuine religious text in which the letter of the Evangelist appears clearly deciphered by Bulgakov. Inasmuch as the analysis is carried out in the language of philology, without reference to the implicit and expected religious feeling of the reader, the argument seems unusually convincing and extremely interesting.

          The last part of the book is devoted to the Donetsk Philological School. It should be noted that Korablev is the creator of a new genre which might be characterized thus: a scholarly conference as a documentary drama. He has published several books, each written in a lofty literary style (here, the genre realizes the dream of Mikhail Bakhtin: the protagonists are totally free in relation to their author). Their monologues, dialogues,  arguments, jokes, and humor are profoundly intellectual, full of philosophizing and philologizing. Broken down into scenes, accompanied by witty authorial commentaries, these playlets will go down as one of the outstanding manifestations of Russian culture. Korablev’s narrative about this aspect of his creative work is constructed in a lively and engrossing manner.

         In short, this relatively young professor, chairman of a department of literary theory, author of several monographs and six volumes of “documentary-theoretical prose” (if Aleksandr Korablev’s “scholarly dramas” can be thus characterized) appears to be one of the most remarkable figures in contemporary Russian philology.

Опубликовано:  Slavic and East European Journal. – Vol. 55. – N 2. – Summer, 2011. – Pp.302-303.


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