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II Seminar “Topology of the Cultural Memory”: “The Language and the Memory”

Опубликовано: 28.08.2018

The second seminar “Topology of the Cultural Memory” was held on the April 26, 2018 in the Institute of Philosophy of the Saint Petersburg State University, with the support of the Biography Research Centre “AITIA”.



Nowadays in the context of discussions around the phenomenon of memory in cultural studies, philosophy, history, literature and philology great attention is paid to the issue of authenticity. This issue was also under the consideration at the seminar. At the present time people tend to share the view that the authenticity can be reached and experienced only through a personal biography. The memory is actually always surrounded by and preserved by the biographical stories attached to the corresponding topos. But the confrontation with the authenticity goes always hand in hand with a kind of “torment”, which should be endured in order to preserve the memory. Probably, the memory is necessary to literally “feel”. Thereby the seminar participants turned to the question of the significance of the language, which is used in memory studies as a philosophical category. 



At the beginning the discussion focused around the following question: is the memory generated through a trauma or rather through a pain? The seminar participants debated if the memory is preserved by the feeling of guilt and accusation, or rather by the own bodily experience, physical resonance. In this regard L.E. Artamoshkina suggested that the memory should be considered as a “torment” because otherwise our corporeality could not be involved and the memory is considered as a something abstract.  


After that the discussion turned towards the questions of biographical narratives, images and styles, individual biographical vocabulary, individual author vocabulary, individual researcher vocabulary. In the context of the discussion V.P. Leonov stressed that the individual language of the biography could be used to study the dynamic of the cultural changes, which could be of great importance for oral history and memory studies as a whole.  


Among the issues discussed at the seminar was also the role of the landscape in the memory preservation: how architecture acts as a topos of memory, what is the role of ruins and ruined spaces or on the other hand reconstructed and new buildings (as a significant example for this discussion was used the building of the Institute of Philosophy itself).    


One part of the seminar was dedicated to the book “The Word in the History of the Russian Spirituality and Culture” written by O. B. Sokurova. The author examined the unique language of A. Platonov, analyzing such aspects as intentionally language “foolishness” and “lyrical literature melody”. In consideration of findings of modern linguists that the initial function of words was not informative but persuasive, O.B. Sokurova studied different levels which a word can have: word as a concept, word as a lexeme, word as an artwork, word as a complex phenomenon of the culture, and, finally, word as the logos. Also other significant issues were mentioned such as the space-time coordinates of the Russian language and the connection between the national language and the natural environment and the vastness of the territory the nation inhabits. 


In the framework of the seminar also drafts of the research works of graduate students and young academics of the Institute of Philosophy concerning memory studies were discussed. L.Y. Yakovleva considered the topology of the cultural dialogue and its representation. Her research project is based on the diaries and travel notes, which have in common the metaphor of “the Way”. A.I. Rezvukhina analyzed different aspects of the Kaliningrad urban space, which experienced some “painful rupture” in connection with the transfer of the territory from Germany to Russia. She suggested that ruins and their integration into the urban space can be considered as a way to overcome this “rupture”.  She also raised some terminological questions: which terminology can be used to describe “the memory of the city”, and which terms are more appropriate to the analysis of ruins – more abstract and psychological “trauma” or such terms as “wound” and “scar of the city” which are more connected to pain and to some physical aspects. 


At the conclusion of the seminar the materials for the discussion at the next seminar were chosen: 

  • film Sobibor” directed by K.Y. Knabensky
  • book “Aviator” written by E. Vodolazkin
  • book “Under the Endless Sky. Images of the Universe in the Russian Art” written by V.V. Baidin
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