Perpetual Nabokov

Writer’s Change of Language: Nabokov and Others

In the journal of proceedings of the linguistic anthropology symposium in 2016 at UT, my first writing on Nabokov out there.

He is at the interception of identities, which coincides for the writer with the interception of languages and ways of writing: English as opposed to Russian but also as opposed to American (as opposed to French).

Teaching Dreams

I had an idea of organizing an innovatory course that I think might work. The professor assigns fifteen readings per one seminar, but only one of them is done by every student–all other readings are distributed among the smaller groups. The conversation in class is structured around this central reading, but with a requirement for students to bring it in connection with the readings they did specifically. It requires a greater deal of work on behalf of the (already overloaded) professor, but students get to realize that (1) people come to the very same discussion, even having a common ground, from very different perspectives, and (2) there is a much broader field of knowledge on the same issue than they could be reasonably afforded to learn in any given moment.

Selection of Photographs: Process

Today I will have the first bunch of Siberian photographs printed. Looks like I won’t be able to go through all folders, like I planned. I am getting tired from skimming photographs.

I always wanted to go through all of them and make a “final selection,” to divide good from bad. But it is impossible, it turns out. There will always be omissions, and always selection will be not final / not draconian enough.

Each carries a memory, but also photographs enigmatically record and carry memories of how one looked at them before. It’s endless layering of memories.

I have selected Siberian photos before for different websites, but in my previous selections I was greedy. I chose one photo out of each series, because I wanted to preserve the event. But photography is impressionistic media; it’s not about information, it’s about impression.

First Tooth

When I am in my fieldwork, the news reaches me that my child has lost his first tooth and checked himself twice in the mirror that day (which he usually does not).

It was a time of terror in my childhood when I was losing my teeth, and I wish I could offer him support and my presence at this difficult time. I saw nightmares; I am quite certain that everyone suffers through this time, and only later, as an adult, forgets about it. Something happens to your body that you do not control. A metamorphosis transfigures you, and it entails these painful and disturbing little losses.

My mom told me that when she or her brother or her sister lost a tooth, they ran to the room from which there was a ladder to the attic. They threw their teeth to the square entrance of the attic and said:

“Мишка, мишка, на тобi костяний зуб, а менi дай залiзний.”

(“Mouse, mouse, take my bony tooth, and give me back an iron tooth,” Ukrainian.)

“We all have iron teeth now,” She said smiling, referring to either veneered or prosthetic teeth she and her siblings have.

Speech Genres: Individual vs Social

I think Bakhtin [intentionally, for his own purposes] misreads Saussure when he says: “Therefore, the single utterance, with all its individuality and creativity, can in no way be regarded as a completely free combination of forms of language, as is supposed, for example, by Saussure (and by many other linguists after him), who juxtaposed the utterance (la parole), as a purely individual act, to the system of language as a phenomenon that is purely social and mandatory for the individual.” (Bakhtin, 1986, 81; cursive is author’s).

 

References

Bakhtin, Mikhail. (1986) “The Problem of Speech Genres.” In Speech Genres and Other Late Essays. Austin: University of Texas Press. 60-102.

Starbucks Durée

Starbucks is a cozy nook of a paradise for a citizen. It mimics home space yet is public. Since they are robots, citizens do not eat. They only have to show from time to time that there is nothing human from which they are completely estranged. This is where paper coffee cups and sugar substitutes come.

A surge of appetite—not hunger—accurate cones, rolls, candies, slices of cinnamon or chocolate bread, chalk on the blackboard: the menu. Starbucks is a culmination of the institutionalized eating of sweets.

The urban deity inhabits the mixer. Deity ex mixer.

Starbucks is not unique: it is ubiquitous, a specially organized shared space, like other corporations: McDonald’s, Wal Mart, Whole Foods. Starbucks is not unique and therefore Starbucks unifies. Globalization is written in the sheen of its surfaces with an invisible marker.

International corporations, such as malls, or Starbucks, produce spaces that never change, know no time of the day, nor season. Interiors are designed with intention to keep the customer unaware of floating of time. Starbucks creates durée around you, affect of sorts.

Žižek

A figure of a philosopher that Žižek represents or rather recreates—sniffing, scratching, making erratic gestures—is dimly evocative. We suspected all along that a philosopher is a strange personage. Who could be satisfied with just an ordinary looking and normally behaving philosopher? Who needs such a philosopher? A philosopher should be an unkempt, publicly masturbating, smelly individual, by the very least. Free range, organic. This sort of thing. You got the idea.

Now, I am not saying Žižek is all of it, or anything at all, for that matter. In a way, he might well be the most celebrated popular, ideal capitalist philosopher, appealing to the sentiments of the crowd in the circus of solemn entertainments; a clown, a jester; a weird, eccentric professor of a number of disciplines; fascinated movie-watcher and mass-culture critical consumer. A wondrous individual, however you would stare.