Cognitive Poetics and Cultural Memory
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Cognitive Poetics and Cultural Memory

Russian Literary Mnemonics

Mikhail Gronas

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eBook - ePub

Cognitive Poetics and Cultural Memory

Russian Literary Mnemonics

Mikhail Gronas

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About This Book

In this volume, Gronas addresses the full range of psychological, social, and historical issues that bear on the mnemonic existence of modern literary works, particularly Russian literature. He focuses on the mnemonic processes involved in literary creativity, and the question of how our memories of past reading experiences shape the ways in which we react to literary works. The book also examines the concrete mnemonic qualities of poetry, as well as the social uses to which poetry memorization has historically been put to use. This study will appeal to scholars of cognitive poetics, Russian literature, and cultural studies.

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Mnemonic Critics

Conceptual Metaphor in Literary Judgments
Literary schools live not by ideas, but by tastes…. one can create schools out of nothing but tastes, without any ideas. They say: Faith moves mountains, but I say, with relation to poetry, taste moves mountains.
—Osip Mandelshtam (1967, 2: 257)


In the first two chapters, I will be putting forward a cognitive (and mnemonic: I will often use the terms interchangeably) reevaluation of the concepts of literary taste and the canon. Unlike in the eighteenth century, choosing taste as the subject of a study today may require a justification.
Here is how the modern Encyclopedia of Aesthetics describes the unsightly old age of the notion that once called into being aesthetics itself:
After Kant, idealist aesthetics had other ways of explaining what is aesthetic. The unification of taste with judgment is pulled apart again…. The determination of what is a true work no longer depends on taste, which is reduced to the role of refined sensibility. In the mid-twentieth century taste briefly reappears as a matter of concern just because it is understood not to be rule-governed and plays no theoretical role. (Townsend 1998, 359; emphasis added)
Likewise in the domain of literary studies (where it once reigned as well), by the middle of the twentieth century the stock in taste had bottomed out. Northrop Frye’s influential Anatomy of Criticism is implacable:
This sort of thing cannot be part of any systematic study…. The history of taste is no more a part of the structure of criticism than the Huxley-Wilberforce debate is a part of the structure of biological science. (1...

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