Myth of Another Culture (theory)

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Russian studies in imagology do not strictly follow European imagological studies, but, partly, distance from them. While European scholars (Hugo Diserink, Danielle Pageaux, Joep Leersen) tend to research ‘social and ideological functions’ of the images of other cultures (including those in literature),[1] Russian scholars (Nina Mikhal’skaya, Viktor Khorev, Valery Zemskov) keep to the traditional approach referring to the literary image as to the aesthetic phenomenon. That means the following:

a) in Western works a literary image of another culture is treated as a form, embodiment and means of transmission of certain ideology, as means of spreading ‘stereotypes’, as a constructed false ‘mirage’ (Hugo Diserink) of another culture;

b) in Russian imagological studies a literary image of another culture is treated, primarily, as a complicated aesthetic phenomenon, as a way to receive and understand another national culture that connects the national ‘self’ with the ‘other’ in the artistic world of a literary work;

c) the two points of view are united by treating any (including a literary one) image in its close connection to the tradition of another culture’s perception in national literature and culture, as well as by the idea that a literary image does not only receive and reproduce this tradition but also can influence it.


In our studies of the national myth of Russia we are based on the concept of Russian scholars, and it can be specified in a number of basic notions.


Myth of another culture (Alter-national myth)

a) It is a mental set located in the collective consciousness of the people, which fixes national or socially significant historical, political, aesthetic experience of exploring the world of another country, her culture and her people;

b) It is a sustainable mental set based on notions of the positive ‘national self’, generated by the collective consciousness in the process of exploring another national culture, expressed through images, symbols, stereotypes, plots, etc. and capable of preserving old and developing new semantic complexes (layers).


Semantic complex (layer) of the alter-national myth

It is a system of typical images and ideas engendered by the experience of exploring another national culture (country, people) at a certain historical stage of its perception. Forms of its expression are to be found in works of art and other meaningful texts of a certain epoch.  Each subsequent layer of the alter-national myth is connected with all the previous layers by its basic (core) semantic set and interrelates with them in the artistic world of a literary text.

[1] Valery P. Trykov, Status imagologii v sovremennoi gumanitaristike, in Educatio. Filologicheskiye nauki, vol. 4, no. 5. p.  117–120. P. 118.

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