Myth of Another Culture (theory)

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Aesthetic (literary) image of another culture

It is a peculiar, creative, aesthetic embodiment of the alter-national myth, partly determined by the cultural and historical features of the epoch, partly by the genre canon, and (to this or that extent) by the author’s conceptions and creative purposes. The alter-national myth exists, so to say, above particular literary images and, at the same time, permeates them.  Unlike stereotypes, literary images of another culture are, for the most part, ‘multidimensional’[1] and ambivalent in their characteristics and attitudes. They naturally embody the author’s aesthetic and philosophical position and, as a rule, reflect the meanings of different layers of the alter-national myth in a complicated, ambiguous way.  Literary images of another national culture are, primarily, images of an alter world, not of an alien one.



Principles of existence are the basic factors which provide the formation and development of the alter-cultural myth. There are five major principles to be distinguished:

  1. The principle of cultural and historic coordination – means that the alter-national myth, in general, and each of its layers is a form of the real experience of ‘meeting’ another country, another culture. It does not mean, though, that inside certain layers there can be no deliberate, artificial shaping (e.g. through mass media) of the received semantic impulses.
  2. The principle of systematic coherence – means that the basic images and notions in each of the myth’s layers, as well we all these layers themselves, are interconnected and, as such, work in the field of the national culture as an integral system.
  3. The principle of sub-systematic coherence – means that the alter-national myth is formed with ‘layers’ – sub-systems, referring to certain stages of exploration of another culture.
  4. The principle of the myth’s memory – corresponds to that no significant semantic element, neither the ‘layer’ can disappear from the myth, but can be irrelevant (‘forgotten’) or dramatically reconceptualized in a certain text or at a certain period.
  5. The principle of adaptation – is connected with that the alter-myth tends to adapt to new cultural, ideological, social and historical realities and, therefore, is apt to having its layers reinterpreted or to acquiring (engendering) new semantic sets (layers) in the process (and according to the stages) if exploring another culture.

[1] Valery B. Zemskov, Obraz Rossii “na perelome’ vremen (Teoretichesky aspect: retseptsiya i representatsiya ‘drugoi’ kul’tury), in Novyye rossiiskiye gumanitarnyye issledovaniya. Literaturovedeniye. IMLI RAN, 2006, no. 1. URL:

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