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The Geometric Alphabet of Cultural Landscapes -Reviews


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"[This title] gives us . . . a measure of the intellectual renewal stirring in the parched gardens of Russian academe....The wide variety of articles included here constitutes a kind of geographic smorgasbord. Sergei Rogachev takes us into the 'heraldic "theater" of Russian cities,' while Boris Rodoman explores the 'art of travel.' Two other authors present us with highly imaginative articles devoted to 'space drawings.' Victor Sholpo takes an almost stratospheric flight into 'the harmony of global space,' and Andrei Bokov proceeds on a very imaginative search for the 'geometric alphabet of cultural landscapes.' Shades of Thomas Kuhn’s scientific paradigms appear in the background of both of these essays. They share the assumption that cultural determinants inform our vision of the world and emerge in such divergent places as tectonic-plate theories of geology and architectural ordering of human space.

"The chairman of the editorial board, Sergei Krotov, urges the readers to look for a 'Russian concept of space.' He suggests that his country’s cultural experience has brought to that fundamental philosophical category the 'characteristic Russian romantic conceptions of expanse, distance, breadth.' In that spirit, the editor calls to our attention two voices from Russia’s pre-Soviet past, the artist Maksimilian Voloshin and the theologian Pavel Florenskii. The former offers a historical-cultural portrait of the Crimea, where he founded his artists’ colony, Koktebel, amid the land’s magnificent landscape (one of his beautiful watercolors is included). Florenskii’s contribution in an intellectual tour de force explaining the meaning of the geometrical point. Readers may wonder as this example of his highly abstract, metatheoretical dictionary of symbols (the 'Symbolarium'): I marveled time and again at his astute application of this metaphysics of the pictorial plane to the interpretation of western art (again aided here by magnificent illustrations).

"The journal’s self-reflective motif emerges clearly in the final two articles, devoted to the English Marxist geographer David Harvey. Smirnyagin is clearly enthralled by the spectacle of a radical Marxist scholar, who employs an ideological phraseology that has 'got up our noses . . . and causes nothing but disgust as a set of cliches,' writing a scholarly best-seller on The Condition of Postmodernity. . . .

"geoGraffity convinced me that the spread of western theory in Russian intellectual circles will stimulate in rapid order an exciting and creative dialogue." - Daniel Brower, Slavic Review, 1996