Accueil > Recherche > Professeurs invités > Invités 2017-2018 > Kirill OSPOVAT

Dernière modification : 15 décembre 2017


Université Humboldt de Berlin (Allemagne)
Invité de THALIM – septembre et octobre 2017

Kirill Ospovat - invité septembre octobre 2017

Durant les mois de septembre et octobre 2017, le labex TransferS et Ada Ackerman (THALIM) accueillent Kirill OSPOVAT, de l’Institut d’études slaves, Université Humboldt de Berlin (Allemagne).



Sovereignty as Practice and Manifestation : Terror, Reform, and the Poetics of Rule in Early Modern Russia and Europe

This lecture course will address the cultural archeology of royal sovereignty enacted during the Westernizing reforms of Russia’s first emperor, Peter the Great (1672-1725) and his successors who returned Russia to the “concert of Europe”. Diverging from usual historical accounts, I will pursue a comparative, interdisciplinary and theoretically charged perspective. Situated between political history, history of ideas, cultural semiotics and the Foucauldian archeology of politics, or governmentality, the course will explore the foundational notions of the political which permeated and shaped the practices and symbolic visions of royal rule. Concentrating on a single period and a series of closely-related episodes and texts, I will offer an in-depth historical hermeneutics erasing the boundaries between knowledge and power, action and representation, politics and aesthetics. I will explore the mutual dependence of political authority, forms of knowledge, and modes of subjectivity. In doing this, I will inscribe Petrine Russia into a broad picture of early modern visions of sovereignty (Machiavelli, Bodin, Bacon, Hobbes) and knowledge (Descartes, Locke, Leibniz) as well as their interpretations in the work of twentieth- and twenty first-century scholars and cultural theorists (Carl Schmitt, Michel Foucault, Giorgio Agamben, Yury Lotman).


Play Session 1. Introduction : Sovereignty, Knowledge, Subjectivity
Mardi 12 septembre, 18h-20h, ENS salle Assia Djebar
Séance modérée par Marie-Karine Schaub, Maître de Conférences en Histoire à l’Université Paris Créteil-Val de Marne, enseigne l’Histoire de la Russie et des Relations Internationales à l’époque moderne

In the first lecture, I will outline the basis of my approach which juxtaposes political history of (post-) Petrine Russia with conceptual paradigms developed across early modern Europe. Taking the well-documented Petrine import of various Western theoretical discourses into Russia as a starting point, I will explore these discourses as a key to Peter’s exercise of authority through reform. Reading Peter’s highly symbolic gestures, such as the foundation of Saint-Petersburg on uninhabited lands, with theorists such as Machiavelli and Descartes, I will illuminate the alignment of sovereignty and knowledge in the renewed visions of authority and subjectivity.


Session 2. The Kunstkammer of Terror : Political Anatomy in Petrine Russia
Mardi 19 septembre, 18h-20h, ENS salle Assia Djebar
Séance modérée par Anna Joukovskaïa, Chargée de recherches au CNRS (CERCEC)

In this session, I will investigate the Petrine appropriation of Western knowledge (mostly “natural philosophy”) institutionalized in the form of the Kunstkamera and the Petersburg Academy of Sciences, and its functions as a technology of power. Looking both at practices and discourses of Petrine science and their origins in the West, I will illuminate their fundamental alignment with royal terror culminating in Peter’s persecution and judicial murder of his son and heir, Alexei. Peter’s reforming sovereignty was largely conceived as a grand technology of the body, involving both intense physical intrusions into the bodies of subjects, and a set of ideas which explained rule and submission as a relationship between nature and “art”. Both the Kunstkamera and the Academy of Sciences (based on a project developed by Leibniz) perpetuated the Baconian identification of natural knowledge with “absolutist” statehood and thus manifested the symbolic foundations of Russia’s renewed monarchy.


Session 3. Execution of the Author : Absolutism, Allegory, and Terror under Anna Ioannovna
Mardi 26 septembre, 18h-20h, ENS salle Paul Langevin
Séance modérée par Rodolphe Baudin, Professeur d’Histoire de la littérature russe, université de Strasbourg

In this session, I will explore the complex theoretical relationship between absolute sovereignty, terror, and the possibility of political utterance. This tension underlays our theoretical assessments of both “absolutism” and “Enlightenment”, from Kant’s famous essay to twentieth-century works by Reinhart Koselleck and others. Addressing the reign of Anna Ioannovna, from the failed aristocratic revolution of 1730 to the political trial and execution of Artemii Volynskii in 1740, I will discuss the problematic role of discourse as a mode of political empowerment under “absolutism”, and the simultaneous dependence of authority on spectacular repression and discourse, from political theory to fiction. These discourses both provided an idiom for the regime’s general self-assessment and undermined their own possibility by insisting on total royal control over political utterance. This tension ultimately underlay the classicizing vision of literary poetics, conceptualized as the art of political equivocation : allegory.


Session 4. The Art of Sovereignty : Body Politic and the Poetic Imagination
Mardi 3 octobre, 18h-20h, ENS salle Paul Langevin
Séance modérée par Olga Medvedkova, Directrice de recherches au CNRS (centre Jean Pépin)

In the final session, I will illuminate the emergence of early Russian literary aesthetics from the visions of sovereignty. Early modern conceptions of statehood famously depended on fictions and tropes such as the “body politic”. This dependence unfolded in a zone of conflation and interplay between literary creation and political thinking which was by the late eighteenth century defined as aesthetics. I will explore the workings of this mechanism in the solemn ode, the genre which thanks to the oeuvre of Mikhail Lomonosov dominated early Russian secular letters. As a form of political imagination, the ode (based on Western models such as François Malherbe) was responsible for developing the system of tropes which had to submit the imagination of the populace to the new order. For Hobbes, this procedure was defined as “art”, and the state emerged as an “artificial man” as well as “a mortal god” assembled from individual subjects : Leviathan. The state was only conceivable in the form of a grandiose trope or fiction, and this understanding of statehood underwrote Lomonosov’s odic poetics and the emerging literary aesthetics in general.


  • Entrée libre dans la limite des places disponibles

    Mardis 12 et 19 septembre 2017
    salle Assia Djebar (rez-de-chaussée, aile Curie)

    Mardis 26 septembre et 3 octobre 2017
    salle Paul Langevin (1er étage, aile Ulm)

    ENS, 29 rue d’Ulm, 75005


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