The title is only loosely related today’s conversations, but I like it. in Ana’s copy (the 1924 translation) it reads “Hey Mathematician! Dreaming?” which doesn’t sound quite as good.
We opened with an overview of Hutchings’ “Structure and Design in a Soviet Dystopia”, which approaches We as an illustration of Zamyatin’s critical principles – an embodiment (in its design, structure) of the author’s effort “to forge a new aesthetic appropriate to an epoch of technology and speed” – in other words, “the modern imagination, obsessed with physics” – this, notably, in spite of the critical/satirical position he allegedly takes on Futurism (Italian and Russian) and Constructivism.
– Zamyatin’s text is unarguably sparse and condensed – streamlined into a rapid and efficient journalistic format replete with headline bullets synopsizing each compact “record”. This captures the immediacy and suspense of events unfolding in real time, contributing a velocity to the text that makes it into a sort of material projectile or vehicle of its own. views from an airplane, a car window.
– the brevity and speed, coupled with typographic associations of blurred imagery and fragmentation: the repeated use of dashes and dotted lines: “today’s viewer and reader will know how to complete the picture, fill in the words…” – Zamyatin.
revolutionary properties of art, the literal connotations of “revolution” within the structures Zamyatin imagines: specifically glass spaceship INTEGRAL:
a graceful, elongated ellipsoid made of our glass-as eternal as gold, as flexible as steel. I saw the transverse ribs and the longitudinal stringers being attached to the body from within; in the stern they were installing the base for the giant rocket motor . . . .
With fire they sliced and welded the glass walls, angles, ribs, brackets. I saw tranparent glass monster cranes rolling slowly along glass rails. . . . (We, 82)
– with comparisons made to the greatest Constructivist monument never built – Tatlin’s tower (Monument to the Third International)
– both function as propaganda machines; the notions of interplanetary vs. terrestrial space called forward here might be useful to further explore – how does the former abstract into the latter? – I don’t know if this makes any sense.
– on the obsession with form / structure with a certain disregard for the element of human inhabitance – a kind of environmental determinism, whereby the parameters of a construction, (of a city, of OneState) dictate the actions of its denizens.
juxtapositions of the rational/irrational made through geometrical associations: the euclidian angularity of OneState and the matter it contains vs. curvilinearity of the abstract: “I didn’t hear that laugh, only saw it with my eyes. I saw the curve of that laugh, ringing, steep, resilient and lively as a whip” (30).
the “fluid” that runs through the novel’s dream-irrational moments . . . !?
employment of mathematical symbols to do semantic work:
(- -) the idea of synthesis, vs. (+) affirmation and (-) negation
√-1 (literally, an imaginary unit, or as D-503 puts it, an “invisible solid”) as a site of existential angst, a rupture in the protagonist’s maintenance of logic and reality. protracting this into the significance of textuality:
“On the surface of the paper, in the two-dimensional world, these lines are right next to each other. But in another world. . . I’m starting to lose my feel for figures.” (60)
Thanks for organizing the notes Matthew! It’s really helpful to have it all here like this
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