Andrei Zorin. Bereavement and "emotional community"

The concept of «emotional community» suggested by Barbara Rosenwein proved to be extremely heuristically productive and, therefore, became very popular. Ms. Rosenwein distinguished between «social communities» defined by homogeneity of conditions and social norms and «textual communities» specified due to their focus on common symbolic models. It seems that it makes sense to enlarge this list by «memorial communities» organized by common memory practices.               

In the majority of cases, the memory of common loss becomes the symbolic centre for such a memorial community. The category of «trauma» in its modern perception does not seem convenient for the analysis due to both, its distinct Freud connotations, as well as to its bond with certain practices of political violence. Whereas loss is a structural component of memory which, in accordance to Paul Ricœur, is organized by paradoxical unity of absence and presence.   

In intergenerational communication a «memorial» community is inevitably transformed into a «textual» one as the memory of loss is secured in the appropriate texts and legends, but in the ritual the switchback is effected – a textual community again experiences itself as a memorial. Due to evident reasons, this inter-transition in the construction of the emotional communities of the Christian world takes on a fundamental significance.        

The construction of emotional micro communities around certain private losses, apparently, represents a phenomenon going deep into the human history and manifesting itself with one or another degree of incidence in the majority of well-known cultures. However, the appearance of such types of memorial communities which, on the one hand, protect themselves from the outsiders and on the other hand present themselves to the «big world» as the model of sensations becomes an interesting phenomenon of «post-Rousseau epoch» (in accordance with Nietzsche definition, Rousseau was the first man of the New time).                 

In the history of Russian literature the last decade of the 18th century was marked with appearance and rapid diffusion of the whole class of works which, on the one hand, were meant for the narrow circle of similarly feeling souls, sharing the common experience of loss, but, on the other hand, were published and presented to the public. The marked esotericism with the exquisite game of the quasi-documentary and the quasi-functional resulting from it was the basis for literary strategy uniting the most different authors. Most often, a sort of locally venerated cult of something gone away that became an object of worship is found in the centre of their narration.

Quite possibly, that Masonic lodges with their elaborated commemorative rituals uniting, as it was noted by A.M. Pyatigorsky, pronounced exclusivity with equally persistent propaganda of their own closedness were a form of transition from religious communities to such family friendly emotional communities. The classical writers of Russian non-fiction of the late 18th century, such as Karamzin, Muravjev, Raditschev and some others, were, in one way or another, connected with Masonic community.