Academic journal article Trames

A Critical Reaction to Laine Randjarv's Historicity of Epistolarity from an African Perspective

Academic journal article Trames

A Critical Reaction to Laine Randjarv's Historicity of Epistolarity from an African Perspective

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

In that paper, titled "Across the Borders: Unfolding the Personality of Creative Intellectuals through their Correspondence - the Epistolary Heritage of Tuudur Vettik" and published in volume 16 number 2 of Trames: A Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences in 2012, Laine Randjarv (2012:97-123) tries to provide a scholarly analysis of the correspondence (1959-1975) between two outstanding Estonian cultural figures, namely the conductors Roland Laasmae and Tuudur Vettik, and the correspondence (1955-1967) of Tuudur Vettik with his wife Lonni Vettik-Paigaline. She offers a critical analysis of the contents of the private written conversations between the three related people and argues for the viability of such correspondences as sensible and reliable sources of history, which hitherto had remained untapped. The choice of Laine Randjarv's paper is motivated by the fact that it is one of the most viable articulations of the emerging discussion surrounding the employment of private letters as sources of history in a manner in which it could be appreciated by scholars of history and social sciences even in developed nations in recent time.

Be that as it may, the focus of my article is not to object to the nature and contents of the original correspondences, but to offer a qualified acceptance of the view advocated by Randjarv's theoretical position that personal and private correspondences can provide a reliable and formidable source of history. This paper employs a seemingly comparative and consequentialist phenomenological approach to accentuate the conditions under which the border crossing phenomenon is logically possible, which as it were, is unobtrusive in Randjarv's analysis regarding the correspondences. The paper also argues that her understanding of intellectual border crossing is a simplistic and naive application of the Cartesian dualism. Since Randjarv's paper rather than Randjarv herself is specifically the focus of this review, the paper, in this article is sometimes referred to as EHTV representing the last four words of its title. 2

2. Summary of Randjarv

According to EHTV, and borrowing from the position of Kendrick Hissani (2007:195), even though like all other literary activities that derive their meanings from how they are situated within cultural beliefs, values, and practices, personal letters have been historically widespread owing to the fact that it is one of the earliest forms of writing as a way of communication in human history (Hissani, 2007:195 as used in Randjarv, 2012:97-123). Nevertheless, letters have previously not been considered as intellectually significant and reliable sources of history. EHTV therefore canvasses the position that private correspondence as a common literary genre denotes texts that bridge numerous seen and unseen geographical, ideological or social borders throughout the human history and therefore are equally viable sources of history. The paper argues grimly, citing Barton and Hall, that the literary significance of letter-writing can be seen in that it has been widespread historically, being one of the earliest forms of writing, which pays to the topic of letters, as well as to the role of the writer in this process (Barton and Hall, 2000:1-7, as used in Randjarv, 2012:97-123). Following this line of argument, EHTV believes that better attention and prime of place should in modern time be given to personal letters as sources of history, more so because at the time of their composition they were not meant for the public eye, and therefore tell the truth about life, describe the inner realm of the writer and open up a window to his personal experiences and innermost reflections, capturing the writers' frame of mind, their concealed motifs and goals. As a result, private correspondences are of inestimable value to the epistemology of history, especially regarding complicated historical times like that of Estonia under the Soviet occupation. …

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