The paper raises the issue of signs and symbolic meaning in developing human personality. From the standpoint of cultural historical psychology personality as a kind of totality of subjectivity may be considered as a higher mental function that should be disclosed in terms of its historical genesis and the cultural resources that are to develop it. The role of the plastic image as a cultural means of allowing a person to conceptualize himself/herself and his/her place in the world as a kind of integrity and value is showed. The genesis of the plastic sign of literal physical transformation (tattoos, etc.) to more conventional forms when the plastic image takes on a symbolic value (mask, dance, actor’s part in the theater and others) is considered. Its history can reveal such representations of a person as personality and individuality. The emergence of the most rudimentary forms of cultural behaviour demonstrates an active, transforming the relation of person to him/herself. Bodily changes, cultural «mutilation» and other transformations of physical features are the first signs and symptoms of separation from the nature and development of identity and mechanism of identification with the family name and the image of the totem. The sculptural portrait and anthropomorphic images point to the allocation of the individual family, society and the awareness of a person as a citizen of the state, make their own decisions and to responsibility for oneself. Further theatrical culture shaped a view of a person as an actor who can carry a role without merging with it completely, taking a decision from different positions.
The paper presents the detailed comments on the review of L.S. Vygotsky on the famous Russian ballerina E.V. Geltser’s performance during her Gomel tour in the autumn of 1922. We present a reconstruction of the cultural context which is quite essential for understanding multiple lines of the plot covered in the review of Vygotsky.In the analysis of the text the importance of the distinction between artificial and natural movements introduced by L.S. Vygotsky’s when considering the uniqueness of expressive movement in the choreography is stressed.
It is shown that the uniqueness of cathartic experience that has become a central theme in L.S. Vygotsky’s research monograph “Psychology of Art” (1925), in this review is examined using the analysis of classical dance perception. However, we fix the methodological importance for the analysis of Vygotsky’s account of the existing opposition between the classical and the “so-called untaught natural dance” (A. Duncan, M. Fokine), which in turn allows to designate the fundamental differences between “spiritual” and “soulful” experience. The comments to the review are equipped by the detailed references to the theoretical works of the classicists of the Russian theatre (e.g. A.Tairov, Vs. Meyerhold), where the problem of expressive movement and gesture is also given special focus. Analysis of L.S. Vygotsky’s representations on the fact that it is the “indifference” of the ballet to the natural movement, puts it at a particular level, whereas the detachment from everyday things brings to the experience of the great psychological meaning (“not soulful but spiritual”), and thus allows to link his early work with the ideas he developed in his later book “The Psychology of Art”.
Referring to S. Frank’s works, he rhapsodizes about the nature of artistic experience that might fulfill “the incompleteness and imperfection” of a particular situation. Exactly in these comments to the review L.S. Vygotsky’s juxtaposition of “soulful” and “spiritual” being the fundamental importance for perceiving the psychological characteristics of cathartic experiences in the perception of art is fixed.
In addition, the review comprises the specific use of symbolic means for understanding the processes that have been developed by L.S. Vygotsky in the following works: “The history of the development of higher mental functions” (1930), “Thinking and Speech” (1934).