Bakhtin, Internet & Web 2.0
Foucault in Post-AmeriKa
... POV + Tech [nonfiction]
Михаил Михайлович Бахтин (1895-1975) - крупнейший мыслитель XX века, работы которого в области философии и филологии ныне считаются классическими. Родился в Орле. Окончил филологический факультет Петроградского университета. С 1920 начал педагогическую и литературную деятельность. В книге "Проблемы творчества Достоевского" (1929) вводит в обиход филологии представление о "полифонизме" текста, то есть таком типе повествования, когда слова героев звучат как будто из разных независимых источников - так игра разных инструментов в ансамбле образует полифонию. В противовес "монологическому" слову большинства писателей проза Достоевского "диалогична". Философское понимание культуры как диалога, вырастающее у Бахтина из наблюдений над прозой Достоевского, привело к революции в социолингвистике и заложило основание современной культурологии.
Переворот в теории литературы вызвала работа Бахтина "Творчество Франсуа Рабле и народная культура средневековья и Ренессанса" (завершена в 1940, опубликована в 1965). Бахтин показал, что литература имеет корни в "народных праздниках" - карнавалах и мистериях древности. В целом работы Бахтина, посвященные исследованию западной литературной традиции, остаются революционными до сих пор и по сути открывают целый новый мир - мир мифо-ритуальной традиции, которую Бахтин увидел в карнавале и связал с народной смеховой культурой . Сейчас становится ясно, что дело не столько в "народности" этой культуры, сколько в ее традиционной обрядовости, которая позволяет передавать предания из глубины веков "живым примером", вне письменной фиксации.
Для творчества Бахтина была характерна социологическая направленность. Ряд своих работ, как считают некоторые исследователи-литературоведы, он опубликовал "под маской", пользуясь псевдонимами "В. Н. Волошинов" (книга "Философия и социология гуманитарных наук") и "П. Н. Медведев" (книга "Формальный метод в литературоведении"). В настоящее время исследованию творчества Бахтина посвящены десятки монографий, выходят специальные журналы, где наследие мыслителя рассматривается с разных сторон (например, журнал "Диалог, Карнавал, Хронотоп"). Наблюдается и определенное недопонимание позиции и представлений Бахтина - ряд западных исследователей упрощает его идеи, сводит открытия Бахтина, в частности его представления о карнавализации бытия, к воспеванию "телесного" и индивидуалистического начала в человеке. Сам же Бахтин в своей работе "К философии поступка" ясно говорил об "архитектонике личности" как необходимости жить не в сфере абстракций, а в реальном мире - и отвечать за свои поступки. Труды Бахтина дали мощный импульс развитию целого ряда научных дисциплин - и пусть некоторые идеи были намечены им приблизительно, ныне они получают развитие и продолжение в работах целых научных школ.
Бахтин писал о критерии истинности гуманитарного знания, ключевым моментом которого является "выяснение внутреннего ядра личности, в отношении которого возможно только чистое бескорыстие". Мировая наука получила в лице Бахтина не просто одного из наиболее глубоких мыслителей XX в. - русский ученый с его идеями культуры как диалога поставил проблему, к которой западная философия не была готова. Заметим, что сам ученый прожил жизнь, которая кажется в некотором смысле "сказочной", исключительной: он смог плодотворно работать все время, не поступаясь своим личным и научным достоинством.
С 1957 руководил кафедрой литературы Мордовского государственного университета в Саранске.
2007 -- 2008 --
Featured Pages : Theatre Theory, see Bakhtin File
(c) 2004 - 2007
SummaryThe Dialogic Imagination : Four Essays "This magnificently edited and translated volume can be the beginning of a dialogue that will go beyond the monographic works of Bakhtin available in English up to now." --Edward Wasiolek, Comparative Literature These essays reveal Mikhail Bakhtin (1895-1975)--known in the West largely through his studies of Rabelais and Dostoevsky--as a philosopher of language, a cultural historian, and a major theoretician of the novel. The Dialogic Imagination presents, in superb English translation, four selections from Voprosy literatury i estetiki (Problems of literature and esthetics), published in Moscow in 1975. The volume also contains a lengthy introduction to Bakhtin and his thought and a glossary of terminology. Bakhtin uses the category "novel" in a highly idiosyncratic way, claiming for it vastly larger territory than has been traditionally accepted. For him, the novel is not so much a genre as it is a force, "novelness," which he discusses in "From the Prehistory of Novelistic Discourse." Two essays, "Epic and Novel" and "Forms of Time and of the Chronotope in the Novel," deal with literary history in Bakhtin's own unorthodox way. In the final essay, he discusses literature and language in general, which he sees as stratified, constantly changing systems of subgenres, dialects, and fragmented "languages" in battle with one another. Christianity in Bakhtin : God and the Exiled Author (Cambridge Studies in Russian Literature) This book examines the influence of Christianity on the thought and work of the great Russian theorist Mikhael Bakhtin, paying particular attention to the motifs of God the Creator, the Fall, the Incarnation and Christian love. This is the first full-length work to approach Bakhtin from a religious perspective, and introduces the reader to a vitally important but hitherto ignored aspect of his work. In this context Ruth Coates presents readings of Bakhtin very different from those of Marxist and Structuralist critics.
NotesSpeech Genres and Other Late Essays (University of Texas Press Slavic Series) Bakhtin links -- ? The Bakhtin Reader: Selected Writings of Bakhtin, Medvedev and Voloshinov I... ncessantly cited by critics, Bakhtin's work none the less remains relatively unavailable: partly through lack of suitable editions, partly because no individual text conveys all the key concepts or arguments. This anthology provides in a convenient format a good selection of the writing by Bakhtin and of that attributed to Voloshinov and Medvedev. It introduces readers to the aspects most relevant to literary and cultural studies and gives a focused sense of Bakhtin's central ideas and the underlying cohesiveness of his thinking.
... The use of the vertical chronotope, Bakhtin claims, is a device which enabled Dante to portray all of the "manifold contradictions" and "representatives of all social classes" of his epoch by means of a single feature.
& "Polyphonic" Idea --
Not researched -- Chronotope and Cybertexts
Speech Genres and Other Late Essays by M. M. Bakhtin, Caryl Emerson, Michael Holquist, Vern W. McGee; University of Texas Press, 1986
Mikhail Bakhtin: An Aesthetic for Democracy by Ken Hirschkop; Oxford University Press, 1999 *
C A R N I V A LDon Juan by Moliere, directing, Spring 2003
carnival (kдrґne-vel) noun
1. A festival marked by merrymaking and feasting just before Lent.
2. A traveling amusement show...
3. A festival or revel: winter carnival. [Italian carnevale, from Old Italian carnelevare, Shrovetide: carne, meat (from Latin caro, carn-) + levare, to remove (from Latin levвre, to raise).]*
« A little spiel from Mikhail Bakhtin»
What are the peculiar traits of the comic rituals and spectacles of the Middle Ages? Of course, these are not religious rituals like, for instance, the Christian liturgy to which they are linked by distant genetic ties. The basis of laughter which gives form to carnival rituals frees them completely from all religious and ecclesiastic dogmatism, from all mysticism and piety. They are also completely deprived of the character of magic and prayer; they do not command nor do they ask for anything. Even more, certain carnival forms parody the Church's cult. All these forms are systematically placed outside the Church and religiosity. They belong to an entirely different sphere.
Because of their obvious sensuous character and their strong element of play, carnival images closely resemble certain artistic forms, namely the spectacle. In turn, medieval spectacles often tended toward carnival folk culture, the culture of the marketplace, and to a certain extent became one of its components. But the basic carnival nucleus of this culture is by no means a purely artistic form nor a spectacle and does not, generally speaking, belong to the sphere of art. It belongs to the borderline between art and life. In reality, it is life itself, but shaped according to a certain pattern of play.
In fact, carnival does not know footlights, in the sense that it does not acknowledge any distinction between actors and spectators. Footlights would destroy a carnival, as the absence of footlights would destroy a theatrical performance. Carnival is not a spectacle seen by the people; they live in it, and everyone participates because its very idea embraces all people. While carnival lasts, there is no other life outside it. During carnival time life is subject only to its own laws, that is, the laws of its own freedom.
Rabelais and His World Mikhail Bakhtin, translated by Helene Iswolsky
Indiana University Press, 1984 (page 7). * The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition. Copyright 1996 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
I thought it was interesting, outlining as it does the difficulty we have, of presenting this comedy to the audience. I think that it is necessary to involve this monster (audience) in our performance even more. We are limited by the text, telling our story, but however much the text limits us, these improv commedia segments will hopefully provide freedom to include (mock) the audience. Commedia del arte was often performed in functions were it was a sort of secondary entertainment (theatre where the audience goes to be seen) The secondary and improvisational nature of the medium allowed/encouraged mockery of the audience: particular members, actual events as they were occurring. The players were competing with the audience (not just themselves) for the attention they sought. Mike Karoly
Rabelais and His World This is simply the best analysis of the "Carnivalesque" and is a valuable preface to Rabelais' novel itself. Bakhtin's book alerts the reader of Rabelais to his (Rabelais') masterful use of language and explores the sources of medieval popular culture that served his purposes.
Dostoevsky after Bakhtin : Readings in Dostoyevsky's Fantastic Realism Recent developments in critical theory form the basis for this new study of Dostoyevsky which evaluates the radical contributions to Dostoyevsky criticism made by the critic and literary theorist M.M. Bakhtin. Malcolm Jones first redefines Dostoyevsky's much-debated "fantastic realism"; accepting Bakhtin's reading of Dostoyevsky in its essentials, he seeks out its weaknesses and develops it in new directions. Taking well-known texts by Dostoyevsky in turn, Jones illustrates aspects of their multivoicedness: the emotional and intellectual turmoil suffered by individual characters in the novels; the frequent surprises that undermine the confidence of readers (and other characters) who suppose they have fully understood a character; and finally some of the ways in which Dostoyevsky's texts make use of both factual documentation and Romantic traditions of unreality.
Raskolnikov encounters his own thoughts as if they were a stranger's: "did I really think [...]" (45) could be the refrain for the book. Bakhtin interprets this as a Marxian species-existence: "to be means to be for another, and through the other, for oneself. A person has no internal sovereign territory, he is wholly and always on the boundary" (287). Yet this is by no means a comfortable existence; it is maddening to look inside himself "with the eyes of another" (287); to live in the world of a "'second' and not of a 'third' person" (64); to have his consciousness become "a field of battle for others' voices" (88) and "his inner speech filled with other people's words" (238). Bakhtin describes this interior dialogic as fixed by simultaneity at one moment, but spread throughout space: "the fundamental category in Dostoevsky's mode of artistic visualizing was not evolution, but coexistence and interaction"2 (28); "none of these contradictions and bifurcations ever became dialectical, they were never set in motion along a temporal path of in an evolving sequence; they were, rather, spread out in one plane [...] as an eternal harmony of unmerged voices" (30). Indeed, time itself in its normal functioning is missing from Raskolnikov's life. Bakhtin writes that "the only time possible is crisis time, in which a moment is equal to years, decades, even to a 'billion years'" (169-170).In short, time-after-time: eternity v. time-history. DRAMATIC time = non-leniar. God's POV.
[ see Time and Space pages ]
Marxism and the Philosophy of Language This book is a great classic in the study of language and its relation to ideology. The hollow debates about its authorship falls to the wayside when one considers how this work has revolutionized the study of ideological phenomena. Instead of looking at consciousness as a kind of vacuum to be filled by ideological content, it regards consciousness itself as a kind of substance composed of linguistic matter and riven from within its very core by social contradictions. The synoptic view of linguistics as a discipline divided between the romantic irrationalist approach of Vossler and the systemic semiological approach of Saussure is quite enlightening and original. Although the second part of this book is too difficult for non-linguists with no knowledge of Russian, one can perhaps make some headway into it if one has enough gumption.
... Bakhtin in Dialogic Monologue (nonfiction)
Bakhtin did not belong to either of the formalist circles in Soviet Russia, but was claimed by some of their members, including Jakobson, to be in their ranks. In actual fact what his studies do share with formalism is the attempt to define the specific devices which articulate a literary genre as different from others: Bakhtin was first and foremost the theorist of one genre, the novel, which he contrasted with poetry (as in music polyphonic compositions differ from monophonic ones); also he was interested in the literary structure per se, analyzing its dynamic function within the historical traditions, particularly its subversive roles. Yet, his field of inquiry extends well beyond the formalist concerns, as he researched not only the literary language, but also other socio-ideological forms of expression, such as the carnivalesque one. The sweeping cultural preoccupations of this literary theorist and philosopher of language explain why he was described in turns as a formalist, Marxist, phenomenologist, proto-deconstructionist, or even as an orthodox Christian militant by some Slavists.
Bakhtin could not have been a Marxist proper, although here and there he criticized the formalists for neglecting the sociological factors. His main principles and concepts surpass by far the reductionist determinism of classical Marxist tenets. However he associated himself with two avowed Marxists, Valentin Voloshinov and Pavel Medvedev, and the paternity of several orthodox Marxist articles is hotly disputed even today by commentators between the three authors: one of these studies is a sharp attack against the Formalist School (the 1928 book The Formal Method in Literary Scholarship, written either by Medvedev or by Bakhtin), which may have contributed to the definitive banning of the movement.
Out of Bakhtin’s plentiful and seminal contributions to the philosophy of language and of culture as well as to literary theory we will focus our attention, within the framework of our study, on his insights which are more closely connected with the formalist issues, such as the dialogic mode and the uses of language in prose writings, particularly in the novel .
In the first phase of his career Bakhtin’s interests were mainly retained by the complex relationships between ethics and aesthetics, between self and other: he propounded a “philosophy of the act” which relied on Kantian categories. His studies written in the second phase of his activity (about 1924-1930) are hallmarked by the discovery of the dialogic potential of the word and the “polyphonic” mode of writing. His cornerstone study, Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics, came out in 1929.
In the following two decades, despite the obstacles which life in an entirely ideologized country set before an independent intellectual like Bakhtin, he produced the most substantial concepts for a “prosaic” description of the novel, such as novelistic consciousness and the chronotope. “Discourse in the Novel”, “From the Prehistory of Novelistic Discourse”, and “Forms of Time and of the Chronotope in the Novel” were written in that period. THE CHRONOTOPE is Bakhtin’s term for the specific sense of space and time (in other words the social and the historical components) which characterizes every genre, according to its specific ideology. If in the ancient works the social element played a background role, in the novel it has a direct, molding impact upon the characters: they and the society influence and change each other as it happens in actual history, and this accounts for Bakhtin’s interest in the dialogic consciousness of the novel.
Another direction of investigation which he pursued in the 1930s belongs to the sociology of culture: in Rabelais and His World, a book which could be published only in 1965, Bakhtin celebrated the “joyously ambivalent carnivalesque” mood in Rabelais’s writings, indirectly referring to the life conditions and the constraints in an authoritarian state: this form of social manifestation, having its own norms and rituals, subverts the official ideology, overturns the established hierarchies, mixes up the opposites and provides an escape valve for discontent. Upon literary genres, such as the novel, the carnivalesque mood, with its insistence on body and bodily functions, has a molding effect, resulting in a parodic or grotesque style. Owing to his emphasis on the socially liberating role of laughter and the carnivalesque forms of manifestation, typical of low culture, Bakhtin is claimed today by the advocates of “cultural studies” as one of their predecessors.
In the last two decades of his life, the Russian scholar revised and added some earlier studies, and returned to the broader philosophical themes of his early writings, extending his concerns to the humanities and the interpretation theory in general.
Critics have identified three overall concepts which subsume Bakhtin’s theoretical findings. The first one is PROSAICS, as opposed to poetics: the term, coined by his commentators, describes his mistrust of “theoretism” (i.e. the belief that everything can be explained through wide-ranging systems, such as Saussureanism, Freudianism, Marxism, formalism), the importance he attaches to small, “prosaic” facts of life instead of the dramatic, catastrophic events, and as concerns the novelistic genre, the emphasis he lays on its complexities: the novel cannot be analyzed with reference to tropes, like poetry, but insisting on its dialogic nature. DIALOGUE, the second global term, refers to the fact that authentic consciousness can be revealed only by presenting the interaction of at least two voices: truth resides in conversation rather than in a set of sentences. The third basic concept in Bakhtin’s thought is UNFINALIZABILITY:in dialogic prose the world appropriately appears as an unfinalizable, open, creative space; in his Dostoevsky study Bakhtin states that
|/n/othing conclusive has yet taken place in the world, the ultimate word of the world and about the world has not yet been spoken, the world is open and free, everything is still in the future and will always be in the future.|
With Bakhtin, not only is the literary work open (Umberto Eco’s opera aperta), or writerly (le texte scriptible, with Roland Barthes), but the world it creates is never to be finished.
The most seminal finding of Bakhtin’s research as concerns the novel is its polyphonic (or dialogic) nature. In order to understand the meaning in which the Russian scholar used these terms, it is yet necessary to dwell first on the related concept of HETEROGLOSSIA(REZNORECHIE). The term “heteroglossia” belongs to linguistic theory, just as “polyphony” does to fictional studies. It is meant to reveal the way in which meaning is produced by discourse through the use of a “social diversity of speech types”, as Bakhtin observes in his renowned 1935 essay “Discourse in the Novel”.  There are numberless discursive strata in every language, such as
social dialects, characteristic group behavior, professional jargons, generic languages, languages of generations and age groups, tendentious languages, languages of the authorities, .... languages that serve the specific sociopolitical purposes of the day, even of the hour, for, says Bakhtin, each day has its own slogan, its own vocabulary, its own emphasis. (32)
It is even possible to speak of a family jargon, with its special vocabulary and its unique accentual system, as in the case of the Irtnevs, in Tolstoy. At any moment in history, language is heteroglot from top to bottom. Bakhtin’s dynamic perspective on language can be described as in vivo, a Romanian scholar has observed, in contradistinction to the in vitro view of the formalists. 
In “Discourse...” Bakhtin claims that some of the best instances of heteroglossia at work can be found in the English comic novel, where there is a “re-processing of almost all the levels of literary language, both conversational and written, that were current at the time”, (36) from parliamentary eloquence, to the language of the speculators’ dealings. For instance, in one of the excerpts he supplies from Dickens’s Little Dorrit, “the speech of another” (in a highly ceremonious tone) is inserted for the sake of parody into the author’s discourse, in a concealed form, that is without any formal markers such as quotation marks. Bakhtin observes that this is not a mere case of another’s speech in the same language, but “another’s utterance in a language that is itself ‘other’ to the author”. (38)
He commends mostly those writers and literary forms which exemplify heteroglossia, that is a “Galilean” language consciousness: Dostoevsky as compared with Tolstoy, the novel versus poetry. After a long tradition of prose writings of a monologic type (revealing a “Ptolemaic” consciousness), such as the Greek and chivalric romance, the pastoral, the sentimental novel, heteroglossia, with its subversive and liberating potential, began to be foregrounded in prose with Rabelais and Cervantes, reaching a climax in Dostoevsky’s novels.
Although the Russian theorist did comment on the place of heteroglossia in the novelistic genre, the proper term that describes the dialogic nature of the novel is POLYPHONY (a concept derived from music) or DIALOGISM as such. Actually heteroglossia is a linguistic reality, whereas polyphony is just a possible (and desirable) fictional mode, to be contrasted with the monologic one. The first detailed references to novelistic polyphony appeared in Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics; yet Bakhtin reformulated the concept several times in his studies.
Polyphonic novels, such as Dostoevsky’s, make up a new novelistic genre, according to the Russian theorist’s initial views. In this kind of fiction the reader hears several contesting voices, which are not subject to an attempt at unification on the author’s part: these voices are engaged in a dialogue in which no point of view is privileged, no final word is heard. The author stands on the same level as his heroes, relinquishing his “surplus of vision”. He knows nothing more than they do and may be surprised by their words at any point:
Dostoevsky brings into being not voiceless slaves ... but free people, capable of standing alongside their creator, capable of not agreeing with him and even of rebelling against him,
states Bakhtin.  Conversely, in monologic novels, such as Tolstoy’s, the general perspective is solely the author’s one, and the characters’ points of view are orchestrated in accordance with his positions. (We can notice that there is a slight resemblance between Tomashevsky’s concept of skaz in the narrative, and Bakhtin’s polyphony.)
In the polyphonic, non-Aristotelian plot, despite the plurality of independent and unmerged consciousnesses, the unity of "the given event” (5) is preserved, but this is a dialogic unity, based on the coexistence of spiritual diversity. The dialogic process is basically unfinalizable, unlike the closed product of the monologic whole: each thought of Dostoevsky’s heroes looks like a rejoinder in a never-ending tense debate.
One particular aspect of polyphony is DOUBLE-VOICING - a case when in a single utterance two voices are meant to be heard as interacting: the words should be understood as if they were spoken with quotation marks. This mode of speaking reflects the fact that, according to Bakhtin, the language of communication is never free from the intentions of the other people socially involved in an event. Single-voiced verbal constructions can be found only in professional discourse, not in rhetorical or fictional language. In the cases of passive double-voicing the two voices may seem to be in agreement or in disagreement (as in parodic speech); when resistance or tension between them appear, the double-voicing is active: such is the status of the “word with a loophole”, in which there is included a statement, its rebuttal, the response to the rebuttal, and so on, possibly ad infinitum.
EMBEDDING is a specific type of double-voicing form, in which the hero’s perspective on himself is infiltrated by “someone else’s words about him”.(209) Bakhtin illustrates this with a scene from Dostoevsky’s novel, Poor People, in which the protagonist is writing a letter to a woman, confessing he lives in a kitchen; his “sideward glance” and his recoiling as he thinks about her negative reaction to this embarrassing news are easy to imagine: his discourse is penetrated by the words of another and therefore it becomes distorted.
If in Problems... Bakhtin claimed that Dostoevsky was the creator of the polyphonic novel, later on he slightly altered his views, stating that dialogism is more or less present in all novels, especially in those imbued with a carnivalesque mood. Thus in “Discourse...”, he defined the novel as “a diversity of social speech types, sometimes even diversity of languages and a diversity of individual voices, artistically organized”.(32) There is polyphony even in some non-fictional prose, such as the early Platonic dialogues where Socrates appears not so much as the teacher, the owner of truth, but rather as a kind of grotesque midwife, one who incites to dialogue in order to search for truth. Or in satires such as the Menippean ones, Apuleius’s The Golden Ass, and so forth.
In its general sense, then, polyphony is not only a technical characteristic of the novel (related, yet not restricted to, the notion of dramaticism), but also a principle of the creative process and of moral philosophy, owing to its implications of unfinalizability.
concept has made a significant career in the last decades. Contemporary critics
have used the term mainly to refer to the modernist and postmodern fiction (Julia
Kristeva, for instance), but others (such as David Lodge) have rightfully argued
that polyphonic elements can also be found in realistic prose. Some feminists
have appropriated it in reference to l’écriture féminine,
and connections between the notion of dialogic speech and psychoanalytical or
deconstructive approaches have also been established. Some even claim to discern
a particular critical approach of late, DIALOGICAL CRITICISM, inspired by such
concerns of Bakhtin’s as the polyphonic heterogeneity of the discourse,
and the function of subversive, carnivalesque elements in prose narratives.
Tzvetan Todorov, for instance, has made use of these concepts in La conquête de l’Amérique (1982), a study of the dialogue
between the European, colonizing voices and the Indians’ colonized ones.