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Manual Between Philosophy and Literature: Bakhtin and the Question of the Subject

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Carnivalization and its generic counterpart— Menippean satire —were not a part of the earlier book, but Bakhtin discusses them at great length in the chapter "Charateristics of Genre and Plot Composition in Dostoesky's Works" in the revised version. He traces the origins of Menippean satire back to ancient Greece, briefly describes a number of historical examples of the genre, and examines its essential characteristics. These characteristics include intensified comicality, freedom from established constraints, bold use of fantastic situations for the testing of truth, abrupt changes, inserted genres and multi-tonality, parodies, oxymorons, scandal scenes, inappropriate behaviour, and a sharp satirical focus on contemporary ideas and issues.

According to Bakhtin, Dostoevsky was the creator of the polyphonic novel, and it was a fundamentally new genre that could not be analysed according to preconceived frameworks and schema that might be useful for other manifestations of the European novel. Bakhtin calls this multi-voiced reality "polyphony": " a plurality of independent and unmerged voices and consciousnesses, a genuine polyphony of fully valid voices The controversial ideas discussed within the work caused much disagreement, and it was consequently decided that Bakhtin be denied his higher doctorate.

In Rabelais and His World , a classic of Renaissance studies, Bakhtin concerns himself with the openness of Gargantua and Pantagruel ; however, the book itself also serves as an example of such openness. Throughout the text, Bakhtin attempts two things: he seeks to recover sections of Gargantua and Pantagruel that, in the past, were either ignored or suppressed, and conducts an analysis of the Renaissance social system in order to discover the balance between language that was permitted and language that was not.

It is by means of this analysis that Bakhtin pinpoints two important subtexts: the first is carnival carnivalesque which Bakhtin describes as a social institution, and the second is grotesque realism which is defined as a literary mode. Thus, in Rabelais and His World Bakhtin studies the interaction between the social and the literary, as well as the meaning of the body and the material bodily lower stratum.

In his chapter on the history of laughter, Bakhtin advances the notion of its therapeutic and liberating force, arguing that "laughing truth The Dialogic Imagination first published as a whole in is a compilation of four essays concerning language and the essay: " Epic and Novel " , "From the Prehistory of Novelistic Discourse" , "Forms of Time and of the Chronotope in the Novel" — , and "Discourse in the Novel" — It is through the essays contained within The Dialogic Imagination that Bakhtin introduces the concepts of heteroglossia , dialogism and chronotope , making a significant contribution to the realm of literary scholarship.

In "Epic and Novel", Bakhtin demonstrates the novel's distinct nature by contrasting it with the epic. By doing so, Bakhtin shows that the novel is well-suited to the post-industrial civilization in which we live because it flourishes on diversity. It is this same diversity that the epic attempts to eliminate from the world. According to Bakhtin, the novel as a genre is unique in that it is able to embrace, ingest, and devour other genres while still maintaining its status as a novel. Other genres, however, cannot emulate the novel without damaging their own distinct identity.

This essay applies the concept in order to further demonstrate the distinctive quality of the novel. For this reason chronotope is a concept that engages reality. The final essay, "Discourse in the Novel", is one of Bakhtin's most complete statements concerning his philosophy of language.

It is here that Bakhtin provides a model for a history of discourse and introduces the concept of heteroglossia. These include qualities such as perspective, evaluation, and ideological positioning. In this way most languages are incapable of neutrality, for every word is inextricably bound to the context in which it exists.

In Speech Genres and Other Late Essays Bakhtin moves away from the novel and concerns himself with the problems of method and the nature of culture. The transcript expresses Bakhtin's opinion of literary scholarship whereby he highlights some of its shortcomings and makes suggestions for improvement. The publishing house to which Bakhtin had submitted the full manuscript was blown up during the German invasion and Bakhtin was in possession of only the prospectus. However, due to a shortage of paper, Bakhtin began using this remaining section to roll cigarettes.

So only a portion of the opening section remains. This remaining section deals primarily with Goethe. In a relatively short space, this essay takes up a topic about which Bakhtin had planned to write a book, making the essay a rather dense and complex read. It is here that Bakhtin distinguishes between literary and everyday language. According to Bakhtin, genres exist not merely in language, but rather in communication.

Mikhail Bakhtin - Wikipedia

In dealing with genres, Bakhtin indicates that they have been studied only within the realm of rhetoric and literature , but each discipline draws largely on genres that exist outside both rhetoric and literature. These extraliterary genres have remained largely unexplored. Bakhtin makes the distinction between primary genres and secondary genres, whereby primary genres legislate those words, phrases, and expressions that are acceptable in everyday life, and secondary genres are characterized by various types of text such as legal, scientific, etc.

These notes focus mostly on the problems of the text, but various other sections of the paper discuss topics he has taken up elsewhere, such as speech genres, the status of the author, and the distinct nature of the human sciences. However, "The Problem of the Text" deals primarily with dialogue and the way in which a text relates to its context.

Top 10 Facts About MIKHAIL BAKHTIN’s Theories

Speakers, Bakhtin claims, shape an utterance according to three variables: the object of discourse, the immediate addressee, and a superaddressee. This is what Bakhtin describes as the tertiary nature of dialogue. It is here that Bakhtin discusses interpretation and its endless possibilities. According to Bakhtin, humans have a habit of making narrow interpretations, but such limited interpretations only serve to weaken the richness of the past.

The final essay, "Toward a Methodology for the Human Sciences", originates from notes Bakhtin wrote during the mid-seventies and is the last piece of writing Bakhtin produced before he died. In this essay he makes a distinction between dialectic and dialogics and comments on the difference between the text and the aesthetic object.

Mikhail Bakhtin

It is here also, that Bakhtin differentiates himself from the Formalists , who, he felt, underestimated the importance of content while oversimplifying change, and the Structuralists , who too rigidly adhered to the concept of "code. Some of the works which bear the names of Bakhtin's close friends V. These claims originated in the early s and received their earliest full articulation in English in Clark and Holquist's biography of Bakhtin. He is known for a series of concepts that have been used and adapted in a number of disciplines: dialogism , the carnivalesque , the chronotope, heteroglossia and "outsidedness" the English translation of a Russian term vnenakhodimost, sometimes rendered into English—from French rather than from Russian—as "exotopy".

Together these concepts outline a distinctive philosophy of language and culture that has at its center the claims that all discourse is in essence a dialogical exchange and that this endows all language with a particular ethical or ethico-political force. As a literary theorist, Bakhtin is associated with the Russian Formalists , and his work is compared with that of Yuri Lotman ; in Roman Jakobson mentioned him as one of the few intelligent critics of Formalism.

Bakhtin began to be discovered by scholars in , [58] but it was only after his death in that authors such as Julia Kristeva and Tzvetan Todorov brought Bakhtin to the attention of the Francophone world, and from there his popularity in the United States, the United Kingdom, and many other countries continued to grow.

In the late s, Bakhtin's work experienced a surge of popularity in the West. In the s there was a "Bakhtin school" in Russia, in line with the discourse analysis of Ferdinand de Saussure and Roman Jakobson. As a result of the breadth of topics with which he dealt, Bakhtin has influenced such Western schools of theory as Neo-Marxism , Structuralism , Social constructionism , and Semiotics.

Bakhtin's works have also been useful in anthropology, especially theories of ritual. According to Clark and Holquist, rarely do those who incorporate Bakhtin's ideas into theories of their own appreciate his work in its entirety. While Bakhtin is traditionally seen as a literary critic, there can be no denying his impact on the realm of rhetorical theory. Among his many theories and ideas Bakhtin indicates that style is a developmental process, occurring within both the user of language and language itself.

His work instills in the reader an awareness of tone and expression that arises from the careful formation of verbal phrasing. By means of his writing, Bakhtin has enriched the experience of verbal and written expression which ultimately aids the formal teaching of writing. Bakhtin's communication legacy reaches beyond rhetoric, social constructionism and semiotics as he has been called "the philosopher of human communication. While Bakhtin's works focused primarily on text, interpersonal communication is also key, especially when the two are related in terms of culture.

Kim states that "culture as Geertz and Bakhtin allude to can be generally transmitted through communication or reciprocal interaction such as a dialogue. The very boundaries of the utterance are determined by a change of speech subjects. Utterances are not indifferent to one another, and are not self-sufficient; they are aware of and mutually reflect one another Bakhtin suggests, however, that the references of carnivalesque retain some of their former energy, just waiting for an opportunity to re-emerge.

Dialogism involves a particular ethic which can be applied politically and in everyday life. On the one hand, it is a refusal of closure: it opposes the fixation on any particular monologue. On the other hand, it also refuses dominant liberal forms of coexistence and tolerance. Different perspectives are not partial, complementary truths. Rather, the dynamic interplay and interruption of perspectives is taken to produce new realities and new ways of seeing. It is incommensurability which gives dialogue its power.


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This is a particular kind of discourse of fundamental rights, taken outside a liberal frame. It is recognised only when all subjects are able to speak and act autonomously. This position will be denied by those who insist that an objective reality can be specified, separately from perspectives for example, positivists and orthodox Marxists. For Lacanians, the fact of dialogism is fundamentally traumatic, and the monologic gesture of imposing a master-signifier becomes a means to produce a minimum of social order and self-identity. A Bakhtinian utopia would be a space of abundance of dialogue, of coexistence of differences, of the absence of any overarching regulation of the free self-actualisation of different perspectives.

It would be something like a permanent carnival. Still, from within dialogism, it seems that such conflicts do not go away. The valuing of dialogue would have to be immanent to the space, something recognised from each perspective. Some of the means towards such a world can be found in theories of conflict transformation.

While such difficulties affect dialogical activist and pedagogical spaces, the main difficulty today is rather different: resisting the overarching imposition of monologism. In a society such as Britain, the extent to which everyday polyphony has been silenced by a self-referential dominant discourse is unprecedented. People may try to negotiate with the system, but it flatly refuses such negotiation, relying increasingly on gestures of decisionist sovereignty and arbitrary command.

It seems that the only way to create spaces for dialogue today is through radical gestures of dissensus or interruption of the monologue, usually as insurrectionary acts. The rediscovery of dialogue is now conditioned on overcoming the imposition and enforcement of a social setting of monologue. Dialogism is associated politically with initiatives such as the World Social Forum. The Spanish and Greek square occupations can also be deemed a recent instance of a dialogical experiment. The breakdown of the exclusivity of groups is one of the notable aspects of accounts of the occupations.

The use of consensus decision-making is sometimes taken to produce a dialogical effect in which other voices are included. However, critics will sometimes argue that such experiments are not truly dialogical, since they exclude certain practices, or are hegemonised by particular voices. For such critics, dialogism can be actualised only as autonomous action of particular subjects, driven by their own desires. One should also bear in mind traditions in sociology which emphasise the importance of meaning-construction. The field of Bakhtin studies is full of controversies.

Bakhtin scholarship includes a controversy on whether Bakhtin was a Marxist, or was simply dressing-up his work in Marxist categories to avoid censorship. I would argue that the emphasis on the interconnection of self-actualisation with social life is close to certain views of the early Marx. So, too, is the critique of the monologism and artificial separation of subjects within capitalism. Bakhtin specifically deploys Marxist ideas of reification, alienation and abstraction in his critique of monologism, which he portrays much as Marx portrayed idealism: as a dominance of a single ethical world-view over a much more complex reality, to the exclusion of living historical forces.

In sociological terms, Bakhtin is closer to interactionist and poststructuralist approaches based on meaning and discourse than to Marxist approaches with their usual emphasis on economics. This said, he resonates strongly with certain neo-Marxists such as Gramsci. Certain aspects of his approach are unprecedented in either tradition, notably the emphasis on border-zones, dialogue and even struggle. Interactionists and poststructuralists tend to emphasise the self-production of meaning by each agent, whereas Bakhtin emphasises the self-altering, or even self-destroying, effects of contact with the other.

On another matter, Bakhtin perhaps exaggerates the influence of artistic genres on the social impact of literature and other arts. It is important to bear in mind the role of reader-response in constructing the text as it is received. A particular approach to reading can bring a closed text into dialogue, or render an open text closed. This is shown by research on cultural effects. Part II will be published next week. Andrew Robinson is a political theorist and activist based in the UK.

Michael Holquist Jul 29, Andy Jul 29, Musab Jul 30, Sivin Kit Aug 1, Alex Ferguson May 1, Thanks for a really clear, well-rounded summary. DaKing Apr 17, Where he is famous, he is famous for creating whole conceptual fields one can invoke by uttering a […]. Could I get more information on Bakhtin through you? The film is not afraid to embrace the humorous side of bourgeois ignorance, as in the scene which finds our protagonist walking the streets arm in arm with a white woman.

The baffled stares they receive from the surrounding public are dubbed over with erratic animal noises. Bakhtin and heteroglossia here: in-theory-bakhtin Miss Marie-Pier's pedagogical tools Mar 18, I am incapable of doing that. I have found nothing like this in my reading. Can anyone suggest somethng, or an example, or which book might deal with this? Andy Jan 27, Tom, I think that what this is referring to is a transition from a separative state of consciousness where things exist as discrete categories to a continuum state of consciousness where things are a single continuous field.

There are similar concepts in many authors — Heshusius calls it participatory consciousness, Deleuze calls it the body without organs, Bergson calls it the field of time as opposed to space , it is present in Taoism and Buddhism, Spinoza, Christian mystics, etc. I think Bakhtin sees this kind of continuum consciousness in carnival — things are outside their allotted categories and roles, and so everything is timeless and anything is possible.

For example, grotesque figures often have attributes of several categories which are usually treated as distinct — human-animal hybrids, intersex beings, creatures with limbs or organs in the wrong place. Carnivals might feature walking dead, like the Mexican Day of the Dead.

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A King might be a fool, a peasant might be a King, the nobles bow to the commoners and so on. The text of one show Scooby Doo is present in another Buffy. On the other hand, dialogism refers to the internal division of a text into different perspectives and voices. For example, if an author tells a story from several different points of view, this is dialogism. The statement was monological.

So dialogism is an internal thing, within a text, whereas intertexuality is about how the text relates to other texts. Dialogism also has the wider, social meaning discussed in the article. Maria Vliek Jan 29, I am seriously struggling with this idea, and in my reading of Bakhtin, he disagrees.

How and where could I explore this further? What would your reading be? This is very much against more contemporary notions e. Ricoeur which make a clear distinction between selfhood and sameness most distinctly in Oneself as Another. What would Bakhtin have thought of this? Do you know of any dialogue initiated by other scholars between the two?

Fel Jones Feb 13, I am just now starting to discover Bakhtin in my journey into the world of dialogue, and this article was an extremely useful introduction. I will read part II tomorrow, and continue to explore Bakhtin. So, thank you!

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Andy a big thank u for making me understand the bakhtinian theory on the need to establish dialogue in literature to understand the significance of democratic values. Nasrullah Mambrol Apr 5, His concept of Dialogism affirmed plurality and variety. It was an argument against the hegemony of absolute authorial […].

Balu Savarikannu Jul 7, Dear Andrew, Thank you for this wonderful article. Can we still apply his dialogism or any to biblical poetic texts? Thanks in advance. He is sometimes termed the most important Soviet … […]. Sulaiman Algamawi Dec 5, Therefore, it is not through reflection, but through the location in the event and affect, through questioning, that the viewer gets closer to the meaning of the film.

Key words Cinema, cinematic experience, boredom, time, phenomenology, non-intellectual cinema strategies. Abstract In this case study I want to show the development during Daseinsanalysis of a woman suffering from a long term schizoaffective disorder.


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  8. After three attempts to start and remain in therapy, and following eleven inpatient admissions to different psychiatric hospitals, it seems, that the phenomenological approach of Daseinsanalysis has helped her continue and, over time, she has been able to find a better way of coming closer to the aim which has been most requested of her until now — of becoming lively — but without it resulting in a psychiatric hospital admission.

    She discontinued the therapy on account of not being able to cope with difficult feelings arising from having fallen in love with me, her analyst. I could not respond in the way she expected me to. That was the first break in our therapeutic relationship and another one was to follow two years later, when she came closer for the second time. It was my mistake as her therapist, to interfere as her father had done. She told me during one of those sessions that this was her experience and this prompted the second break. And now, since , our relationship seems strong enough to continue and to come closer together to her first aim.

    The core question in my case study as an example from the practice in Daseinsanalysis is: how is it possible for the therapist to find the right balance in his or her approach between abstinence, through which patients can find enough space to develop freely and the naturally occurring possibilities in every relationship, which make people and their relationships lively?

    Key words Schizoaffektive disorder, Daseinsanalyst, Erschlossenheit, phenomenological method, psychiatry, hallucinations, Geworfenheit, Ek-sistenz. A sixteen years old client of mine used this expression to describe her wish and within the possibility of what may come after the therapeutic process. It is a beautiful and pure and at the same time a universal uttering.

    The epochs of childhood and youth are very special periods in the life of all of us. Never again we experience such an immense kind of development in our existential possibilities. Therefore the risks are also very high. In this process we are highly sensitive, vulnerable and bare so that every difficulty, every disappointment, every — even short — loss of love can have a deep and devastating impact on our possibilities to be open to the world and be free in living out our own Dasein as well as living out from our own true ground.

    In my article I would like to illuminate the human existence, this very specific period of life, through daseinsanalytical, phenomenological view. This includes personality development, openness towards the unique individual possibilities to come to the world and getting and staying open to the world, being truly alive. Furthermore some Existentialia and how they reveal itself in their singular mode to the world are being outlined in different phases of childhood and youth. Finally the therapeutic uniqueness of daseinsanalytical relationship is described under the aspect of psychotherapy with youth.