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Mikhail  Bakhtin
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關鍵字詞:Russain Formalism;Dialogism;Heteroglossia;Carnival


  • Largely for political reasons, he lived much of his life in self-imposed obscurity, taking up a professorship at the remote Mordovia State Teachers College from 1936 - 1961.
  • Arrested in 1929 for alleged involvement in the underground Russian Orthodox Church and sentenced to six years' internal exile
  • published his work under his friends' names?  (e.g. Freudianism and Marxism and the Philosophy of Language by Voloshinov, The formal Method in Literary Studies by Medvedev.  (Cf. Fifty Key Contemporary Thinkers  pp. 8-9)

key concepts:

  1. dialogism (vs. monologism)
    • words as utterances with plural meanings (reflections and refractions) ;
    • every word presupposes an interlocutor; 
    • "the relation  between the utterance and other utterances"

    (Stam 14). relations between the text and its others in the forms of 
    -- argument -- polemics and parody; 
    --overtones, pauses and implied attitude;
    -- "confidence in another's word"; 
    -- the relation between languages, literatures, genres, styles and even entire cultures.  . .

  2. heteroglossia, carnevalesque (vs. the language of the church), polyphony 
  3. carnival: 
    • Carnival [literal meaning] --can be traced back to the Dionysian festivites of the Greaks and the Saturnalia of the Romans; enjoyed its apogee of both observance and symbolic meaning in the High Middle Ages.. 
    • Much more than the mere cessation of productive labor, carnival represented am alternative  cosmovision characterized by the ludic undermining of all norms.   (Stam 86)
    • The carnivalesque principle abolishes hierarchies, levels social classes, and creates another life free from conventional rules and restrictions.  (Stam 86)
    •  finds its emblem in the grotesque, pleasure-seeking human body: fat and fleshy, eating, drinking, fornicating and defecating to excess. ( e.g. Rabelais' Gangatua)
    • some major concepts:  (Stam 93-94)
      • the valorization of Eros and life force; 
      • the notion of bisexuality and the practice of transvestitism as a release from the burden of socially imposed sex roles; 
      • a corporeal semiotic celebrating the grotesque, excessive body and the 'orifices' of the lower bodily stratum; 
      • the topos of carnival as "gay relativity" and Janus-face ambiguity and ambivalence.  
      • a perspective on language that valorizes the obscene, the nonsensical, and 'marketplace speech' as expressive of the linguistic creativity of common people; 
      • the view of carnival as participatory spectacle, a 'pageant without footlights' which erases the boundaries between spectator and performer.  
  4. the epic and the novel
  5. chronotope, time/space  "particular combinations of time and space as they have resulted in historically manifested narrative forms (Holquist 109) 
    • A. as a narrative device (e.g. of adventure, of adventure of everyday life and metamorphosis, of [auto-]biography)  biography -- a. Platonic, b. encomium, c. bildungsroman, d. Gogal's "Notes on a Madman" baring the device
    • B. an artistic crystallization of time and space (e.g. Salon in Paris)

II. Bakhtin and his Circle of Relations: 

A. Bakhtin, Freudianism (e.g. Freudianism: a Marxist Critique [1927]; )

Bakhtin on Freud--to historicize, politicize and socialize Freud: 
  • Bakhtin salutes Freud's emphasis on language, but critiques the model of language adopted.  The Freudian model .  . . fails to see that every exchange of words, including that between the analyst and patient, is "ideological," characterized by specific social intonations through which it gains historical specificity and momentum (Stam 4). 
  • recast the Unconscious/Conscious distinction as one not between two orders of psychic reality but rather between two modalities of verbal consciousness.  [Official Consciousness and unofficial consciousness--that which deviates from social norms.]
  • Bakhtin vs. Lacan (Stam 4-5):  shares with Lacan a preoccupation with the image of the mirror and the role of the other in our psychic life. 
    • Even the apparently simple act of looking at ourselves  in the mirror, for Bakhtin, is complexly dialogical, implying an intricate intersection of perspectives and consciousness.  To look at ourselves in the mirror is to oversee the reflection of our life in the plane of consciousness of others; it is to see and apprehend ourselves through the imagined eyes of our parents. .  .
    • Not limited to a "stage" of psychic development; 
    • The Lacanian intervention makes subjectivity dependent upon the recognition of an irreducible distance separating self from other, and in so doing, turns psychic life into a series of irremediable losses and misrecognitions.  But while Lacan seems to see human beings as eternally susceptible to the lure, as ontologically defined by lack and imperfection, as subject to a desire that can only lead to an impasse of dissatisfaction, Bakhtin foregrounds the human capacity to mutually "author" one another, the ability to dialogically intersect on the frontiers between selves. 
B. Bakhtin & Russian Formalism (P.N. Medvedev and M.M. Bakhtin, The Formal Method in Literary Scholarship: A Critical Introduction to Sociological Poetics)(Stam 34-37)
  • deconstructs a number of crucial formalist dichotomies: 
  • intrinsic/extrinsic:  For Bakhtin, "In the process of history. . . things extrinsic and intrinsic dialectically change places; what was once 'within' can easily become 'without,' and vice versa. 
  • practical/poetic language: the two types of languages interpenetrate each other; 
  • material/device, and story/plot. 

C. Bakhtin & Saussure  & Marxism (Marxism and the Philosophy of Language by V.N. Volosinov)

  • Saussure-- focuses on 'synchrony" and the sign system
  • Bakhtin -- turns his attention to the diachronic; 
    • "sees verbal language as forming part of a continuum of semioses, a plurality of sign-related discourses that share a common underlying logic and can be "translated" into one another. 
    • "Translinguistics" (vs. semiology): "a theory of the role of signs in human life and thought" (Stam31); formulated in Russia in the early decades of 20th  (Stam 30-31);
    • Both consciousness and ideology are semiotic, whether in the form of "inner speech" or in the process of verbal interaction with others, or in mediated forms like writing and art. 
D. Bakhtin's influence on Kristeva's intertextuality
Kristeva: "Word, Dialogue and Novel" Desire in Language p. 65-66


To investigate the status of the word is to study its articulations (as semic complex) with other words in the sentence, and then to look for the same functions or relationships at the articulatory level of larger sequences. ¡K

3 dimensions of texutal space: writing subject, addressee, and exterior texts. The word¡¦s status is thus defined horizontally (the word in the text belongs to both writing subject and addressee) as well as vertically (the word in the text is oriented toward anterior or synchronic literary corpus.) two axes

each word (text) is an intersection of word (texts) where at least one other word (text) can be read. Many text is constructed as a mosaic of quotations; any text is the absorption and transformation of another. The notion of intertextuality replaces that of intersubjectivity, and poetic language is read as at least double.

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