Discourse on Bakhtin

Discourse on Bakhtin

PREFACE (a state of unenlightenment)

bwfaceIn reading around the class blogs, I’m relieved to see the difficulty others are experiencing with the reading and expressing far more gracefully than I have here.

While reading Bakhtin’s “Discourse in the Novel” I can’t help but question if this guy ever stepped away from a desk to smell a frickin’ flower. I’m pretty sure the answer is no. It’s a shame, for my sake, that he didn’t smoke more of his notebooks.

This stuff runs deeper than in-depth. Spending 7 pages to say what his theory is not has left too few brainwaves unoccupied to receive information about what the hell this grand theory is. Only snippets have been revealed in contrast to previous theoretical failures of traditional linguistics, stylistics and literary theory thus far. As I have read out loud in an attempt to gain comprehension, I’m pretty sure my house plant coughed “bullshit” under it’s breath. I wasn’t sure if it disagreed with the pre 1920’s limited assessment of prose or Bakhtin’s concept of stylistic uniqueness as comprised of subordinate stylistic unities. I took a moment to appreciate the foliage, breathe in the greenery, and reluctantly resume study. Perhaps I should try reading this in its original Russian.

“C’mon, ya whimp. You can do this.” – Bakhtin


(And as Buddha said, “Sit yer ass down. It will come.”)

bwface2I think Bakhtin is on to something here. He says to me, “Kim, there is far more to a novel than just rhetoric. Language isn’t some?normative medium used to communicate uniform ideas. It’s not some level playing field…

Language is alive, man!
It’s ALIVE!”

— Seriously, Bakhtin develops some respectable and revolutionary ideas surrounding the author’s art. He skates right past Eliot into a world where personality is incorporated on multiple levels as evident from the author, dialogue between characters and even from the language itself. Rather than the traditional approach of unifying the diversity in art, something Bakhtin obviously abhors, he prefers that we celebrate our creative differences.

We must stylistically identify and credit the author’s skillful and intentional molding of ideas through their employment of living, breathing and ever evolving words. By working with dialogue, characters come to life through the creative development of their speech. An author must constantly choose language, dialect, situational and generational conversation. Even when that choice is not conscious in an intellectual sense, selections are drawn from the author’s ingrained understanding of language. These choices artfully capture and develop meaning within one’s work. It is in this way that time is immortalized and no longer fleeting, and social nuances of an era are able to be studied far into the future.

I also see a strong similarity between Eliot and Bakhtin. Each believes in an “elastic environment” where the influence of style moves forward impacting all that comes after it, as it also shifts interpretation of the past. This is evident when Bakhtin says:

The living utterance, having taken meaning and shape at a particular historical moment in a socially specific environment, cannot fail to brush up against thousands of living dialogic threads, woven by socio-ideological consciousness around the given? object of an utterance; it cannot fail to become an active participant in social dialogue. After all, the utterance arises out of this dialogue as a continuation of it and as a rejoinder to it – it does not approach the object from the sidelines. (1202)

Suffering from emphysema, I doubt Bakhtin played sports or even endeavored to read the above passage out loud. Still, he champions the direct (rather than sideline) influence of socio-ideologic consciousness. Unfortunately, not much recognition of this consiousness was ever attributed to the creator. Instead, the reader is lauded for their participatory role of understanding. Traditionalists. What bastards.

madonnacom120240I do have to wonder how much ink Bakhtin was toking when he envisioned an atmosphere filled with alien words and a spectral dispersion of colors defining their many facets. Using Madonna’s “Ray of Light” approach to definition can mean only one thing. They each have a special affinity for sparkling objects.

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