Studies in Literature and Culture
The Bakhtinian Polyphony of Voices in Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White
← 114 | 115 →Aleksandra Tryniecka
The novel […] is determined by experience, knowledge and practice (the future).M.M. Bakhtin (2011, 15)
Polyphony, the term introduced by Mikhail Mikhailovich Bakhtin (1895-1975) means, according to Graham Allen, “the simultaneous combination of parts or elements or […] voices” (2000, 22). Bakhtin’s theory re-enters literary discourse in the times celebrating diversity and plurality. While propounding the novel as an ideal genre and a “consciously structured hybrid of languages” (2011, xxix), Bakhtin argues for the relevance of dialogue underpinning the novelistic structure. He highlights the importance of the dialogic tradition and traces it back to antiquity, to the Socratic dialogues in particular. In the essay entitled “Epic and Novel” (1970), Bakhtin stresses the relevance of the Socratic dialogues, pointing to them as to the critical documents preluding the modern novelistic genre (2011, 24). What draws Bakhtin’s attention to the Socratic dialogues is their responsivity and interaction with the real world, as well as their rejection of the absolute past (Goethe’s and Schiller’s term) associated with the high genres. For instance, the epic, as a high genre, offers a monologic perspective on the presented events, at the same time hindering the reader’s investment in a dialogue with the text (17, 31). Moreover, what characterises the epic is its closed structure and inevitable conclusiveness. Consequently, the texts belonging to this genre (such as the French narrative poem The Song of Roland) idealise its protagonists and locate their faultless lives within a hermetic structure usually marked by the final heroic death (34). Thus,...
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