Lovers in Dialogue: Roman Elegy and the Bakhtinian Concept of Character: Mariusz Zagórski
Lovers in Dialogue:
Roman Elegy and the Bakhtinian Concept of Character
Dialogue is one of the most important categories in Mikhail Bakhtin’s concept of literature. A given literary work is or is not dialogic, depending on whether or not it contains polyphony or “hetero-glossia”, which signifies that the voices of the narrator and the voices of the characters are placed on the same level and are all autonomous. In this sense the most polyphonic genre is the novel, as opposed to the most monophonic, which is, according to Bakhtin, epic poetry. This point of view derives from the emphasis on the communicational function of language, as opposed to treating it as an expressive act rather as in 19th century linguistics. “Language” – Bakhtin says in his essay about speech genres – “is regarded (by most linguists) from the speaker’s standpoint as if there were only the speaker, who does not have any necessary relation to other participants in speech communication”.1 The difference is important, especially for the understanding of a character as a speaker (e.g. narrator) “oriented precisely toward an actively responsive understanding” (expecting response, agreement, sympathy, objection etc.), in which both participants are in dialogue, rather than “parts of the schematic diagrams of general linguistics”.2
Bakhtin himself sees dialogic elements not only in the novel, but also in other genres beginning from antiquity. Famous are his considerations of the “so called Greek novel” and Menippean satire as prenovelistic...
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