Bakhtin- Discourse in the Novel

January 23, 2007

Being that I am taking a class this semester called Studies in the Novel, when I saw the topic of this essay I thought it would help me understand that class a little more and maybe give me something really smart sounding to say in the next class.  And it very well could have, had I understood this essay.  But I will do my best to make sense of some of it.

 I thought it was interesting how throughout the essay Bakhtin sort of charts the progression of the novel and where it stood in the literary world.  On page 1190 he writes that “for a long time treatment of the novel was limited to little more than abstract ideological examination and publicistic commentary” and again on page 1196 when references Shpet who felt that the novel was “an extra-artistic rhetorical genre” and considered the novel a “form of moral propaganda.”  The novel, which is so popular today was once looked upon as trash and something that did not deserve to be treated as real literature.

There is a part on page 1195 which I think can be related in some way to our conversation on Eliot.  Bakhtin writes, “Thus stylistics and the philosophy of discourse indeed confront a dilemma: either to acknowledge the novel (and consequently all artistic prose tending in that direction) an unartistic or quasi-artistic genre, or to radically reconsider that conception of poetic discourse in which traditional stylistics is grounded and which determines all its categories.”  In our discussion on Eliot we mentioned a strong tie to traditions and standards of the past.  And this is where the novel fits in, how does the literary world deal with this new form?  The choices, according to Bakhtin, were to either find some way for it to fit into the present standards, or to change the standards entirely.

So that is what I took from Bakhtin and Discourse in the Novel.  Hopefully some of that made sense.


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