Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics

Booth, Wayne C. 1984. Introduction. In: Emerson, Caryl (trans. & ed.), Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics. Minneapolis; London: University of Minnesota Press, xiii-xxvii.

A fourth way might be called "Aristotelian," or perhaps, to avoid the claim of really having understood Aristotle, "neo-Aristotelian." Here we reject the notion of the separable "content" altogether, and rely instead on a form/matter pairing, in which neither form nor matter can be distinguished an in separation from its twin. When torn from its form, any matter simply becomes inchate, or is placed into another form that changes its fundamental nature. This kind of formal method sees both language and the ideologies that language inescapably embodies as shaped by some conception of a human action, or by an idea to be taught, or by some attitude to be promulgated in the world. Works of art are, like everything else that really exists, analyzable as both form and matter, but qua existing things they exhibit an identity of the two; what the matter has become is this shaped thing.
In this view, you cannot even describe form, say, of Oedipus Rex, without describing with great precision the moral and intellectual qualities of the characters who act and suffer; their action is the form. (Booth 1984: xvi)
I wonder if "neo-Lotmanian" could similarly describe semiotic thought that doesn't really "get" Lotman? And is my own work such an undertaking? I still do not "get" the letter/envelope or conten/form analogy. That the action of the character is the form sounds neat, but I'm not sure if this is... of ony worth.
People in action cannot be reduced to mathematical figures or equations, and neither can "imitations of action." (Booth 1984: xviii)
What do "imitations of action" mean? Does thes notion originate form Aristotle's Poetics? Is the reference to equations a hint to narratology sensu Greimas?
Anyone who has not been maimed by some imposed "ideology in the narrow sense," anyone who is not an "ideologue," respects the fact that each of us is a "we," not an "I." Polyphony, the miracle of our "dialogical" lives together, is thus both a fact of life and, in its higher reaches, a value to be pursued endlessly. (Booth 1984: xxi)
Polyphony (internal addressees) is here a life-goal. Is this Bakhtinian cosmology?
A third challence I have already suggested; it is presented to all those who seek language, and especially the language of literature, as having no reference to any kind of reality other than itself. Bakhtin is not a naive representationalist, but he never leaves any doubt that for him the languages employed in fictions are to be judged as they succeed or fail in representing our "linguistic" life in its highest forms. (Booth 1984: xxv-xxvi)
Referentiality in literature - representationalism?

Emerson, Caryl 1984. Editor's Preface. In: Emerson, Caryl (trans. & ed.), Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics. Minneapolis; London: University of Minnesota Press, xxix-xliii.

Available evidence suggests that Bakhtin did not conceive even his published books as concise, self-sufficient theoretical statements. He thought, read, wrote down what he thaught, and moved on; he was not in the habit of reworking his prose, because the important ideas always came around again in new contexts. (Emerson 1984: xxxi)
This is the in-and-out recurrence of thoughts/ideas/problems put forth by Peirce, if I'm not mistaken. My own blog works similarly, but nothing gets lost.

Bakhtin, Mikhail 1984. Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics. Translated and edited by Caryl Emerson. Minneapolis; London: University of Minnesota Press.

By "dominant Bakhtin has in mind the Formalist concept of the dominanta, the "leading value" in the hierarchical system of values inherent in any work of art. See Roman Jakobson "The Dominant," in Readings in Russian Poetics: Formalist and Structuralist Views, ed. L. Matejka and K. Pomorska (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1971), p. 82: "The dominant may be defined as the focusing component of a work of art: it rules, determines, and transforms the remaining components. It is the dominant which guaratnees the integrity of the structure." [pp. 13; footnote]
A definition of the dominant. In dystopic fiction, this leading value seems to be dysphoria.
But the material of music and of the novel are too dissimilar for there to be anything more between then than a graphic analogy, a simple metaphor. We are transforming this metaphor into the term "polyphonic novel," since we have not found a more appropriate label. It should not be forgotten, however, that the term has its origin in metaphor. (Bakhtin 1984: 22)
Musical metaphors. Cf. Uexküll.
Engelhardt begins witha a sociological and cultural-historical definition of the Dostoevskian hero. Dostoevsky's hero is a declasse member of the intelligentsia, cut off from cultural tradition, from the soil and the earth, a representative of an "accidental tribe." Such a person enters into special relations with the idea: he is defenseless before it and its power, for he is not rooted in objective reality and is deprived of any cultural tradition. He becomes a "person of the idea," a person possessed by an idea> An idea becomes for him an idea-force, omnipotently defining and distorting his consciousness and his life. (Bakhtin 1984: 22)
Many a dystopian protagonist can be viewed as "a person of the idea." E.g. V for Vendetta.
But on the other hand this capacity sharpened, and to an extreme degree, his perception in the cross-section of a given moment, and permitted him to see many and varied things where others saw one and the same thing. Where others saw a single thought, he was able to find and feel out two thoughts, a bifurcation; where others saw a single quality, he discovered in it the presence of a second and contradictory quality. Everything that seemed simple became, in his world, complex and multi-structured. In every voice he could hear two contending voices, in every expression a crack, and the readiness to go over immediately to another contradictory expression; in every gesture he detected confidence and lack of confidence simultaneously; he perceived the profound ambiguity, even multiple ambiguity, of every phenomenon. But none of these contradictions and bifurcations ever became dialectical, they were never set in motion along a temporal plane, as standing alongside or opposite one another, as consonant but not merging or as hopelessly contradictory, as an eternal harmony of unmerged voices or as their unceasing and irreconcilable quarrel. Dostoevsky's visualizing power was locked in place at the moment diversity revealed itself - and remained there, organizing and shaping this diversity in the cross-section of a given moment. (Bakhtin 1984: 30)
Bifurcation of perception.
Dostoevsky could hear dialogic relationships everywhere, in all manifestations of conscious and intelligent human life; where consciousness began, there dialogue began for him as well. Only purely mechanistic relationships are not dialogic, and Dostevsky categorically denied their importance for understanding and interpreting life and the acts of man (his struggle against mechanistic materialism, fashionable "physiologism," Claude Bernard, the theory of environmental causality, etc.). Thus all relationships among external and internal parts and elements of his novel are dialogic in character, and he structured the nover as a whole as a "great dialogue." Within this "great dialogue" could be heard, illuminating it and thickening its texture, the compositionally expressed dialogues of the heroes; ultimately, dialogue penetrates within, into every word, every mimic movement an the hero's face, making it convulsive and anguished; this is already the "microdialogue" that determines the peculiar character of Dostoevsky's verbal style. (Bakhtin 1984: 40)
Thus dialogism reaches even to nonverbal behaviour in literature.
The Underground Man not only dissolves in himself all possible fiked features of his person, making them all the object of his own introspection, but in fact he no longer has any such traits at all, no fiked definitions, there is nothing to say about him, he figures not al a person takes from life but rather as the subject of consciousness and dream. And for the author as well he is not a carrier of traits and qualities that could have been neutral toward his self-consciousness and could have finalized him; no, what the outhor visualizes is precisely the hero's self-consciousness and the inescapable open-endedness, the vicious circle of that self-consciousness. Thus the real-life characterological definition of the Underground Man and the artistic dominant of his image are fused into one. (Bakhtin 1984: 51)
Much like Winston in Orwell's 1984, the Underground Man does not exist.
The hero from the underground eavesdrops on every word someone else says about him, he looks at himself, as it were, i nall the mirrors of other people's consciousnesses, he knows all the possible refractions of his image in those mirrors. And he also knows his own objective definition, neutral both to the other's consciousness and to his own self-consciousness, and he takes into account the point of view of a "third person." But he also knows that all these definitions, prejudiced as well as objective, rest in his hands and he cannot finalize them precisely because he himself perceives them; he can go beyond their limits and can thus make them inadequate. He knows tha the has the final word, and he seeks at whatever cost to retain for himself this ffinal word about himself, the word of his self-consciousness, in order to become in it that which he is not. His consciousness of self lives by its unfinalizability, by its unclosedness and its indeterminacy. (Bakhtin 1984: 53)
A play of the looking glass self. Unfinalizable self-definition. In modern times these alter-perceptions could be the stuff of personal blogs, tweets and comments (especially the site ask.fm).
That which is individual, that which distinguishes one consciousness from another and from others, is cognitively not ossential and belongs to the realm of an individual human being's psyhical organization and limitations. From the point of view of truth, there ore no individual consciousnesses. Idealism recognizes only one principle of cognitive individualization: error. True judgments are not attached to a personality, but correspond to some unified, systematically notologic context. Only error individualizes. (Bakhtin 1984: 81)
So this is this is the famous passage which contains the statement that "Only error individualizes." It's not so bad - he seems to be talking of monological consciousness. And there seems to be a kernel of truth in this, insofar as "what is true" is not dependent on an individual personality, but should be available for verification for virtually everybody.
The monogolic way of perceiving cognition and truth is only one of the possible ways. It arises only where consciousness is placed above existence, and where the unity of existence is transformed into the unity of consciousness. (Bakhtin 1984: 81)
And I do not place consciousness above existence.
This faith in the self-sufficiency of a single consciousness in all spheres of ideological life is not a theory created by some specific thinker; no, it is a profound structural characteristic of the creative ideological activity of modern times, determining all its external and internal forms. We are interested only in its manifestations in literary art. (Bakhtin 1984: 82)
Phraseology for concusivism: nonverbalism is not a product of a single author, and we are interested in its manifestation in literature.
All confirmed ideas are merged in the unity of the author's seeing and representing consciousness; the unconfirmed ideas are distributed among the heroes, no longer as signifying ideas, but rather as socially typical or individually characteristic manifestations of thought. The one who knows, understands, and sees is in the first instance the author himself. (Bakhtin 1984: 82)
Same goes for concursivity: the author "sees" every nonverbal behaviour in his/her text. The reader may not notice, but the author not only notices but understands. That is, the author has a somewhat privileged position. This argument may be contended in that many writers may not be exactly aware of the significance of certain gestures, but writes them up anyway. Then it becomes the knowledgeable reader or analyst who sees all and understands best. But this is unimportant, we are not dealing with a competition.
In the presence of the monologic principle, ideology - as a deduction, as a semantic summation of representation - inevitably transforms the represented world into a voiceless object of that deduction. (Bakhtin 1984: 83)
A title.
There is no need to go beyond the bounds of a given work to see other documents that attest to a concurrence of the author's ideology with the ideology of the hero. (Bakhtin 1984: 84)
I wonder if there could be concurrence between the nonverbal behaviour of the author with the nonverbal behaviour of the characters.
Dostoevsky was capable of representing someone else's idea, preserving its full capacity to signify as an idea, while at the same time also preserving a distance, neither confirming the idea nor merging it with his own expressed ideology. The idea, in his work, becomes the subject of artistic representation, and Dostoevsky himself became a great artist of the idea. (Bakhtin 1984: 85)
This is neat in itself - a writer who can habitate another's idea. Made we think whether an anarchist writer could fully capture a conservative idea. It also makes some sense when translated into the behavioural sphere: that a writer with a good grasp of nonverbal behaviour should be able to write in terms of intercultural communication and capture the way people from another culture maneuver their bodies in the world. This is where Poyatos's "literary anthropology" could be useful.
"Why unhappy?" Ivan Fyodorovich asked smiling.
The nonverbal here supplants the verbal. The significance of the qualifier "smiling" is to reinforce Ivan's doubt expressed in the words. How can he be unhappy if he is smiling? I am inclined to think that this reinforcement is just that - a reinforcement. The smile here is social, ingenuine. The interlocutor immediately comes to the same conclusion: "in all probability you dont' believe yourself..."
The idea lives not in one person's isolated individual consciousness - if it remains there only, it degenerates and dies. The idea begins to live, that is, to take shape, to develop, to find and renew its verbal expression, to give birth to new ideas, only when it enters into genuine dialogic relationships with other ideas, with the ideas of others. (Bakhtin 1984: 87-88)
And this is why I prefer quoting and commenting instead of projecting "original ideas" on a blank page. There is no original idea. An idea becomes truly an idea only when it is shared, when it is related to the ideas of others. I'm beginning to think that Bakhtin's dialogism may help me overcome my individualism. #metablog
In the course of this dialogue Raskolnikov's idea reveals its various focets, nuances, possibilite,s it enters into various relationships with other life-positions. As it loses its monologic, abstractly theoretical finalized quality, a quality sufficient to a single consciousness, it acquires the contradictory complexity and living multi-facedness of an idea-force, being born, living and acting in the great dialogue of the epoch and calling back and forth to kindred ideas of other epochs. Before us rises up an image of the idea. (Bakhtin 1984: 89)
I think that the dialogue of teh current epoch is even more momentous, because "calling back and forth to kindred ideas of other epochs" is no longer a challenge. Archives and databases on the internet make the wealth of human knowledge available with a few button-clicks.
Dostoevsky possesed an extraordinary gift for hearing the dialogue of his epoch, or, more precisely, for hearing his epoch as a great dialogue, for detecting in it not only individual voices, but precisely and predominantly the dialogic relationship among voices, their dialogic interaction. He heard both the loud, recognized, reigning voices of the epoch, that is, the reigning dominant ideas (official and unofficial), as well as voices still weak, ideas not yet fully emerged, latent ideas heard as yet by no one but himself, and ideas that were just beginning to ripen, embryos of future worldviews. (Bakhtin 1984: 90)
I think that the dialogue of teh current epoch is even more momentous, because "calling back and forth to kindred ideas of other epochs" is no longer a challenge. Archives and databases on the internet make the wealth of human knowledge available with a few button-clicks.
Many of Dostoevsky's journalistic articles are constructed in this way. Everywhere his thought makes its way through a labyrinth of voices, semi-voices, other people's words, other people's gestures. He never proves his own positions on the basis of other abstract positions, he does not link thoughts together according to some referential principle, but juxtaposes orientations and amid them constructs his own orientation. (Bakhtin 1984: 95)
Journalistic writing creates the least favorable conditions for overcoming monologism. But nevertheless even there Dostoevsky cannot and does not want to separate the thought from the person, from a living mouth, in order to bing it to another thought o na purely referential and impersonal plane. (Bakhtin 1984: 95)
This may be equally crude as it is true - that every utterance exits a mouth, and every mouth is attached to a face which itself is the frontspiece of the head which is the controlling center of the body. Such metonymic connections may be the way to overcome disembodiment in Bakhtin.
I cannot recognize one who burns heretics an a moral man, because I do not accept your thesis that morality is an argument with internal convictions. That is merely honesty (the Russian language is rich), but not morality. I have a moral model and an ideal, Christ. I ask: would he have burned heretics? - no. That means the burning of heretics is an immoral act...
christ was mistakes - it's been proved! A scorching feeling tells me: better that I remain with a mistake, with Christ, than with you... (Dostoevsky's answer to Kavelin, in his notebook)
Ah, even Dostoevsky noticed that there are many christians who are markedly un-Christ-like.
It is extremely characteristic of Dostoevsky that a question is put to the ideal image (how would Christ have acted?), that is, there is an internal dialogic orientation with regard to it, not a fusion with it but a following of it. (Bakhtin 1984: 98)
A title, in nonverbal terms "a question is put" forward to elucidate concourse and discourse: what do you see and what may it mean?
The plot of the biographical novel is not adequate to Dostoevsky's hero, for such o plot relies wholly on the sociol and characterological definitiveness of the hero, on his full embodiment in life. Between the character of the hero and the plot of his life there must be a deep and organic unity. The biographical novel is built on it. The hero and the objective world surrounding him must be mode of one piece. But Dostoevsky's hero in this sense is not embodied and connet be embodied. He cannot have a normal biographical plot. The heroes themselves, it turns out, fervently dream of being embodied, they long to attach themselves to one of life's normal plots. The longing for embodiment by the "dreamer," born of the idea of the "underground man" and the "hero of an accidental family," is one of Dostoevsky's important themes. (Bakhtin 1984: 101-102)
Bakhtin has a weird understanding of embodiment, that of attachment "to one of life's normal plots," whatever this may mean.
Between the adventure hero and the Dostoevskyan hero there is one formal similarity, very fundamental to the structure of the novel. As rogards the odventure hero also, it is impossible to say who he is. He has no firm socially typical or individually characterological qualities out of which a stable image of his character, type, or temperament might be composed. Such a definitive image would weigh down the adventure plot, limit the adventure possibilities. To the adventure hero anything can happen, he can become anything. He too is not a substance, but a pure function of adventures and escapades. The adventure hero is, to the same degree as Dostoevsky's hero, not finalized and not predetermined by his image. (Bakhtin 1984: 102)
Ah, this could be summed up as the unfinalizability of characters (at least on "dialogic" novels).
True, this eternal man of the adventure plot is (so to speak) a corporeal and corporeal-spiritual man. Outside the plot he is therefore quite empty, and consequently he can establish no ektra-plot connections with any other characters. The adventure plot cannot therefore be the ultimate binding force in Dostoevsky's world, but as a plot it offers favorable material for the realization of Dostoevsky's artistic design. (Bakhtin 1984: 105)
Yet again, corporeality (embodiment) is defined negatively by Bakhtin. For him it is restrictive.
A literary genre, by its very nature, reflects the most stable, "eternal" tendencies in literature's development. Always preserved in a genre ane undying elements of the archaic. True, these archaic elements are preserved in it only thanks to their constant renewal, which is to say, their contemporization. A genre is always the same and yet not the same, always old and new simultaneously. Genre is reborn and renewed at every new stage in the development of literature and in every individual work of a given genre. This constitutes the life of the genre. Therefore even the archaic elements preserved in a genre are not dead but eternally alive; that is, archaic elements are capable of renewing themselves. A genre lives in the present, but always remembers its past, its beginning. Genre is a representative of creative memory in the process of literary development. Precisely for this reason genre is capable of guaranteeing the unity and uninterrupted continuity of this development. (Bakhtin 1984: 106)
A freakishly familiar-sounding definition of the genre.
This carnival sense of the world possesses a mighty life-creating and transforming power, an indestructible vitality. Thus even in our time those genres that have a connection, however remote, with the traditions of the serio-comical preserve in themselves the carnivalistic leaven (ferment), and this sharply distinguishes them from the medium of other genres. These genres always bear a special stamp by which we can recgnize them. The sensitive ear will always catch even the most distant echoes of a carnival sense of the world. (Bakhtin 1984: 107)
Again, vaguely familiar-sounding. Also, the latter part also applies to nonverbalism: the nonverbalist reader always cathes the echoes of "primordial silence" and the "constant brushing-by of bodies" in any given text.
At the base of the genre lies the Socratic notion of the dialogic nature of truth, and the dialogic nature of human thinking about truth. The dialogic means of seeking truth is counterposed to official monologism, which pretends to possess a ready-made truth, and it is also counterposed to the naive self-confidence of those people who think that they know something, that is, who think that they possess certain truths. Truth is not born nor is it to be found inside the head of an individual person, it is born between people collectively searching for truth, in the process of their dialogic interaction. Socrates called himself a "pander": he brought people together and made them callide in a quarrel, and as a result truth was born; with respect to this emerging truth Socrates called himself a "midwife," since he assisted at the birth. For this reason also he called his method "obstetric." But Socrates never called himself the exclusive possessor of a ready-made truth. (Bakhtin 1984: 110)
Very reminiscent of Thomas A. Sebeok, the "cross-pollenator" of sciences.
The ideas of Socrates, of the leading Sophists and other historical figures are not quoted here, not paraphrased, but are presented in their free and creative development against a dialogizing background of other ideas. As the historical and memoir basis of the genre is weakened, the ideas of others become more and more plastic; people and ideas which in historical reality never entered into real dialogic contact (but could have done so) begin to come together in dialogues. This is only one step away from the future "Dialogue of the Dead," in which people and ideas separated by centuries collide with one another on the dialogic plane. (Bakhtin 1984: 112)
This is exactly what has happened and is happening with Bakhtin himself, e.g. the creative comparison of his ideas with those of his contemporaries with whom he never came into contact (Mead, Goffman, Rocker, Lotman, etc.).
A very important characteristic of the menippea is the organic combination within it of the free fantastic, the symbolic, at times even a mystical-religious element with an extreme and (from our point of view) crude slum naturalism. The adventure of truth on earth take place on the high road, in brothels, in the dens of thieves, in taverns, marketplaces, prisons, in the erotic orgies of secret cults, and so forth. The idea here fears no slum, is not afraid of any of life's filth. The man of the idea - the wise man - collides with worldly evil, depravity, baseness, and vulgarity in their most extreme expression. This slum naturalism is apparently already present in the earliest menippea. (Bakhtin 1984: 115)
This "slum naturalism" sounds very much like modern anthropology (e.g. prostitution, cross-dressing, disabilities, etc.).
In the menippea a special type of experimental fantasticality makes its appearance, completely foreign to ancient epic and tragedy: observation from some unusual point of view, from on high, for example, which results in a radical change in the scale of the observed phenomena of life; Lucian's Icaromenippus, for example, or Varro's Endymiones (observations of the life of a city from a great height). This line of experimental fantasticality continues, under the defining influence of the menippea, into the subsequent epochs as well - in Rabelais, Swift, Voltaire, (Micromegas) and others. (Bakhtin 1984: 116)
Something for the semiotics of the city: a possible historical source for de Certeau's "Walking In The City."
In the menippea there appears for the first time what might be called moral-psychological experimentation: a representation of the unusual, abnormal moral and psychic states of man - insanity of all sorts (the theme of the maniac), split personality, unrestrained daydreaming, unusual dreams, passions bordering on madness, suicides, and so forth. These phenomena do not function narrowly in the menippea as mere themes, but have a formal generic significance. Dreams, daydreams, insanity destroy the epic and tragic wholeness of a person and his fate: the possibilities of another person and another life are revealed in him, he loses his finalized quality and ceases to mean only one thing; he ceases to coincide with himself. (Bakhtin 1984: 116-117)
Reminiscent of psychotropic discourse.
Very characteristic for the menippea are scandal scenes, eccentric behavior, inappropriate speeches and performances, that is, all sorts of violations of the generally accepted and customary course of events and the established norms of behavior and etiquette, including manners of speech. These scandals are sharply distinguished by their artistic structure from epic events and tragic catastrophes. They are also different in essence from comic brawls and exposes. One could say that in the menippea new artistic categories of the scandalous and the eccentric emerge which are completely foreign to the classical epic and to the dramatic genres (on the carnivalistic character of these categories we shall speak in more detail below.) Scandals and eccentricities destroy the epic and tragic wholeness of the world, they make a breach in the stable, normal ("seemly" course of human affairs and events, they free human behavior from the norms and motivations that predetermine it. (Bakhtin 1984: 117)
A dialogic relationship to one's own self defines the genre of the soliloquy. It is a discussion with oneself. Already Antisthenes (a pupil of Socrates and perhaps already a writer of menippea) considered the greatest achievement of his philosophy "the ability to communicate dialogically with one's self." Epictetus, Marcus Aurelies, and Augustine were remarkable masters of this genre. At the heart of the genre lies the discovery of the inner man - "one's own self," accessible not to passive self-observation but only through an active dialogic approach to one's own self, destroying that naive wholeness of one's notions about the self that lies ot the heart of the lyric, epic, and tragic image of man. A dialogic approach to oneself breaks down the outer shell of the self's image, that shell which exists for other people, determining the external assessment of a person (in the eyes of others) and dimming the purity of self-consciousness. (Bakhtin 1984: 120)
Self-communication; #metablog
Dialogic banquet discourse possessed special privileges (originally of a cultic sort): the right to a certain license, ease and familiarity, to a certain frankness, to eccentricity, ambivalence; that is, the combination in one discourse of praise and abuse, of the serious and the comic. (Bakhtin 1984: 120)
I have taken to use the #metablog tag for quotes which may be used to discuss this blog (JJA). These particular characteristics listed here to my mind describe well the relaxed scholarship or unofficial seriousness with which I conduct this blog. JJA is the closes example to a real life "dialogue" I have, as I otherwise (on the object-level) deal with nonverbal communication, in which there is no dialogue, only interaction.
Carnival is the place for working out, in a concretely sensuous, half-real and half-play-acted form, a new mode of interrelationship between individuals, counterposed to the all-powerful socio-hierarchical relationships of noncarnival life. The behavior, gesture, and discourse of a person are freed from the outhority of all hierarchical positions (social estate, rank, age, property) defining them totally in noncarnival life, and thus from the vantage point of noncarnival life become eccentric and inappropriate. Eccentricity is a special category of the carnival sense of the world, organically connected with the category of familiar contact; it permits - in concretely sensuous form - the latent sides of human nature to reveal and express themselves. (Bakhtin 1984: 123)
A very useful passage. In terms of gestures and behaviours the meaning of Bakhtin's carnivalization becomes instantly clear for me.
This epoch also witnessed the carnivalization of the speech life of European peoples: whole layers of language, the so-called familiar speech of the public square, were permeated with a carnival sense of the world; there came into being an enormous fund of unrestrained carnivalistic gesticulations. The familiar speech of all European peoples is to this day filled with relics of carnival, especially speech of abuse and ridicule; the symbol-system of carnival also fills the abusive, ridiculing gesticulations of today. (Bakhtin 1984: 130)
A point for gesture studies.
Representation of the nether world often applied the carnivalistic logic of "a world upside down": an emperor in the nether world becomes a slave, a slave an emperor, and so forth. (Bakhtin 1984: 133)
The first shall be last and the last shall be the first, in Christianity.
Characteristic first of all is the image of the narrator and the tone of his story. The narrator - a "certain person" - is on the treshold of insanity (delirium tremens). But that aside, he is already a person not like everyone else: that is, he is one who has deviated from the general norm, who has fallen out of life's usual rut, who is despised by everyone and who himself despises everyone - that is, we have before us a new variety of the "underground man." (Bakhtin 1984: 138)
Does the Underground Man hate the world like Winston does?
I kept glancing at the faces of the dead cautiosly, distrusting my impressionability. Some had a mild expression, some looked unpleasant. As a rule the smiles were disagreeable, and in some cases very much so...
Dead body language per se in Dostoevsky.
The essence of every genre is realized and revealed in all its fullness only in the diverse variations that arise throughout a given genre's historical development. The more accessible all these variants are to the artist, the more richly and flexibly will he command the language of the given genre (for the language of a genre is concrete and historical). (Bakhtin 1984: 142)
To write a good (genre-continuing) dystopia one should first read the classical ones, or, better yet do as Orwell did and review them.
...the idea that "everithing is permitted" if there is no Fod and no immortality for the soul (one of the leading idea-images of his work); the related theme of confession without repentance and of "shameless truth," which runs through all of Dostoevsky's work beginning with Notes from Underground; the theme of the final moments of consciousness (connected in other works with the themes of capital punishment and suicide); the theme of a consciousness on the brink of insanity; the theme of sensuality, penetrating the highes spheres of consciousness and thought; the theme of the total "inappropriateness" and "unseemliness" of life cut off from its folk roots and from the people's fath, and so on - all these themes and ideas, in condensed and naked form, are fitted into the seemingly narrow confines of this story. (Bakhtin 1984: 144)
I had not dared to hope for it, but Bakhtin may indeed help me out in dealing with Orwell and Huxley.
In Notes from Underground we also find other familiar signs of the menippea: abrupt dialogic syncrises, familiarization and profanation, slum naturalism, and so on. (Bakhtin 1984: 154-155)
Ah! Slum naturalism in also apparent in Orwell's "proletarian quarters."
Each new variety, each new work of a given genre always enriches it in some way, aids in perfecting the language of the genre. For this reason it is important to know the possible generic sources of a given author, the literary and generic atmosphere in which his creative work wes realized. The more complete and concrete our knowledge of an artist's generic contacts, the deeper can we penetrate the peculiar features of his generic form and the more correctly can we understand the interrelationship, within it, of tradition and innovation. (Bakhtin 1984: 157)
Quite important. I am interested in genre theory only insofar as I am dissecting the dystopian genre, but I must nevertheless know something. This here is agreable.
We have already made reference to the phenomenon of reduced laughter, so important in world literature. Laughter is a specific aesthetic relationship to reality, but not one that can be translated into logical language; that is, it is a specific means for artistically visualizing and comprehending reality and, consequently, a specific means for structuring an artistic image, plot, or genre. Enormous creative, and therefore genre-shaping, power was possessed by ambivalent carnivalistic laughter. This laughter could grasp and comprehend a phenomenon in the process of change and transition, it could fix in a phenomenon both poles of its evolution in their uninterrupted and creative renewing changeability: in death birth is foreseen and in birth death, in victory defeat and in defeat victory, in crowning a decrowning. Carnival laughter does not permit a single one of these aspects of change to be absolutized or to congeal in one-sided seriousness. (Bakhtin 1984: 164)
And here Bakhtin almost touches upon what is called "somaesthetics" - that is, "a specific aesthetic relatioship to reality" that cannot "be translated into logical language." Also, concursivity can be "a specific means for artistically visualizing and comprehending reality" and even "a specific means for structuring an artistic image, plot, or genre" - many congenialities.
I dreamed I climbed a crooked stair that led
Up to a tower, and there upon that height
I stood, where Moscow like an ant hill lay
Undermy feet, and in the marketplace
The people stared and pointed at me laughing;
I felt ashamed, a trembling overcame me,
I fell headfirst, and in that fall I woke.
Wow. Pushkin (in Boris Godunov) is good even without rhyme...
Raskolnikov ekperiences terrible moments at the treshold of the murdered pawnbroker's when, on the other side of the door, on the stairway landing, her visitors stand and tug at the bell. It is to this place that he returns and himself rings the bell, in order to relieve those moments. The scene of his half-confession to Razumikhin takes place on the treshold in the corridor by a lamp, without words, only in glances. On the treshold, near the doors leading to a neighbouring apartment, his conversations with Sonya occur *with Svidrigailov eavesdropping on the other side of the door). There is certainly no need to enumerate further all the "acts" that take place on the treshold, near the treshold, or that are permeated with the living sensation of treshold in this novel. (Bakhtin 1984: 170)
The conversation of glances. I think there might be a need to enumerate all "acts" that take place in a given text.
And the time of gambling is a specila time: here, too, a minute is equal to years. (Bakhtin 1984: 171)
"A minute is equal to years" would fit as a title for discussion of kinesic transcription, e.g. how some investigators actually spent years going over a few minutes worth of videotaped interaction.
One might say that Myshkin is not able to enter into life completely, cannot become completely embodied, cannot accept any definitiveness in life that would limit a personality. He remains, as it were, on a tangent to life's circle. It is as if he lacks the necessary flesh of life that would permit him to occupy a specific place in life (thereby cromding others out of that place), and therefore he remains on a tangent to life. But precisely for that reason is he able to "penetrate" through the life-flesh of other people and reach their deepest "I." (Bakhtin 1984: 173)
The "flesh of life" is actually a good metaphor for nonverbal behaviour or embodiment - especially in relation to the way literature "touches" life (in Bradbury). This is yet another iteration - a metaphorical one - of concursivity.
We have already spoken of the structural characteristics of the carnival image: it strives to encompass and unite within itself bothe poles of becoming or both members of an antithesis: birth-death, youth-old age, top-bottom, foce-backside, praise-abuse, affirmation-repudiation, tragic-comic, and so forth, while the upper pole of a two-in-one image is reflected in the lower, after the manner of the figures on playing cards. It could be expressed this way: opposites come together, look at one another, are reflected in one another, know and understand one another.
And in just this way could one define the basic principle of Dostoevsky's art. Everything in his world lives on the very border of its opposite. Love lives on the very border of hate, knows and understands it, and hate lives on the border of love and also understands it... (Bakhtin 1984: 176)
This is also one of the primary structural characteristics of the model of the semiosphere.
We have entitled our chapter "Discourse in Dostoevsky," for we haw in mind discourse, that is, language it its concrete living totality, and not language as the specigif object of linguistics, something arrived ot through a completely legitimate and necessary abstraction from vorious aspects of the concrete life of the word. (Bakhtin 1984: 181)
Benveniste understood discourse as language put into action. Bakhtin here understands discourse as "the concrete life of the word." Are these definitions fully compatible? And what would be concourse in relation with this definition? "The word of the concrete life?"
Dialogic relationships (including the dialogic relationships of a speaker to his own discourse) are the subject of metalinguistics. (Bakhtin 1984: 182)
How does metalinguistics in this sense differentiate from psycholinguistics?
In conclusion, we remind the reader that dialogic relationships in the bread sense are alse possible among different intelligent phenomena, provided that these phenomena are expressed in some semiotic material. Dialogic relationships are possible, for example, among images belonging to different art forms. But such relationships already exceed the limits of metalinguistics. (Bakhtin 1984: 184-185)
Concursivity as a dialogue?
Ultimate semantic authority - the author's intention - is realized not in his direct discourse but with the help of other people's words, created and distributed specifically as the words of others. (Bakhtin 1984: 188)
The same seems to go for nonverbal behaviour in literature - that the ultimate semantic authority concerning "intention" in literature belongs to the author.
One word acutely senses alongside it someone else's word speaking about the same object, and this awareness determines its structure.
Internally polemical discourse - the word with a sideward glance at someone else's hostile word - is extremely widespread in practical everyday speech as well as in literary speech, and has enormous style-shaping significance. Here belong, in everyday speech, all words that "make digs at others" and all "barbed" words. But here also belongs all self-deprecating overblown speech that repudiates itselfi nadvance, speech with a thousand reservations, concessions, loopholes and the like. Such speech literally cringes in the presence or the anticipation of someone else's word, reply, objection. The individual maner in which a person structures his own speech is determined to a significant degree by his peculiar awareness of other's words, and by his means for reacting to them. (Bakhtin 1984: 196)
Is this "word organicism?"
For classicism, only the word of language exists, "no one's word," a material word which is part of the poetic lexicon, and this word passes directly from the treasurehouse of poetic language into the monologic context of a given poetic utterance. (Bakhtin 1984: 200)
Ah, this is a problem that should be discussed thoroughly in terms of nonverbal communication, e.g. how "no one's behaviour" emerges, or how tokens give way to types. The problem of legisigns. This could alse be viewed in terms of Lotman's two approaches to behaviour: one being "someone's behaviour" and the other "no-one's behaviour" in this sense.
After almost every word Devushkin castsa sideward glance at his absent interlocutor: he is afraid she will think he is complaining, he tries in advance to destroy the impression that will be created by the news that he lives in the kitchen, he does not want to distress her, and so forth. The repetition of words results from his trying to intensify their accent or te give them a new nuance in light of his interlocutor's possible reaction. (Bakhtin 1984: 206)
But there is no feedback from an "absent interlocutor"?
However, does it really matter?" He continues as he mounted the stairs, breathing hard and trying to control the beating of his heart, which always seemed to beat hard on other people's stairs...
Self-indication and self-control of breathing. From The Double.
...a smile full of the most venomous and far-reaching implications...
From The Double.
The devil shouts into Ivan Karamazov's ear Ivan's very own words, commenting mockingly on his decision to confess in court and repeating in an alien tone his most intimate thoughts. (Bakhtin 1984: 221)
The very same occurs in Orwell's 1984, where the inquisitor is familiar with the contents of not only Winston's diary, but seemingly his very thoughts, repeating them to Winston in order to persuade him that his ideas are insane.
In fact the narration does, with the most tedious precision, register all the minutest movements of the hero, not sparing endless repetitions. The narrator is literally fettered to his hero; he cannot back off from him sufficiently to give a summarizing and integrated image of his deeds and actions. Such a generalized image would already lie outside the hero's own field of vision, and on the whole such images presume some stable position on the outside. The narrator does not have access to such a position, he has none of the perspectives necessary for an artistically finalizing summation of the hero's image or of his acts as a whole.
This peculiar feature of narration in The Double is, with certain modifications, preserved throughout all of Dostoevksy's subsequent work. Narration in Dostoevsky is always narration without perspective. Employing a term from art criticism, we could say that Dostoevsky had no "distance perspective" on the hero and the event. The narrator finds himself in immediate proximty to the hero and the ongoing event, and it is from this maximally close, aperspectival point of view that he structures their representation. (Bakhtin 1984: 225)
This definitely concerns concourse. Thus, Bakhtin notes "intimate" closeness the author has to his or her characters, framing it of course in terms of the "point of view" approach.
"Notes fro mUnderground" is a confessional Ich-Erzahlung. Originally the work was entitled "A Confession." And it is in fact an authentic confession. Of course, "confession" is understood here not in the personal sense. The author's intention is refracted here, as in any Ich-Erzählung this is not a personal document but a work of art. (Bakhtin 1984: 227)
Invaluable information. Also, some of the first words in the novel, e.g. "a sick man" could serve as a title for discussing dystopian protagonists. Also, see if Ich-Erzählung is another iteration of self-communication...
In conclusion we will comment upon two additional characteristics of the Undorground Man. Not only his discourse but his face too has its sideward glance, its loophole, and all the phenomena resulting from these. It is as if interference, voices interrupting one another, penetrate his entire body, depriving him of self-sufficiency and ambiguousness. The Underground Man hates his own face, the power of that other's evaluations and opinions. He himself looks on his face with another's eyes, with the eyes of the other. And this alien glance interruptedly merges with his own glance and creates in him a peculiar hatred toward his own face:
For instance, I hated my face; I thought it disgusting, and even suspected that there was something base in its expression and therefore every time I turned up at the office I painfully tried to behave as independently as possible so that I might not be suspected of being base, and to give my face as noble an expression as possible. "Let my face even be ugly," I thought, "but let it be noble, expressive, and above all, extremely intelligent." But I was absolutely and painfully certain that my foce could never express those perfections; but what was worst of all, I thought it purposively stupid-looking. And I would have been quite satisfied if I could have looked intelligent. In fact, I would even have put up with looking base if, at the samet ime, my face could have been thought terribly intelligent. [SS IV, 168, "Notes," Part Two, ch. I]
Just as he deliberately makes his discourse about himself unattractive, so is he made happy by the unattractiveness of his face:
I happened to look at myself in the mirror. My harassed face struck me as extremely revolting, pale, spiteful, nasty, with disheveled hair. "No matter, I am glad of it," I thought; "I am glad that I shall seem revolting to her: I like that." [SS IV, 206, "Notes," Part Two, Ch. V]
This plomic with the other on thesubject of himself is complicated in "Notes from Underground" by his polemic with the other on the subject of the world and society. The underground hero, in contrast to Devushkin and Golyadkin, is an ideologist. (Bakhtin 1984: 235-236)
A point for the ugliness-drive (much like thanatos). Here it is framed as an ideology.
The motifs "I didn't know that," "I didn't see that," "that was relealed to me only later," are absent from Dostoevsky's world. His hero knows and sees everything from the very beginning. This is why it is so common for heroes (or for a narrator speaking about a hero) to announce, after a catastrophe, that they had known and foreseen everything in advance. "Our hero shrieked and clutched at his head. Alas" That was what he had known for a long time would happen!" Thus ends The Double. The Underground Man is constantly emphasizing that he knew everything and foresaw everything. (Bakhtin 1984: 239)
Yet another congeniality with Orwell! Winston also knows beforehand what must happen to him and when the bullet does come, he loves the Big Brother.
We have already said that internal dialogue (that is, microdialogue) and the principles for constructing it served as the basis on which Dostoevsky originally introduced other real voices. (Bakhtin 1984: 254)
So that's what microdialogue is. But what if one imagines internal interaction - would that be microinteraction?
A newly born genre never supplants or replaces any already existing genres. Each new genre merely supplements the old ones, merely widens the circle of already existing genres. For every genre has its own predominant sphere of existence, in which it is irreplaceable. (Bakhtin 1984: 271)
And more wise words on the concept of genre.
CHERNYSHEVSKY, Nikolai Gavrilovich [1828-99]
Russian radical critic and publicist, a leading representative of Russian utilitarianism of the 1850s and '60s. He edited the influential progressive journal Sovremennik [The Contemporary] from 1853 until his arrest in 1862 for revolutionary activities; while in prison he wrote his didactic-utopian novel Chto Delat' [What is To Be Done?] (1863). Cherneyshevsky's martyrdom (seven years hard labor and twenty years exile in Siberia), plus the phenomenal popularity of his novel among Russian social activists, made him a great mythologized hero in the postrevolutionary search for nineteenth-century precursors to Bolshevism.
In 1855 Chernyshevsky wrote "The Aesthetic Relation of Art to Reality," an essay that has since become canonical for official Soviet literature. In it he defends mimetic, representational, utilitarian art - to the extent of insisting that emotion is art's prime ingridient, and that in art "feeling and form are opposites." Bakhtin's use of Chernyshevsky here, as the prototype of a novelist who seeks an objective, deliberately de-centered novel (The Pearl of Creation), is thus characteristically eccentric. [pp. 308-309]
What is To Be Done? is reputedly a precursor to Notes from the Underground and We in the utopian/dystopian genre.


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