Friday, December 22, 2017

Mikhail Bakhtin

The readings of Mikhail Bakhtin ( (1885-1975) in The Critical Tradition are The Topic of the Speaking Person and Heteroglossia in the Novel from  from Discourse in the Novel.

“The topic of a speaking person has an enormous importance in everyday life. In real life we hear speech about speakers and their discourse at every step. We can go so far as to say that in real life people talk most of all about what others talk about – they transmit, recall, weigh and pass judgments on other people’s words, opinions, assertions, information; people are upset by others’ words, or agree with them, contest them, refer to them and so forth. Were we to ease- drop on snatches of raw dialogue in the street, in the crowd, in lines, in a foyer and so forth, we would hear how often the words ‘he says’, ‘people say’, ‘he said’.  .  .’ are repeated, and in the conversational hurly-burly of people in a crowd, everything often fuses into one big ‘he says . . . you say . . I say . . .” Reflect how enormous is the weight of ‘everybody says’ and ‘it is said’ in public opinion, public rumor, gossip, slander and so forth. One must also consider the psychological importance in our lives of what others say about us and the importance, for us, of understanding and interpreting these words of others  (living hermeneutics [aka  search for meaning]’).

The importance of this motif (of the speaking person) is in no way  diminished in the higher and better organized areas of everyday communication. Every conversation is full of transmissions and interpretations of other people’s words. A every step one meets ‘a quotation’ or a reference’ to something that a particular person said, a reference to ‘people say’ or ‘everybody says,’ to the words of the person one is talking with, or to one’s own previous words, to a newspaper, an official decree, a document, a book and so forth. The majority of our information and opinions is usually not communicated in a direct form as our own, but with reference to some indefinite and general source: ‘I heard,’ “It’s generally held that .  .  , ‘It’s thought that. . .’  Take one of the most widespread  occurrences in our everyday life, the conversations about  some official meeting: they are all constructed on the transmission, interpretation and evaluation of verbal performance, resolutions, the rejected and accepted corrections that are made to them. . .

The following must be kept in mind:  that the speech of another, once enclosed in a context, is – no matter how accurately transmitted- always subject to semantic change. The context embracing another’s words is responsible for its dialogizing background, whose influence is very great. Given to appropriate methods for framing, one may bring about fundamental change even in another’s utterance accurately quoted. Any sly and ill-disposed polemicist  knows very well which dialogizing backdrop he should bring to bear on the accurately quoted words of his opponent, in order to distort their sense. Another’s discourse, when introduced into a speech context, enters the speech that frames it not in a mechanical bond but in a chemical union on the semantic and expressive level; the degree of dialogized  influence, one on the other, can be enormous.

These ( the above and so forth) conversations about speaking persons and others’ words in everyday life do not go beyond the boundaries of the superficial aspects of discourse, the weight it carries in the specific situation; the deeper semantic and emotionally expressive levels of discourse do not enter the game.The topic of the speaking person takes on quite another significance in the ordinary ideological workings of our consciousness, in the process of assimilating our consciousness to the ideological  world. The ideological becoming of a human being, in this view, is the process of selectively assimilating the words of others."

Two sorts of discourses  dominate the  the assimilation of consciousness to the ideological world, in Bakhtin’s view: authoritative discourse and the internally persuasive discourse. Sometimes they are united but more frequently an individual’s becoming is characterized precisely by a-gap between these two categories: in the one, the authoritative  world (religious, political, moral; the word of the father, of adults and of teachers etc.) that does not know internal persuasiveness; in the other the internally persuasive word is denied all privilege, backed  up by no authority at all, and is frequently not even acknowledged in society(not by public opinion, nor by scholarly norms, nor by criticism), not even in the legal code. The struggle and dialogic  interrelationship of these categories of ideological discourse are what usually determine an individual ideological consciousness.

Bakhtin gives precedent to internally persuasive discourse “whose semantic structure is not finite, it is open; in each of the new contexts that dialogize it, the discourse is able to reveal ever newer ways to mean.”

"Within the arena of almost every utterance and intense interaction a struggle between one’s own and another’s word is being waged, a process in which they oppose or dialogically inter-animate each other. The utterance so conceived is a considerably more complex and dynamic organism than it appears when construed  simply as a thing that articulates the intention of the person uttering it, which is to see the utterance as a  as a direct, single-voiced vehicle for expression."

"All of this has been studied by psychology but not from the point of view of its verbal formulation in possible inner monologues of developing human beings, the monologue that last a whole life." ( and largely in response to the words of others, as others respond to his/her).

*  see this on the ‘weight’ of every day affairs:

No comments:

Post a Comment