Mikhail Bakhtin avoided clear definitions of aesthetics, and he never produced a systematic theory about creativity or the creative process. Yet his view of creativity is based in familiar European philosophical traditions; and best understood through ideas such as answerability, outsideness, and unfinalisability, all of which were formulated when he was still a young man in his 20s. In particular, with the concept of answerability Bakhtin emphasised that we are not obligated by theoretical norms or values, what he called theoretism, but by real people in real historical situations. Following a Kantian framework, he stressed that the three domains of human culture—science or reason, ethics or the life of action, and art or aesthetics—can be united in an individual, but that this unity can be either external and mechanical, or internal and organic. Like any person, the artist can make an external connection between the self, art, and the world, thus creating a falsely self-confident art that cannot answer for life. Yet, to make an inner connection between art and life necessitates answerability—responsiveness to others, events, and the world.

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His father was the manager of a bank and worked in several cities. For this reason Bakhtin spent his early childhood years in Oryol, in Vilnius , and then in Odessa , where in he joined the historical and philological faculty at the local university the Odessa University. Katerina Clark and Michael Holquist write: "Odessa It is here that Bakhtin was greatly influenced by the classicist F. Zelinsky , whose works contain the beginnings of concepts elaborated by Bakhtin.

Career[ edit ] Bakhtin completed his studies in He then moved to a small city in western Russia, Nevel Pskov Oblast , where he worked as a schoolteacher for two years. It was at that time that the first " Bakhtin Circle " formed. The group consisted of intellectuals with varying interests, but all shared a love for the discussion of literary, religious, and political topics.

Included in this group were Valentin Voloshinov and, eventually, P. Medvedev , who joined the group later in Vitebsk. Vitebsk was "a cultural centre of the region" the perfect place for Bakhtin "and other intellectuals [to organize] lectures, debates and concerts.

It was in Nevel, also, that Bakhtin worked tirelessly on a large work concerning moral philosophy that was never published in its entirety. However, in , a short section of this work was published and given the title "Art and Responsibility".

Bakhtin relocated to Vitebsk in It was here, in , that Bakhtin married Elena Aleksandrovna Okolovich. Later, in , Bakhtin was diagnosed with osteomyelitis , a bone disease that ultimately led to the amputation of his leg in This illness hampered his productivity and rendered him an invalid. In , Bakhtin moved to Leningrad , where he assumed a position at the Historical Institute and provided consulting services for the State Publishing House.

It is at this time that Bakhtin decided to share his work with the public, but just before "On the Question of the Methodology of Aesthetics in Written Works" was to be published, the journal in which it was to appear stopped publication. This work was eventually published 51 years later.

The repression and misplacement of his manuscripts was something that would plague Bakhtin throughout his career. It is here that Bakhtin introduces the concept of dialogism. In , living in Saransk , he became an obscure figure in a provincial college, dropping out of view and teaching only occasionally. In , Bakhtin moved to Kimry , a town located one hundred kilometers from Moscow. However, the only copy of the manuscript disappeared during the upheaval caused by the German invasion.

Ultimately, Bakhtin was denied a higher doctoral degree Doctor of Sciences and granted a lesser degree Candidate of Sciences , a research doctorate by the State Accrediting Bureau. Later, Bakhtin was invited back to Saransk, where he took on the position of chair of the General Literature Department at the Mordovian Pedagogical Institute. As a result, the details provided now are often of uncertain accuracy. The manuscript, written between —, was found in bad condition with pages missing and sections of text that were illegible.

Consequently, this philosophical essay appears today as a fragment of an unfinished work. Toward a Philosophy of the Act comprises only an introduction, of which the first few pages are missing, and part one of the full text.

He outlines that the second part will deal with aesthetic activity and the ethics of artistic creation; the third with the ethics of politics; and the fourth with religion. My uniqueness is given but it simultaneously exists only to the degree to which I actualize this uniqueness in other words, it is in the performed act and deed that has yet to be achieved.

Because I am actual and irreplaceable I must actualize my uniqueness. Bakhtin further states: "It is in relation to the whole actual unity that my unique thought arises from my unique place in Being. The I-for-myself is an unreliable source of identity, and Bakhtin argues that it is the I-for-the-other through which human beings develop a sense of identity because it serves as an amalgamation of the way in which others view me. Conversely, other-for-me describes the way in which others incorporate my perceptions of them into their own identities.

Identity, as Bakhtin describes it here, does not belong merely to the individual, rather it is shared by all. It is the later work that is best known in the West. Though external finalization definition, description, causal or genetic explanation etc is inevitable and even necessary, it can never be the whole truth, devoid of the living response of the subjective consciousness.

That is what Bakhtin calls a "monologic" truth, and he is highly critical of tendencies in Western thought that seek to finalize humanity, and individual humans, in this way. Dostoevsky always represents a person on the threshold of a final decision, at a moment of crisis, at an unfinalizable, and unpredeterminable, turning point for their soul.

The concept, which Bakhtin derives from the medieval carnival traditions, suggests an ethos where normal hierarchies, social roles, proper behaviors and assumed truths are subverted in favor of the "joyful relativity" of free participation in the festival. He traces the origins of Menippean satire back to ancient Greece, briefly describes a number of historical examples of the genre, and examines its essential characteristics. These characteristics include intensified comicality, freedom from established constraints, bold use of fantastic situations for the testing of truth, abrupt changes, inserted genres and multi-tonality, parodies, oxymorons, scandal scenes, inappropriate behaviour, and a sharp satirical focus on contemporary ideas and issues.

Bakhtin calls this multi-voiced reality "polyphony": "a plurality of independent and unmerged voices and consciousnesses, a genuine polyphony of fully valid voices The controversial ideas discussed within the work caused much disagreement, and it was consequently decided that Bakhtin be denied his higher doctorate.

In Rabelais and His World, a classic of Renaissance studies, Bakhtin concerns himself with the openness of Gargantua and Pantagruel; however, the book itself also serves as an example of such openness. Throughout the text, Bakhtin attempts two things: he seeks to recover sections of Gargantua and Pantagruel that, in the past, were either ignored or suppressed, and conducts an analysis of the Renaissance social system in order to discover the balance between language that was permitted and language that was not.

It is by means of this analysis that Bakhtin pinpoints two important subtexts: the first is carnival carnivalesque which Bakhtin describes as a social institution, and the second is grotesque realism which is defined as a literary mode.

Thus, in Rabelais and His World Bakhtin studies the interaction between the social and the literary, as well as the meaning of the body and the material bodily lower stratum. While official festivities aim to supply a legacy for authority, folk festivities have a critical centrifugal social function. Carnival, in this sense is categorized as a folk festivity by Bakhtin.

It is through the essays contained within The Dialogic Imagination that Bakhtin introduces the concepts of heteroglossia , dialogism and chronotope , making a significant contribution to the realm of literary scholarship.

By doing so, Bakhtin shows that the novel is well-suited to the post-industrial civilization in which we live because it flourishes on diversity. It is this same diversity that the epic attempts to eliminate from the world.

According to Bakhtin, the novel as a genre is unique in that it is able to embrace, ingest, and devour other genres while still maintaining its status as a novel. Other genres, however, cannot emulate the novel without damaging their own distinct identity. This essay applies the concept in order to further demonstrate the distinctive quality of the novel. For this reason chronotope is a concept that engages reality. It is here that Bakhtin provides a model for a history of discourse and introduces the concept of heteroglossia.

These include qualities such as perspective, evaluation, and ideological positioning. In this way most languages are incapable of neutrality, for every word is inextricably bound to the context in which it exists. The publishing house to which Bakhtin had submitted the full manuscript was blown up during the German invasion and Bakhtin was in possession of only the prospectus.

However, due to a shortage of paper, Bakhtin began using this remaining section to roll cigarettes. So only a portion of the opening section remains. This remaining section deals primarily with Goethe. In a relatively short space, this essay takes up a topic about which Bakhtin had planned to write a book, making the essay a rather dense and complex read.

It is here that Bakhtin distinguishes between literary and everyday language. According to Bakhtin, genres exist not merely in language, but rather in communication. In dealing with genres, Bakhtin indicates that they have been studied only within the realm of rhetoric and literature , but each discipline draws largely on genres that exist outside both rhetoric and literature. These extraliterary genres have remained largely unexplored. Bakhtin makes the distinction between primary genres and secondary genres, whereby primary genres legislate those words, phrases, and expressions that are acceptable in everyday life, and secondary genres are characterized by various types of text such as legal, scientific, etc.

These notes focus mostly on the problems of the text, but various other sections of the paper discuss topics he has taken up elsewhere, such as speech genres, the status of the author, and the distinct nature of the human sciences. However, "The Problem of the Text" deals primarily with dialogue and the way in which a text relates to its context.

Speakers, Bakhtin claims, shape an utterance according to three variables: the object of discourse, the immediate addressee, and a superaddressee. This is what Bakhtin describes as the tertiary nature of dialogue. It is here that Bakhtin discusses interpretation and its endless possibilities. According to Bakhtin, humans have a habit of making narrow interpretations, but such limited interpretations only serve to weaken the richness of the past.

In this essay he makes a distinction between dialectic and dialogics and comments on the difference between the text and the aesthetic object.

It is here also, that Bakhtin differentiates himself from the Formalists , who, he felt, underestimated the importance of content while oversimplifying change, and the Structuralists , who too rigidly adhered to the concept of "code.

He is known for a series of concepts that have been used and adapted in a number of disciplines: dialogism , the carnivalesque , the chronotope, heteroglossia and "outsidedness" the English translation of a Russian term vnenakhodimost, sometimes rendered into English—from French rather than from Russian—as "exotopy".

Together these concepts outline a distinctive philosophy of language and culture that has at its center the claims that all discourse is in essence a dialogical exchange and that this endows all language with a particular ethical or ethico-political force.

Legacy[ edit ] As a literary theorist, Bakhtin is associated with the Russian Formalists , and his work is compared with that of Yuri Lotman ; in Roman Jakobson mentioned him as one of the few intelligent critics of Formalism. Bakhtin began to be discovered by scholars in , [57] but it was only after his death in that authors such as Julia Kristeva and Tzvetan Todorov brought Bakhtin to the attention of the Francophone world, and from there his popularity in the United States, the United Kingdom, and many other countries continued to grow.

In the s there was a "Bakhtin school" in Russia, in line with the discourse analysis of Ferdinand de Saussure and Roman Jakobson.

As a result of the breadth of topics with which he dealt, Bakhtin has influenced such Western schools of theory as Neo-Marxism , Structuralism , Social constructionism , and Semiotics.

Among his many theories and ideas Bakhtin indicates that style is a developmental process, occurring within both the user of language and language itself. His work instills in the reader an awareness of tone and expression that arises from the careful formation of verbal phrasing. By means of his writing, Bakhtin has enriched the experience of verbal and written expression which ultimately aids the formal teaching of writing. Kim states that "culture as Geertz and Bakhtin allude to can be generally transmitted through communication or reciprocal interaction such as a dialogue.

The very boundaries of the utterance are determined by a change of speech subjects. Utterances are not indifferent to one another, and are not self-sufficient; they are aware of and mutually reflect one another Each utterance refutes affirms, supplements, and relies upon the others, presupposes them to be known, and somehow takes them into account Therefore, each kind of utterance is filled with various kinds of responsive reactions to other utterances of the given sphere of speech communication.

This means that every utterance is related to another utterance, true to turn-taking in which the conversational norms are followed in order for a conversation to have a cohesive flow in which individuals respond to one another. If, for example, an utterance does not pertain to a previous utterance then a conversation is not occurring.

However, the utterance will likely pertain to an utterance that the individual once heard- meaning it is, in fact, interrelated, just not in the context of that particular conversation.


Mikhail Bakhtin



Art And Answerability



Art and Answerability



Art and Answerability


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