Blog Archives

D is for… Dialogism: Bakhtin and his world (Book) #AtoZChallenge

D is for… Dialogism: Bakhtin and his world (Book)

I thought I would use this challenge to remind myself why I had bought a few of the books on my bookshelf. Knowing that I wouldn’t be able to read whole books I decided scan reading and providing an overview of each on my A to Z list would be sufficient for now; providing me with a synopsis I could return to.

I bought Dialogism: Bakhtin and his world by Michael Holquist (New Accents series) after attending a session at BU led by someone from the media school. It sounded interesting, possibly relevant and I remember Bakhtin was one of the theorists who cropped up a few times when I was studying for my OU degree in Literature. I bought this book (originally published in 1990) for my Kindle (2002 edition).

I started scanning and reading and quickly I got lost. I was confused and the words on the page didn’t all seem to make sense when combined. I felt stupid – I believe this is a feeling that will occur again on my PhD journey. Occasionally though there was a glimmer of hope and I was highlighting sentences, sometimes even whole paragraphs that I understood and thought could be useful.

I guess the fear is that is where I could stop – only using that which makes sense – in terms of understanding, and with reference to my worldview. I have to be cautious to push myself further – push myself back. Theorists refer to other theorists and so it goes on. I feel I need to make myself a timeline – distinguish how Bakhtin relates to and differs from Kant, Heidegger and the like (names mentioned in this book). Believe me I’m already lost in a sea of names that sound familiar but that I can’t automatically place.

Anyway back to a very brief synopsis of this book and why I think it might be relevant:

Clearly it refers to the idea of writing (particularly the novel) as being a dialogue and one that is context driven. I can’t tell you how much this links to my distrust of learning literature at school – “just read the words” and then the more satisfying experience at university – “yes it is ok to understand the social, political, historical and personal contexts of when the words were written”. Dialogism also refers to a ‘multiplicity’ of perception – again acceptance that opinions and perception will be different.

The book talks about relations (this is becoming more important to me and the direction I am taking) – between an author and their heroes for one, and even goes as far as referring to novels being able to actively shape cultural history. A quote from the book ‘In dialogism, literature is seen as an activity that plays an important role in defining relations between individuals and society.’ (Location 1692 in the kindle edition).

It mentions intertextuality (which I have another whole book on – see the letter I post to come).

Generally this appears to discuss language and books with less discussion for example about what this all means for the author/writer – that is something that I hope to explore.

And that’s it – all I seem to have understood (?!) at the moment. I think this is a book to come back to when I’ve grown more brain!

How do you best tackle books/articles that you just don’t get on a first read, especially if you think you need to understand them?

%d bloggers like this: