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The Bakhtin Circle and Ancient Narrative

The Bakhtin Circle and Ancient Narrative

R. Bracht Branham
Volume: 3
Copyright Date: 2005
Published by: Barkhuis
Pages: 347
  • Book Info
    The Bakhtin Circle and Ancient Narrative
    Book Description:

    Mikhail Mikhailovich Bakhtin (1895-1975) has become a name to conjure with. We know this because he is now one of those thinkers everyone already knows-without necessarily having to read much of him! Doesn't everyone now know how polyphony functions, what carnival means, why language is dialogic but the novel more so, how chronotopes make possible any concrete artistic cognition and that utterances give rise to genres that last thousands of years, always the same but not the same? Like Marx and Freud in the twentieth century, or Plotinus and Plato in the fourth, a familiarity with Bakhtin's thinking is so commonly assumed, at least in the Humanities, as to be taken for granted. He is no longer an author but a field of study in his own right. As Craig Brandist (of the Bakhtin Centre at Sheffield University) reports: the works of the [Bakhtin] Circle are still appearing in Russian and English, and are already large in number...There are now several thousand works about the Bakhtin Circle.The freedom given to contributors to address any text or topic under the general rubric of The Bakhtin Circle and Ancient Narrative has produced a remarkable variety of essays ranging widely over different periods, genres, and cultures. While most of the contributors chose to explore Bakhtin's theory of genre or to take issue with his account of one genre, Greek romance, the remaining contributions defy such convenient categories. What all the essays share with one another (and those collected in Bakhtin and the Classics) is the attempt to engage Bakhtin as a reader and thinker.

    eISBN: 978-94-91431-38-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-X)
  3. The Bakhtin Circle and Ancient Narrative
    (pp. XI-XXIV)

    Mikhail Mikhailovich Bakhtin (1895–1975) has become a name to conjure with. We know this because he is now one of those thinkers everyone already knows—without necessarily having to read much of him! Doesn’t everyone now know how polyphony functions, what carnival means, why language is dialogic but the novel more so, how chronotopes make possible any “concrete artistic cognition” and that utterances give rise to genres that last thousands of years, “always the same but not the same”? Like Marx and Freud in the twentieth century, or Plotinus and Plato in the fourth, a familiarity with Bakhtin’s thinking...


    • The Poetics of Genre: Bakhtin, Menippus, Petronius
      (pp. 3-31)
      R. Bracht Branham

      My purpose in this essay is to explore why Bakhtin felt justified in making the assertion (cited as my epigraph), an assertion which is arguably false, but which nevertheless has a lot of truth in it. Bakhtin’s account of the emergence of fiction in antiquity is developed under three principal rubrics: 1) discourse in the novel; 2) the representation of space-time or chronotopes in fiction; and 3) a history of minor genres related to the novel that focuses on the catalyzing effects of Menippean satire. The first two categories frame attempts to isolate aspects of form specific to ancient fiction,...

    • Plato’s Symposium and Bakhtin’s theory of the dialogical character of novelistic discourse
      (pp. 32-50)
      Kevin Corrigan and Elena Glazov-Corrigan

      In the strict sense, perhaps, there were no novels in Plato’s Athens or during the Middle Ages or at least in the sense that we have come to know the novel as it may be thought to have begun with Cervantes or Richardson.¹ Yet in a broader sense this is perhaps too simple to be usefully true. Schlegel, for example, saw the Socratic dialogues as “the novels of their time”. Nietzsche thought that in the Platonic dialogue which had assimilated all the older poetic genres “Plato … furnished for all posterity the pattern of a new art form, the novel,...

    • Epic, Novel, Genre: Bakhtin and the Question of History
      (pp. 51-73)
      Ahuvia Kahane

      1. Mikhail Bakhtin has in the course of several major works attempted to characterize the literary forms of epic and novel, as well as the relationship between them. These efforts are important for the study of genre, and specifically epic and novel, beyond which, however, lies a broader sphere. One should be careful not to oversimplify complex and detailed arguments or continuously evolving historical traditions.¹ But as one scholar has put it, Bakhtin’s work proceeds from the view that ‘genres themselves are forms of thought that have made valuable discoveries about time, society and human agency’ (Morson 1999: 176).² And it...

    • Genre, Aphorism, Herodotus
      (pp. 74-104)
      Gary Saul Morson

      1. We have many terms for short literary works: aphorism, maxim, witticism, thought, dictum, adage, and many others. None has a clear-cut definition, and most can be used to mean the class of pithy short expressions as a whole. An “aphorism” may be any short expression or a particular type. A maxim may be a type of aphorism or vice versa.

      2. Vagueness serves the anthologizer. InThe Oxford Book of Aphorisms, editor John Gross reminds us that the earliest aphorisms to go by that name were a collection of medical sayings by Hippocrates; that when the term was revived in the...


    • Dialogues in love: Bakhtin and his critics on the Greek novel
      (pp. 107-129)
      Tim Whitmarsh

      Mikhail Bakhtin occupies an extraordinary position in the intellectual universe of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Though he wrote from the turbulent context of Communist Russia, he nevertheless seems to endorse many of the liberal-leaning West’s most favoured concepts: hybridity, polyphony, openness, multiplicity. Bakhtin’s utopian space (as it is often presented) of open-ended dialogues speaks with real depth and resonance to the increasingly (socially, racially, economically, militarily) stratified worlds of late capitalism. His emphasis, moreover, on the prose novel as the principal literary focus for heteroglossia (speaking with/to/for/in view of ‘the other’) chimes well with the secular materialism...

    • Below the Belt: Looking into the Matter of Adventure-Time
      (pp. 130-163)
      Jennifer R. Ballengee

      Bakhtin’s discussion of the Greek romance in his essay ‘Forms of Time and of the Chronotope in the Novel’¹ has prompted a significant amount of debate among classical scholars. Critics chiefly contest Bakhtin’s conceptualization of the chronotope ‘adventure-time’ that Bakhtin posits as characteristic of this ancient novelistic form, arguing that Bakhtin’s chronotope seems to deny the significance of the events that occur between the beginning and end of the novel. Indeed the adventure-time chronotope does leave relatively unexplored the bulk of the events that constitute the narrative. Yet, at the same time, the concept helpfully demarcates a problematic gap in...

    • Bakhtin and Chariton: A Revisionist Reading
      (pp. 164-192)
      Steven D. Smith

      Ancient literary theory did not in a formal sense account for the phenomenon of extended prose fiction, in particular those texts we call the Greek romances.¹ Prose was the medium for a truthful account of the world, or at least for allegory which reflected truth. Fiction was common enough in antiquity, but it was the stuff of poetry, a medium suitable for the construction of artifice.² Within this scheme, extended prose fiction was problematic. Bryan Reardon notes that in the second century CE some writers appear “to keep their distance from fiction, to offer a justification for writing it. Thus,...

    • The limits of polyphony: Dostoevsky to Petronius
      (pp. 193-224)
      Maria Plaza

      In times when a theorist grows as authoritative as the Russian thinker Mikhail Mikhailovich Bakhtin has grown today, his theories are sometimes hastily applied to more texts than they can usefully explain. While the rereading, and possibly reconception, of the Roman novel in the light of his ideas on the novelistic genre is certainly a most important and exciting project, there may be a risk of overstatement. My aim in this paper, therefore, is to suggest an answer to the question of whether Petronius’Satyricacan be said to be a “polyphonic novel” in Bakhtin’s sense.¹

      The concept of “polyphony”...


    • Kristeva’s Novel: Genealogy, Genre, and Theory
      (pp. 227-259)
      Richard Fletcher

      In the final section of hisO teorii prozy[Theory of Prose], published in 1929, the Russian Formalist critic Viktor Shklovsky juxtaposes the plotless prose genres of essay and anecdote against those of the ancient Greek and classic Russian novel:

      Greece has not left us a theory of the novel, although it has left us both novels and novelistic schemata, part of which is still alive to this very day. Still, little respect was paid to this genre. Although in existence for centuries before, the novel was deemed outside the scope of theory. The same was true of Russian literature,...

    • Open Bodies and Closed Minds? Persius’ Saturae in the light of Bakhtin and Voloshinov
      (pp. 260-296)
      Francesca d’Alessandro Behr

      Persius’ judgmentalism was codified in Anderson’s article “Persius and the Rejection of Society.” Anderson argues that the poet’s Stoic impatience led him to condemn all vice harshly:

      As a judge, [P.] can mete out penalties and discern guilt without bias, for he himself has no fault or temptation to crime. The satirist knows how to operate the scales and weigh exactly; he knows how to straighten the crooked; he can pick his way surely towards his destination. … To put it simply, the satirist and his friend are all-competent because of theirsapientiaandratio, whereas others, thestultiare...

    • Bakhtin and the Ideal Ruler in 1–2 Chronicles and the Cyropaedia
      (pp. 297-319)
      Christine Mitchell

      When we turn to a study of ancient Hebrew narrative, most readers prefer the engaging and artful narratives of Samuel and Kings to the seemingly plodding and pedantic narrative of Chronicles. Recently, however, Chronicles has enjoyed a minor surge of interest. As plodding and pedantic as Chronicles may be, perhaps asboringas Chronicles may be, it is plodding, pedantic, and boring for interesting reasons. It may be instructive to compare the narrative of Chronicles to the narrative of Xenophon’sCyropaedia, also known as ‘one of the most tedious books to have survived classical antiquity’ (Gera 1993, vii). In this...

    • Narrative, Responsibility, Realism
      (pp. 320-340)
      Francis Dunn

      How does human culture develop and change? How does a society establish and revise the practices that distinguish it? The question is problematic, not only because culture and society are extremely complex, but also because the study of culture is ill-equipped to address it. As Nicholas Thomas argues, the modern discipline of anthropology was founded upon the exclusion of time, clearing space for a synchronic or atemporal sociology by rejecting historical perspectives.¹ To ask about cultural change, therefore, places us between the horns of a dilemma. An evolutionary model seems reactionary, reverting to attempts of the Cambridge school to uncover...

  7. Indices
    (pp. 341-348)
  8. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 349-350)
  9. Back Matter
    (pp. 351-352)