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Literature And Spirit

Literature And Spirit: Essays on Bakhtin and His Contemporaries

David Patterson
Copyright Date: 1988
Pages: 176
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  • Book Info
    Literature And Spirit
    Book Description:

    "If Bakhtin is right," Wayne C. Booth has said, "a very great deal of what we western critics have spent our time on is mistaken, or trivial, or both." In Literature and Spirit David Patterson proceeds from the premise that Bakhtin is right.

    Exploring Bakhtin's notions of spirit, responsibility, and dialogue, Patterson takes his reader from the narrow arena of literary criticism to the larger realm of human living and human loving. True to the spirit of Bakhtin, he draws the Russian into a vibrant dialogue with other thinkers, including Foucault, Berdyaev, Gide, Lacan, Levinas, and Heidegger. But he does not stop there. He engages Bakhtin in his own insightful and unique dialogue, meeting the responsibility and taking the risk summoned by dialogue.

    Literature and Spirit, therefore, is not a typically cool and detached exercise in academic curiosity. Instead, it is a passionate and penetrating endeavor to respond to literature and spirit as the links in life's attachment to life. The author demonstrates that in deciding something about literature, we decide something about the substance and meaning of our lives. Far from being a question of commentary or explication, he argues, our relation to literature is a matter of spiritual life and death. The reader who comes before a literary text encounters the human voice. And Patterson enables his reader to hear that voice in all its spiritual dimensions.

    Unique in its questions and in its quest,Literature and Spiritaddresses an audience that goes beyond the ordinary academic categories. It appeals not only to students of literature, philosophy, and religion, but to anyone who seeks an understanding of spiritual presence and meaning in life. Through his affirmation of what is dear, Patterson responds to the needful question. And in his response he puts the question to his audience: Where are you?Literature and Spiritthus speaks to those who face the task of answering, "Here I am."

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6132-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    Meaning is a response to a question. And the general question to which we here respond is the question of the relation between literature and spirit. In order to deal with this question, we must, of course, raise other questions. Where, for example, do we find a connection between literature and spirit? How do the two speak to and through each other? What, indeed, do we mean byliteratureandspirit?

    Addressing this last question first, it must be noted that the termliteratureis used here in a special sense. Literature may be something written, but not just any...

  5. ONE Bakhtin and Foucault: Laughter, Madness, Literature
    (pp. 5-32)

    Mikhail Bakhtin and Michel Foucault are among those thinkers in this century who have had an impact on disciplines ranging from literary theory to cultural history. Although they did not engage in the sort of interchange that would open up issues of influence, there are certain concerns shared by the two that justify an analytical comparison of some of their ideas. Both examine elements that contribute to the evolution of literature, for example; both deal with language and discourse in relation to ideological and literary phenomena; and both investigate various forms of aberration with regard to individual and collective consciousness....

  6. TWO Bakhtin, Berdyaev, and Gide: Dostoevsky’s Poetics of Spirit
    (pp. 33-66)

    InProblems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics,Bakhtin argues that in Dostoevsky’s novels an idea is “neither aprinciple of representation(as in any ordinary novel), nor the leitmotif of representation, nor a conclusion drawn from it (as in a novel of ideas or a philosophical novel); it is, rather, theobject of representation” (24). The title of his book on Dostoevsky might suggest that Bakhtin is concerned more with the author’s poetics than with his message, more with thehowthan with thewhatof the idea. Yet his approach to Dostoevsky is based on a connection between the manner in...

  7. THREE Bakhtin and Lacan: Author, Hero, and the Language of the Self
    (pp. 67-97)

    By now the influence of Mikhail Bakhtin and Jacques Lacan on literary studies is well established, particularly with respect to our notion of literature and our interaction with literary texts. Unlike many theorists, however, Bakhtin not only develops a concept of literature but also examines the creation of literature—what he calls “the aesthetic event”—and its parallel to interhuman relationships. Todorov says in his book on Bakhtin: “Artistic creation cannot be analyzed apart from a theory of alterity” (166); that is, artistic creation always entails interaction between an I and an other. Clark and Holquist explain, “That which in...

  8. FOUR Bakhtin and Levinas: Signification, Responsibility, Spirit
    (pp. 98-127)

    Mikhail Bakhtin is known primarily for his theories on literature. But since those theories rest largely on a concept of dialogical discourse, his ideas have implications for how we view the word and its role in human interrelations. “His accent is on theZwischenwelt,” as Clark and Holquist put it, “or the world between consciousnesses” (9). Bakhtin insists, for example, that “language, for the individual consciousness, lies on the border between oneself and the other” (Dialogic293). And Voloshinov states, “In essence, theword is a two-sidedact. It is determined equally bywhoseword it is and bywhom...

  9. FIVE Bakhtin and Heidegger: Word and Being
    (pp. 128-154)

    Mikhail Bakhtin and Martin Heidegger are two of the twentieth century’s most profound thinkers in the philosophy of language, particularly with respect to the ontology of language, or the relation between word and being. Both, moreover, turn to literature in the development of their thinking on language—Bakhtin to Rabelais and Dostoevsky, for example, and Heidegger to poets such as Hölderlin, Rilke, and Trakl. In his pursuit of the word, Heidegger became famous for his statement that “language is the house of being” in “What Are Poets For?” (Poetry132; alsoUnterwegs254). And inProblems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics,Bakhtin...

  10. SIX Conclusion
    (pp. 155-158)

    At the outset of this volume it was stated that the essays it contains are as much an effort to understand as an attempt to explain. It is time to ask what we have understood. In our process of passage we have gone from one threshold to another. And so it is now: as we near the conclusion of the endeavor, we come not to an end but to a threshold. At the threshold, arriving at some kind of understanding is not a matter of settling on the right answer but of posing the right question. We must be careful...

  11. Works Cited
    (pp. 159-162)
  12. Index
    (pp. 163-167)