Mikhail Bakhtin is a philosopher and theorist who defies easy categorization. He has been associated with Marxist Literary critics, Russian Formalists and structuralists. While he has elements in common with all three, he also differs greatly from them in fundamental ways. His works and theories have become almost a category unto themselves, and their influence stretch across many disciplines and subjects. His most influential ideas in the area of literature concern the novel.
Bakhtin reconceived the way the novel is analyzed. Rejecting traditional stylistics based on poetry, he conceived the novel as the intersection of various strata within a language. The novel, according to Bakhtin, best represented how language in society actually worked; meaning is relative, provisional and situational, individual speech is influenced by what has been said before and what will come after.
[...] This is in direct opposition to the formalist approach, which attempts to turn a text into an object without context which is then studied in a quasi-scientific manner. Another important point to be made here concerns Bakhtin's concept of the answer-word. word in living conversation is directly, blatantly, oriented toward a future answer-word: it provokes an answer, anticipates it and structures itself in the answer's direction” (280). This places a great deal of emphasis, obviously, on the anticipated audience. It also further reveals the importance of society in Bakhtin's schema. [...]
[...] It does not appear to work very well with a novel such as The Big Sleep, one in which the first-person point of view is used, one character takes center stage, and the novelist's own voice is very much present within the work. Works Cited Carpenter, John. Untitled review of Mikhail Bakhtin by Katerina Clark and Michael Holquist. Magill's Literary Annual EBSCOHOST John Vaughan Library Tahlequah, OK Oct 2007. http://web.ebscohost.com.jvlapps.nsuok.edu Chandler, Raymond. The Big Sleep. First Vintage Crime/Black Lizard Edition. [...]
[...] In addition to these elements, the language in The Big Sleep is another way to examine Philip Marlowe. It is important, first of all, to remember that Marlowe is the narrator of the story, in addition to being the central character. Therefore the way the novel is written is very obviously influenced by who Marlowe is and what he does. This can be seen in the way each is approached, each one beginning with a specific and detailed description of the setting. [...]
[...] Most of what has been done here in regards to analyzing The Big Sleep could have been done without Bakhtin's terms and structures. It was thought that applying these principles would yield further insight into the novel than what is possible with an ordinary close reading. It seems that, after the structure of the novel has been identified using Bakhtin's terms, there is little else to do. The only thing Bakhtin seems to contribute from this point is a specialized vocabulary. [...]
[...] On this point The Big Sleep could be criticized from a Bakhtinian point of view. Bakhtin claimed in Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics that Dostoevsky was the first truly “polyphonic” novelist ever. This means that his characters “have been endowed with autonomous voices to such an extent that the reader can no longer discern any authorial control over their utterances or actions” (Rudowski 2). The double meaning contained within the phrase “there was pressure in the air already” makes it an obvious writerly device. [...]
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