Esther’s Space- journey through my life

January 24, 2007

Week 2- Bakhtin

Filed under: Uncategorized — estherspace @ 9:08 am

When I began reading Bakhtin’s essay, I was forced to quell a rising sense of terror. I was overwhelmed by the complexity of the writing. I was especially frustrated by the fact that I knew the meaning of every word that he was using, and therefore should be able to understand the meaning of the words together. I then remembered Barry’s comments and assured myself that as long as I relaxed and slowly picked through the work, it would all make sense. Right. This may have been wishful thinking.

Honestly, as I went through, the reading did get a little bit easier as my comprehension of it increased. However, as my understanding increased, my level of impressment with Bakhtin decreased and I was less interested in what he had to say.

It seemed that in the beginning of the essay he was saying that in separating language and style from the study of genre, critics are thereby ignoring the basic social tone of the work. I am referring to the passage on 1190 in the second paragraph that states, “The separation of style and language from the question of genre has been largely responsible for a situation in which only individual and period-bound overtones of a style are the privileged subjects of study, while its basic social tone is ignored.” In an attempt to internalize this statement, I endeavored to think of an example to illustrate his theory. While I am not certain it fully applies, I came up with the example of a writer using Ebonics in his or her writing and the critic focusing on the Ebonics themselves rather than the social culture it has risen from, or the influence it has on the society into which it is entering.

Bakhtin, however, went on to create a clear divide between stylistics and language (1191), and then listed “Stylization of the various forms of oral everyday narration (skaz)” as a “basic type of compositional-stylistic unit[y] into which the novelistic whole usually breaks down” (1192). This is where I lost it. It seems to me that the ‘oral forms of everyday narration’ are a form or manifestation of language. It would also make sense to me that the way a narrator uses language or the language that he or she uses is part of the style of the piece. I cannot understand how they can be separated and isolated in criticism, as Bakhtin seems to argue for.

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