Unreal Nature

September 11, 2017

A Liviing Contact

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:45 am

… the novel inserts into these other genres an indeterminacy, a certain semantic open-endedness, a living contact with unfinished, still-evolving contemporary reality …

This is from the essay ‘Epic and Novel: Toward a Methodology for the Study of the Novel’ found in The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays by M.M. Bakhtin edited by Michael Holquist (1981):

… The great organic poetics of the past — those of Aristotle, Horace, Boileau — are permeated with a deep sense of the wholeness of literature and of the harmonious interaction of all genres contained within this whole. It is as if they literally hear this harmony of the genres. In this is their strength — the inimitable, all-embracing fullness and exhaustiveness of such poetics. And they all, as a consequence, ignore the novel.

… The novel parodies other genres (precisely in their role as genres); it exposes the conventionality of their forms and their language; it squeezes out some genres and incorporates others into its own peculiar structure, reformulating and re-accentuating them. Historians of literature sometimes tend to see in this merely the struggle of literary tendencies and schools. Such struggles of course exist, but they are peripheral phenomena and historically insignificant. Behind them one must be sensitive to the deeper and more truly historical struggle of genres, the establishment and growth of a generic skeleton of literature.

… What are the salient features of this novelization of other genres suggested by us above? They become more free and flexible, their language renews itself by incorporating extraliterary heteroglossia and the “novelistic” layers of literary language, they become dialogized, permeated with laughter, irony, humor, elements of self-parody and finally — this is the most important thing — the novel inserts into these other genres an indeterminacy, a certain semantic open-endedness, a living contact with unfinished, still-evolving contemporary reality (the open-ended present).

[line break added] As we will see below, all these phenomena are explained by the transposition of other genres into this new and peculiar zone for structuring artistic models (a zone of contact with the present in all its open-endedness), a zone that was first appropriated by the novel.

-Julie

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