Unreal Nature

October 29, 2017

The Hammer of Events

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:03 am

… The hammer of events shatters nothing and forges nothing — it merely tries the durability of an already finished product.

Continuing through the essay ‘Forms of Time and of the Chronotope in the Novel’ found in The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays by M.M. Bakhtin edited by Michael Holquist (1981):

… How indeed can a human being be portrayed in the “adventure-time” that we have outlined above, where things occur simultaneously by chance and also fail to occur simultaneously by chance, where events have no consequences, where the initiative belongs everywhere exclusively to chance? It goes without saying that in this type of time, an individual can be nothing other than completely passive, completely unchanging. As we have said earlier, to such an individual things can merely happen.

… While it is true that his life may be completely passive — “Fate” runs the game — he nevertheless endures the game fate plays. And he not only endures — he keeps on being the same person and emerges from this game, from all these turns of fate and chance, with his identity absolutely unchanged.

This distinctive correspondence of an identity with a particular self is the organizing center of the human image in Greek romance. And one must not underestimate the significance, the profound ideological implications raised by this factor of human identity. In this way the Greek romance reveals its strong ties with a folklore that predates class distinctions, assimilating one of the essential elements in the folkloric concept of a man, one that survives to the present in various aspects of folklore, especially in folktales.

[line break added] No matter how impoverished, how denuded a human identity may become in a Greek romance, there is always preserved in it some precious kernel of folk humanity; one always senses a faith in the indestructible power of man in his struggle with nature and with all inhuman forces.

If we carefully examine the narrative and compositional aspects of Greek romance, we will be impressed by the enormous role played by such devices as recognition, disguise, temporary changes in dress, presumed death (with subsequent resurrection), presumed betrayal (with subsequent confirmation of unswerving fidelity) and finally the basic compositional (that is, organizing) motif of a test of the heroes’ integrity, their selfhood. In all these instances the narrative plays directly with traits of human identity. Even this basic complex of motifs — meeting/separation, search/find — is but another narrative expression reflecting this same concern for individual human identity.

… The result of this whole lengthy novel is that … the hero marries his sweetheart. And yet people and things have gone through something, something that did not, indeed,change them, but that did (in a manner of speaking) affirm what they, and precisely they, were as individuals, something that did verify and establish their identity, their durability and continuity. The hammer of events shatters nothing and forges nothing — it merely tries the durability of an already finished product. And the product passes the test.

My most recent previous post from Bakhtin’s book is here.




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