Unreal Nature

November 5, 2017

Involuntarily Public

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:59 am

… one could only spy and eavesdrop on it.

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):

… Let us now pass to the second type of ancient novel, which we will provisionally call the adventure novel of everyday life.

… Events acquire a public significance as such only when they become crimes. The criminal act is a moment of private life that becomes, as it were, involuntarily public.

… By its nature this private life does not create a place for the contemplative man, for that “third person” who might be in a position to meditate on this life, to judge and evaluate it.

… when the private individual and private life entered literature (in the Hellenistic era) these problems inevitably were bound to arise. A contradiction developed between the public nature of the literary form and the private nature of its content. The process of working out private genres began. But this process remained incomplete in ancient times.

… The quintessentially private life that entered the novel at this time was, by its very nature and as opposed to public life, closed. In essence one could only spy and eavesdrop on it. The literature of private life is essentially a literature of snooping about, of overhearing “how others live.”

[line break added] This life may be exposed and made public in a criminal trial, either directly, by inserting the trial into the novel (along with searches and investigations), by inserting criminal activities into private life, or circumstantially and conditionally, in a half-hidden way, by utilizing eyewitness accounts, confessions of the accused, court documents, evidence, investigative hunches and so forth. And finally we encounter those forms of self-revelation that occur in the ordinary course of our everyday lives: the personal letter, the intimate diary, the confession.

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

-Julie

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