Unreal Nature

February 11, 2018

Its Essential Human Character

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:48 am

… from behind its words, forms, styles, nationally characteristic and socially typical faces begin to emerge the images of speaking human beings.

Final post from the essay ‘Discourse in the Novel’ found in The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays by M.M. Bakhtin edited by Michael Holquist (1981):

… we must learn how to develop a sensitivity toward the brute materiality, the typicality, that is the essential attribute not only of actions, gestures and separate words and expressions, but the basic ingredient as well in points of view, in how the world is seen and felt, ways that are organically part and parcel with the language that expresses them. Such a perception is possible only for a consciousness organically participating in the universum of mutually illuminating languages.

… external multi-languagedness strengthens and deepens the internal contradictoriness of literary language itself; it undermines the authority of custom and of whatever traditions still fetter linguistic consciousness; it erodes that system of national myth that is organically fused with language, in effect destroying once and for all a mythic and magical attitude to language and the word. A deeply involved participation in alien cultures and languages (one is impossible without the other) inevitably leads to an awareness of the disassociation between language and intentions, language and thought, language and expression.

By “disassociation” we have in mind here a destruction of any absolute bonding of ideological meaning to langauge, which is the defining factor of mythological and magical thought.

… This verbal-ideological decentering will occur only when a national culture loses its sealed-off and self-sufficient character, when it becomes conscious of itself as only one among other cultures and languages. It is this knowledge that will sap the roots of a mythological feeling for language, based as it is on an absolute fusion of ideological meaning with language; there will arise an acute feeling for language boundaries (social, national and semantic), and only then will language reveal its essential human character; from behind its words, forms, styles, nationally characteristic and socially typical faces begin to emerge the images of speaking human beings.

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

-Julie

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