Unreal Nature

March 18, 2018

The Cultural Domain Has No Inner Territory

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:49 am

… There is neither a first nor a last word and there are no limits to the dialogic context (it extends into the boundless past and the boundless future).

This is from Mikhail Bakhtin by Alastair Renfrew (2015):

… Boundaries, as such, only exist in [Bakhtin’s] thought in order for their status as boundaries to be undermined: ‘the cultural domain has no inner territory: it is entirely located on boundaries, and boundaries intersect its every element.’ Everything is most dialogically alive for Bakhtin ‘on the boundary between its own context and another, alien context.’ Even science, as we have seen above, needs to be (benevolently) demarcated, but does not exist on the far side of some ‘insurmountable barrier.’

[line break added] This pertains most spectacularly, as we have seen, to the human body, which is specifically ‘the unfinished and open body,’ which ‘is not separated from the world by clearly defined boundaries; it is blended with the world.’ Speech, literary works, literary genres, academic disciplines, even bodies are most alive, at their most productive, when conceived of in terms of dialogical transgression, when they reveal that the provisional boundaries that help structure our idea of them are in fact illusory.

… This process of ‘studying’ culture/discourse/ideology in dialogic relations, like the dialogic process itself, is also ‘boundless’; it has no end, because:

The word wants to be heard, understood, responded to, and again to respond to the response, and so forth ad infinitum. It enters into a dialogue that does not have a semantic end …

Bakhtin’s own last words emphasize, above all, that there can be no ‘end’ to the ‘dialogic movement,’ that it is both expressive and constitutive of unfinalizability:

There is neither a first nor a last word and there are no limits to the dialogic context (it extends into the boundless past and the boundless future). Even past meanings, that is, those born in the dialogue of past centuries can never be stable (finalized, ended once and for all) — they will always change (be renewed) in the process of subsequent future development of the dialogue.

[line break added] At any moment in the development of the dialogue there are immense, boundless masses of forgotten contextual meanings, but at certain moments of the dialogue’s subsequent development along the way they are recalled and invigorated in renewed form (in a new context). Nothing is absolutely dead: every meaning will have its homecoming festival.

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

-Julie

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