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Words in the World: The Bakhtin Circle

David Schalkwyk


This book explores the ways in which members of the Bakhtin School (Michail Bakhtin, Valentin Voloshinov, and Pavel Medvedev) conceive of the relationship between language and literary fiction and the “world beyond language”. Beginning with the Russian Formalist definition of the literary as that which defamiliarizes our familiar perception of the world, it uses Jacques Derrida’s deconstruction of phenomenological perception and Ludwig Wittgenstein’s analysis of aspect perception to illuminate the Bakhtin School’s arguments that the world and language make contact through shared or contested evaluative intonation in the situated context of the utterance rather than the abstract, purely linguistic notion of the sentence. Saussurean linguistics and Russian Formalism, which treat language as the product of a disembodied system or as mere material, have excluded this aspect from their purview. The Bakhtin Circle’s trans- or metalinguistics seeks to restore our perception of the embodiment of language in the world of human social being: it seeks to show the way in which even fictional utterances are intonationally “intertwined by a thousand threads into the non-verbal real-life context”, and are dialogically related to other utterances as a matter of their internal constitution rather than by mere empirical contingency.

ISBN: 978-88-96419-84-7

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