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By Bakhtin, Mikhail Mikhaĭlovich; Dentith, Simon; Bakhtin, M

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This ambivalence also marks Bakhtin’s other writing on language. ‘Discourse in Dostoevsky’ may be cognate with some aspects of Voloshinov’s writing, but Bakhtin makes his argument, about the dialogic existence of language, with particular force. Language appears here as the site or space in which dialogic relationships are realized; it manifests itself in discourse, the word oriented towards another. The usefulness of this account of language for literary analysis begins to become clear; in novels in particular various kinds of dialogical relationship can be traced in the varying ways in which discourse represents and includes the words of author and character.

There are three discussions of language by Bakhtin which form significant comparisons and contrasts with the linguistics provided by Voloshinov. The first occurs in Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics (1929 and 1963), and forms the prelude to the chapter on ‘Discourse in Dostoevsky’, an extract from which is reproduced in Part II. The second comes in an extended essay written in the mid-1930s, ‘Discourse in the novel’; an extract from this essay, though not the account of language, is also included in Part II.

The third discussion comes in an essay from the early 1950s, ‘The problem of speech genres’. Let us take these three separate moments in turn. In some respects the brief considerations on linguistics, included as a methodological foreword to the chapter on ‘Discourse in Dostoevsky’ in the 1929 book on the nineteenth-century novelist, are close to the arguments extended in Marxism and the Philosophy of Language. This is not surprising given the closeness in time in which the two books were written.

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