Speech Genres and Other Late Essays
Mikhail M. Bakhtin
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Speech Genres and Other Late Essays presents six short works from Bakhtin's Esthetics of Creative Discourse, published in Moscow in 1979. This is the last of Bakhtin's extant manuscripts published in the Soviet Union. All but one of these essays (the one on the Bildungsroman) were written in Bakhtin's later years and thus they bear the stamp of a thinker who has accumulated a huge storehouse of factual material, to which he has devoted a lifetime of analysis, reflection, and reconsideration.
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work or into the ideally complete plan of the author. He is i n the same time and space as the author or, rathe r, l ike the author he is out side time and space (as is any abstract ideal formulation), and there fore he cannot be an-other or other for the author, he can not have any surplus that is determined by this otherness. There can be no inter action between the author and this kind of listener, no active d ramatic relations, for these are not voices but abstract concepts that are equal
i sed at Goethe's indifference to these recollec tion s of th e classical p eriod . "A nd I cou ld not make him u nderstand my objections to that mixing-up ofpast and present. " T he guide was eve n more s u rprised when Goethe, "indifferent to classical reco l lections," began carefu lly to gather certain l ittle stones on the ban k o f the rive r. "Aga i n , I cou l d not explain to him that the quic kest way to get an idea of any mou n tainous region is to examine the type s of rock fragme
official-business, and famil iar everyday speech , as well as vulgar common parlance . I n addi• 'Th e same k i n d s of classifications o f language styles, i m poverished and lacki n g cla n_ ty, wit h abricated fou ndation, a re give n by A . N. Gvo7.dev i n h is boo k _ OcAerkr_ po sltlrshkt russkoxo jrnyka ( E ssays on the stylistics of the Russian langu age) ( Moscow, 195Z, pp. 1 3 - 1 5). All of these classifications arc based on an u ncri tical assimi lation of trad itional ideas about
( i . e. , systemic or l inear re lati ons among signs). The re lations of utterances to real ity, to the real spea k i ng subject, and to other real utterances-relations that first m ake the utterances true or false , beautiful, and so forth-can neve r 1 24 [lw The P ro b l e m of the Text be the subject of l i n guistics. I ndividual signs, the language syste m , or the text (as a signifying un ity) can never be tru e , false, beautifu l, and so forth . Each large and creative verbal whole
understanding, makes the oth er's word more resilient and true to i tself, and precludes m u tual d issolu tion and confusion. The clear demarcation of two consciousnesses, their coun terposition and their i nterrelations. Understanding repeatable eleme nts and the u n repeatabl e wh ole. Recognizing and encou nte ring the new and unfa m i l iar. Both of th ese aspects ( recogn ition of the repeated and d iscove ry of the ne w) sho ul d me rge inseparably in the living act of understand ing.