Mikhail Bakhtin (1895-1975) was a prominent Russian literary critic known for his theories rooted in the idea of pluralism. His work "Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics" (1963) introduced the concepts of polyphony and unfinalizability.
Polyphony: Diverse Voices and Perspectives
Polyphony refers to the presence of multiple voices and perspectives within a single narrative. Bakhtin's concept of polyphony allows for a pluralistic setup where a narrative incorporates various voices and perspectives to tell the story. For example, in "Crime and Punishment," Raskolnikov's internal struggle is explored through multiple viewpoints, creating a multi-layered narrative structure.
Unfinalizability: Rejection of Closure
Unfinalizability rejects the notion of concrete finality or completion of a character in a novel. It advocates for incompleteness, ensuring openness to alterations and changes within the story. This concept challenges the idea of characters as enclosed, finished, and known entities, emphasizing the endless potential for exploration and change within literary works.
Carnivalesque: Liberation from Oppression
Bakhtin introduced the concept of Carnivalesque in "Rabelais and His World" (1968). Carnivalesque refers to chaos as a liberating force from oppression. It involves a deliberate artistic degradation of noble and spiritual abstractions, subverting established norms and hierarchies. In the carnivalesque realm, opposites come together, and laughter and vulgarity play a role in bringing down sanctified concepts within society.
Grotesque Realism: Critique of Metaphysical World
Grotesque Realism, another idea discussed by Bakhtin, lowers all forms of abstractions to the material level, offering a critique of the metaphysical world. It challenges the cohesive and unified nature of language and argues for diversification and heteroglossia, which encompass varieties and contradictions within a single language.
Mikhail Bakhtin's notable works include "Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics" (1963), "Rabelais and His World" (1968), and "The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays" (1981).