Analysing The Novel By Bakhtin English Language Essay

Published: Last Edited:

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

Bakhtin, in his Discourse in the Novel, appeals for a fundamentally different approach to analyzing the novelistic style. The reason why the traditional stylistics could not be applied to the novel lies in the fact that it considered the novel as a poetic genre and, therefore, as not fundamentally different in style from, for example, poetry.

Bakhtin, on the other hand, insists on a fundamental stylistic difference between the poetic genres and the novel. The former are single languaged and single styled, while the latter is composed of several heterogeneous stylistic unities that combine to form the stylistic system of the novel.

Heteroglossia denotes the different stratas (Social, professional, dialects, jargons etc) in the same language. Thus, heteroglossia is opposed to unitary language and what makes its uniqueness is this diversity.

In the novel, heteroglossia introduces a re-organization of all the levels of a language current at the time described in there.

First of all, in a novel (especially in an English comic novel) one will identify the "common language" of a given social group, used by the author as "a common view" in order to approach the reader.

Secondly, the author will take distance from this "common view", by objectifying it.

Sometimes he will exaggerate, sometime he will agree; he will not be static, but in a perpetual movement.

Finally, "the common view" will be linked to other languages or in a gradual way or abruptly. In order to do so, the style of the novel will move from epic to journalistic, poetic and so on. This inter-action between languages is made throw dialogisation. The languages will not fusion together and this permits us to identify them.

Bakhtine mentioned two distinct features of heteroglossia in the novel:

1-A combination of different languages and verbal-ideological belief systems.

Which means that the character's perception of the world (his ideological world) is expressed throw his discourse. (Does not Mr.Alworthy speak as a judge in the everyday life?).

2-These languages and socio-belief systems that they denote, are incorporated in the novel for author's intentions. They are tested, unmasked, and then destroyed as they were false and hypocritical.

Double-voiced discourse by Bakhtin

1. What is it? It's "another's speech in another's language", which means: there are two voices, two meanings and two expressions; these two voices are dialogically interrelated, it is as if they actually hold a conversation with each other; examples would be comic, ironic or parodic discourse.

2. What is the role of double-voiced discourse?

Double-voiced discourse expresses authorial intentions but in a refracted way. It serves two speakers at the same time and expresses simultaneously two different intentions: the direct intention of the character who is speaking and the refracted intention of the author.

*the author takes someone else's direct discourse and infuses it with authorial intentions and consciousness keeping at the same time the original speaker's intention (ex.p.212);

*someone else's words introduced into our own speech assume a new interpretation and become a subject to our evaluation of them (ex.p.198).

3. Bakhtin mentions that double-voiced discourse helps to speak indirectly, conditionally, in a refracted way, to introduce more expressive intentions and to develop idea of heteroglossia.

4. Bakhtin says that double-voiced ness in prose is prefigured in language itself, in language as a social phenomenon that is becoming in history, socially stratified and weathered in this process of becoming.

Orientation and internal dialogisation:

The concept of "orientation" relates to the fact that an author necessarily orients the words he is using in a certain direction; indeed, everyone apprehends reality in one's own peculiar way, depending on one's cultural, religious, political, social, etc. background, and consequently uses a certain type of language to describe the surrounding world. So does the author: when he (or she) has to represent an object, he has to choose between many words or expressions that could define this object, all of which are directly or indirectly related to other concepts / objects, thus finally weaving an immense web of meanings and (ideological) implications. The author's choice, the orientation he gives his words, is therefore never innocent, but always loaded with possible consequences and specific connotations, according to the kind of speech that is being used.

Yet in the novel, the discourse never remains strictly within the frame of the narrative; on the contrary, it requires an answer, the virtual answer a reader could make. In that sense, the "orientation" extends to the reader, and does not remain focused on the text itself: the choice is made in order to anticipate the reader's reactions, and to lead the dialogue that is being initiated between him and the author in a certain direction. The "virtual answer" can thus be said to determine more or less the discourse, through the process of dialogisation. However this dialogisation can be either external (directly expressed in the text) or internal (integrated in the text, without salient signs of its presence). The first method is often used in rhetorical forms, whereas the second one is more common in novels, where the "heteroglossia" favours its development.

In that regard, Tom Jones contains both forms of dialogisation: for instance, the numerous addresses to the reader can be taken as signs of external dialogisation. Examples of internal dialogisation, on the other hand, are much harder to find, for this type of dialogisation "penetrate[s] the deep strata of discourse" (p. 284) and finally determines the author's very language.

Lorin Jessenberger 23/01/06

Tom Jones Seminar / Elizabeth Kukorelly

Use of Polyphony as Musical Metaphor to Analyse a Novel

Another important notion in Bakhtin's work, is the concept of polyphony. It is to voices what heteroglossia is to linguistics. The word comes from the Greek "poly" meaning plural + "phonus", translated as sound. In Bakhtin's sense of the word, he means the use of many voices, especially in the epic novel. In the glossary provided with Bakhtin's book, it is written that the voice "is the speaking personality, the speaking consciousness. A voice always has a will or desire behind it, its own timbre and overtones." (P. 434). We can therefore analyse a novel such as Tom Jones in terms of polyphony.

The first voice the reader encounters is the one of the narrator. At this point there is already a subtlety: in the novel, as opposed to poetry (which has only one voice), the narrator always has two voices. It can be either literary, as in a description, or oral, for instance when the narrator addresses the reader. A relevant fact is that these two voices can interact, a good example of that would be the last paragraph of the 3rd book of Tom Jones where Henry Fielding is first in descriptive mode and then switches to oral by involving the reader, speaking to him.

However, the narrator is not the only one entitled to have a voice, since all of the characters also have one. The voices of the different characters are like stereotypes and are probably inspired by people met by the author, they have their own language. Their purpose is to give information about the social and cultural background of the personas in the novel. Another interesting fact is that the voice of the narrator can interact with the voices of the characters. A good example of that would be chapter 8 of book 5 in Tom Jones, where the narrator successively quotes the housekeeper, Square and Thwackum. Thus, he makes their voices a part of his own. Of course, there are also dialogues, which are purely an interaction between different character voices in the novel.

Finally, there is one last type of voice, which is presented under the shape of quotes. If we look in Tom Jones, we find quotes of Virgil, Cicero or Shakespeare. The voice of the narrator uses the voices of different authors, thus relating to their background, from a source which is totally exterior to the novel. This way, the narrator appropriates himself the work of others, making it his own voices, because it gives information about his milieu. Pushing it further in Tom Jones, Henry Fielding makes his characters quote authors, such as Mr. Partridge quoting Ovid, shaping the persona of Mr. Partridge this way.

Polyphony then poses the question of the author's position in the novel. Well, to complete the musical metaphor, we could say that, according to Bakhtin, the author orchestrates all the other voices and directs the interactions. That's the authorial voice. Bakhtin writes in his Discourse In The Novel that "the novel can be defined as a diversity of social speech types [...] and a diversity of individual voices, artistically organised." (P.262). It is precisely the author who is organising this diversity of voices Bakhtin writes about.

The last remaining aspect to be discussed in order to complete the whole scheme, is the position of the reader. It is not really mentioned in Discourse In The Novel, but if we consider the definition of a voice, we could say that the reader vocalises during his reading, in the sense that every reader has a different background, thus a different way of approaching a novel, giving it his own voice.