Friday, December 9, 2011

Bakhtin, Dialogics and Polyphony/Polylogics

After writing the last post I realized that what I was really talking about was the difference between monologics and dialogics, or perhaps even that between dialogics and poly-logics or polyphony. So I went back to my Bakhtin and discovered his idea about a tension between centrifugal and centripetal forces of language (those that pull apart and those that unify). I am not sure if anyone has applied Bakthinian heteroglossia and dialogical imagination to the study of Musil, but I think it would be a very fruitful essai. Bakthin, in his essay "Discourse on the Novel," writes that:

"Stratification and heteroglossia widen and deepen as language is alive and developing. Alongside centripetal forces, the centrifugal forces of language carry on their uninterrupted work; alongside verbal-ideological centralization and unification, the uninterrupted processes of decentralization and disunification go forward...Every utterance participates in the 'unitary language'[ in its centripetal forces and tendencies] and at the same time partakes of social and historical heteroglossia [the centrifugal stratifying forces] (272 The Dialogic Imagination).

Dialogics implies a creation of meaning between two people who are aware that their words are only partially capable of expressing the multiple meanings and associations teeming about them and that the other may or may not be able or willing to hear or understand any new, unexpected, or centrifugal utterance. Polyphony or poly-logics would imply an even wider chorus of voices, and a beautiful and eery osicllation between harmony and dissonance, overtones and undertones, richness and layerings, as well as a deepening of presence as opposed to a uni-directional focus on catyclysm, crisis, or completing cresendo. A logic moves directly toward end. Period. A dialogic ideally maintains the energy between two forces or persons, through tension and inter-stimulus. A poly-logic would be infinitely interesting and is, in fact, the closest approximation of what we do as human thinkers, whenever we liberate ourselves from the status quo of the already-structured and attained answer.

1 comment:

  1. And, perhaps it goes without saying, I believe that Musil was operating within a polylogical cosmos, which is inherently endless and multi-directional. His distinction between the living word and the dead concept illustrates that between Bakhtin's centrifugal and centripetal. The living word changes, moves, alters and is flooded with meaning and energy; the dead word always means the same thing and is rather something to bear or use begrudgingly as a matter of course or practicality than something to celebrate.