Friday, December 9, 2011

Patrizia McBride on Musil and Bakhtin

And then I discovered that a book I had already read (and commented on below) discusses the connection of Musil and Bakhtin. McBride's The Void of Ethics compares Musil's novel style with Bakhtinian heteroglossia, but maintains that Musil's essays are written from a monological authorial standpoint, leaving for relatively little ambiguity. I would have to disagree with this latter assessment however, especially when looking at an essay like "Über die Dumheit" (an address, really, but I think it still counts as a sort of essay), which displays quite a bit of ambiguity and presents multiple voices and perspectives. In any case, as to the Bakhtinian flavor of Musil's novel form, McBride writes: "Mikhail Bakhtin's analysis of  the novel's discursive universe provides a fruitful frame for examining the modes of reflection enacted in the essays and the novel. Of particular relevance are his notions of polyphony and heteroglossia, which denote the proliferation of voices and idioms that distinguish the novel for the Russian critic....[while the essays present a primarily monolithic authorial voice] the novel....stages a cacophony of rivaling perspectives, entrusted not only to different characters but also to an extremely elusive narrative voice that often imperceptibly blends into the interior monologue of a character. As a result, the ideas that are unambiguously argued in the essays become caught in the refraction of competing discourses and perspectives when touched upon in the novel" (131). 

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