These essays reveal Mikhail Bakhtin (1895-1975), known in the West largely through his studies of Rabelais and Dostoevsky as a philosopher of language, a cultural historian, and a major theoretician of the novel. The Dialogic Imagination presents, in superb English translation, four selections from Voprosy literatury i estetiki (Problems of literature and esthetics), published in Moscow in 1975. The volume also contains a lengthy introduction to Bakhtin and his thought and a glossary of terminology. Bakhtin uses the category "novel" in a highly idiosyncratic way, claiming for it vastly larger territory than has been traditionally accepted. For him, the novel is not so much a genre as it is a force, "novelness," which he discusses in "From the Prehistory of Novelistic Discourse. " Two essays, "Epic and Novel" and "Forms of Time and of the Chronotope in the Novel," deal with literary history in Bakhtin's own unorthodox way. In the final essay, he discusses literature and language in general, which he sees as stratified, constantly changing systems of subgenres, dialects, and fragmented "languages" in battle with one another.
This English-language edition of Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics offers three levels of explanatory apparatus. They are (1) Bakhtin's own footnotes, which are numbered, are reproduced at the end of each chapter. (2) Translator's notes, which are lettered, appear at the bottom of the relevant page and cover such problems as critical or generic terminology, puns, untranslatable terms, and the occasional identification of important literary contexts. (3) An asterisk (*) after a proper name or work indicates that biographical information or an explanatory note can be found in the "Glossary of Proper Names and Works" at the end of the volume.
This classic work by the Russian philosopher and literary theorist Mikhail Bakhtin (1895-1975) examines popular humor and folk culture in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. One of the essential texts of a theorist who is rapidly becoming a major reference in contemporary thought, Rabelais and His World is essential reading for anyone interested in problems of language and text and in cultural interpretation.