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Mikhail Bakhtin's living word: Neither first nor final

Joyce, Stephen (2001) Mikhail Bakhtin's living word: Neither first nor final. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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The concerns of this thesis revolve principally around Bakhtin's recognition of the embodied particularity and unfinalisability of every human self; this makes dialogue the only ethical option in our relationship with others. For Bakhtin we ethically ought \o speak with others rather than about them as we might an object which is already spoken for and, therefore, has nothing new or surprising to add. Bakhtin, as I show, is consequently opposed to all forms of monologism which attempt to speak for the living responsible self and also - by ignoring the 'law of placement' - the particular place in the world they occupy to the exclusion of all others. Monologic thought is, for Bakhtin, then, essentially disembodied and does not address the real concerns of the living self and the unfinalised present in which he/she exists. The monologic forms which will be the subject of my discussion are; Kant's transcendental reason; the dialectical materialism of Marxism (which I approach through the work of Bertolt Brecht) and Soviet Marxism.

Kantian reason is dealt with in Chapter One, dialectical materialism in Chapter Two and Soviet Marxism in the Chapter Three. Crucial to my argument is that Bakhtin, though critical of these monologic forms, dialogically engages with them so that they can then address the concerns of the living. He seeks, then, to both 'de-transcendentalise' Kant and also make the Marxist dialectic dialogic. Soviet Marxism, though like classical Marxism (and unlike Kantianism) it sees the material needs of the body in a positive light, posits a disembodied body which, Bakhtin will again assert, does not address the living. Through an examination of the inside-out and topsy-turvy optic of carnival, I show how Bakhtin succeeds in bringing this body 'down to earth' - allowing it to be engaged with dialogically. I note too, that despite its strident materialist claims, Soviet Marxism's view of the body has much in common with Kant's, which is avowedly idealistic.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Division of Social Sciences, Humanities and Education
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): O'Toole, Michael, Kalaga, Wojciech and Colebrook, Claire
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