Bakhtin on poetry, epic, and the novel: Behind the façade

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Mikhail Bakhtin has gained a reputation of a thinker and literary theorist somehow hostile to poetry, and more specifically to the epic. This view is based on texts, in which Bakhtin creates and develops a conceptual contrast between poetry and the novel (in "Discourse in the Novel") or between epic and the novel (in "Epic and Novel"). However, as I will show, such perceptions of Bakhtin's position are grounded in a misunderstanding of Bakhtin's writing strategy and philosophical approach. Bakhtin often draws such conceptual contrasts as the ones between epic and novel, but does so not in order to characterize pre-given phenomena (in this case, the epic and the novel as two groups of literary works), but to construct a conceptual space which he in turn uses to explicate elements of his philosophy.
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Archival date: 2015-11-21
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