Jerry on Bakhtin

How nice to know I am not a drooling idiot as I felt after reading and re-reading "Methodology." I don't think there was a single sentence (or fragment) that I didn't read two or three times with no luck at understanding most.

Dr. Sullivan's discussion of monologizing was interesting but I wonder whether Bakhtin was really talking about words and vocabularies or did he mean the assimilation of utterances that over time become a part of our "sea of inner speech"? In the "Problem of Speech Genres" Bakhtin says that words and sentences belong to nobody, that they were neutral in meaning, and that the real source of creative consciousness is the utterance in a dialogic context. It's hard to argue with the text and the specific use of the word, "monologize" but either Bakhtin changed his mind or my interpretation is all wrong. I always had the impression that his only concern with words was that they needed to be appropriate to the speech genre in which they were employed.

Following this line of thought, Bakhtin clearly has little use for the structural analysis of language (of which word and sentence are a part) without considering the social context of which it is a part. It is only through this analysis that it can function as a means, for example, of developing the inner speech.

I believe Bakhtin's criticism of rhetoric and poetry stems from those disciplines' concentration on forms of ideological discourse rather than on a study of language or the social context of discourse. "These investigations [of forms] have been completely divorced from the problem of language on the one hand, and from the problem of social intercourse on the other" (941, first column). His conclusion appears to be that all study of language must be couched in the sociological structure of the utterance and it is this which must be studied, not an abstract structure. The last section of this reading sounds like an absolute diatribe against linguistics which he reiterates in later works. I cannot yet fathom his feelings toward aesthetic discourse except that it is considered a speech genre which, like other discourse, is made up of utterances which are always social in nature.

The theme and meaning portion of the work was very cogent especially in the definitions Bakhtin provides. It is as if we were to describe a person building a car of his own design. The result of his work is unique and represents a (theoretically) unreproducible, concrete, product. The car, however, is made up of component parts, each of which has a function (meaning) and each of which can be reproduced to go into other cars of different makes. The generator, by itself, has no function. It is only by its incorporation into the car that it acquires meaning. If this metaphor works, then I understand what Bakhtin meant. If it doesn't, please help.

EIther his obscure style of writing or the ineptness of translators at first led me to become frustrated with Bakhtin but after multiple readings to extract some level of meaning I have come to accept his theories, especially the role of linguistics. I think there is still a problem of fitting the dialogic role of utterance into aesthetic works - a problem caused either by my lack of understanding or a weakness in the theory. I'm not sure which is the case.

Peace, Jerry