Bakhtin, Mikhail (1895–1975) By Pheiffer, Brittany
Mikhail Bakhtin was a Russian philosopher and thinker whose long career concerned aesthetics, ethics, literary and cultural theory, linguistics, and sociology. His earliest works, in the late 1910s, were primarily concerned with aesthetics and the legacy of Neo-Kantianism. His intellectual community at the time—philosophers, critics, and theorists—has been retroactively dubbed “the Bakhtin Circle.” Bakhtin was sent into exile in 1929 and spent six years in Kazakhstan, where he wrote important essays, including “Discourse in the Novel.” Scholars note that the political repressions of the 1920s left their mark on Bakhtin, who self-censored his future work and used literary criticism as a veiled means of addressing philosophical, political, and social questions. Almost none of Bakhtin’s work was published until the 1950s. It is distinguished by terminological innovations, most notably “dialogism,” “chronotope” and “heteroglossia.” For Rabelais, Bakhtin invented the genre “grotesque realism,” proposing that the carnival and the related “carnivalesque” were vital cultural institutions. About Dostoevsky, Bakhtin stressed the “multivoicedness” of the novels and their distinctive “unfinalizability.” Further explorations of genre, speech, and poetics followed.