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  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: March 2012

5 - Early Soviet Linguistics and Mikhail Bakhtin's Essays on the Novel of the 1930s


In recent years, determined and rigorous historical scholarship has begun to undermine the aura of exceptionality that surrounded the image of Mikhail Bakhtin. Where this figure was once held to be the initiator of an improbably wide range of intellectual trends, it has now been clearly established that Bakhtin was particularly influenced by German language philosophers, whose work he adapted to the cause of the theory and history of the novel. Research has often revealed that rather than being a remarkable innovator, Bakhtin adopted ideas that were current at the time but have now receded from the view of scholars, suggesting a reassessment of various aspects of intellectual history is needed. With certain notable exceptions, however, the Soviet context has been less thoroughly examined, and this is nowhere clearer than in the lack of attention paid to Bakhtin's debt to early Soviet sociolinguistics. In Russia in particular, Bakhtin has frequently been seen as an ‘unofficial’ thinker who opposed, and developed his views on language, culture and literature in isolation from the contemporary, ‘official’ Soviet scholarship. Consequently, the nature of the interaction between the thinkers who comprised what is now generally referred to as the ‘Bakhtin Circle’ and contemporary Soviet linguistics and philosophy of language has generally been neglected and even treated as a non-issue. One reason for this may be that it is generally assumed the ideas follow on from those delineated in Valentin Voloshinov's 1929 book Marxism and the Philosophy of Language, which has often been ascribed to Bakhtin himself.

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Politics and the Theory of Language in the USSR 1917–1938
  • Online ISBN: 9780857289483
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