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180Philosophy and Literature MikhailBakhtin: Creation ofa Prosaics, by Gary Saul Morson and Caryl Emerson; xx & 530 pp. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1990, $49.50 cloth, $14.95 paper. In 1986, Gary Saul Morson described the current interest in the work of the Russian semiotician Mikhail Bakhtin as a veritable "industry"; in the five years since, that interest has not abated as the number ofjournal articles and chapters attests. In the past year, a further boost has been given to the industry by the appearance of major studies in English by Holquist (1990) and, most recently, by Gary Saul Morson and Caryl Emerson. Mikhail Bakhtin: Creation ofa Prosaics is a comprehensive study of the full range of Bakhtin's writing, from the texts on Dostoevsky and Rabelais which have long been familiar to English speakers to the important and generally early works which still remain untranslated. Morson and Emerson are particularly generous in their discussion and translation of these latter texts and are adept in showing their importance for our understanding of the more familiar texts. Their approach is at times thematic ("Key Concepts and Periods," Chapter 1; "Laughter and the Carnivalesque," Chapter 10), generic ("Theory of Genres," Chapter 7; "Prosaics and the Language of the Novel," Chapter 8) and at times chronological ("The Shape of a Career," Chapter 3). This diversity ofapproach is eminendy suitable for a writer such as Bakhtin whose career, as Morson and Emerson show, is marked by sudden changes of direction, contradiction, and repetition: a more uniform and less varied approach would necessarily have weakened that sense of the "messiness" of life and "event" which informs so much of Bakhtin's work. One of the questions that has most vexed the Bakhtin industry in recent years has been that of the authorship of certain "disputed texts"—Marxism and the Philosophy ofLanguage and Freudianism which, it has been asserted, Bakhtin published "under the name of" his friend V. N. Voloshinov, and TL· Formal Method in Literary Scholarship which he published "under the name of" P. N. Medvedev. Morson and Emerson's overview of this "problem" is as informed as it is critical and sensible: taking a direct stance against Bakhtin's authorship (against the advocacy of Holquist and Clark), they persuasively move the discussion of these texts and of dieir relationship to Bakhtin's ideas onto a new critical and scholarly plane and, at the same time, provide a new assessment of Voloshinov's work and its relationship to Bakhtin's. This is the place to come for anyone wanting to sort out much of the confusion that has surrounded these texts for so long. Morson and Emerson offer their account of Bakhtin's ideas—on the multivoiced nature of the word, on unfinalizability, on the self and on laughter and the carnivalesque—within the context of his important theories on the novel and the development of what they call Bakhtin's theory of "prosaics," that is, his theory of literature and language which takes the everyday language of the Reviews181 speech event and the novel as its point of speculative departure, as distinct from "poetics" which has traditionally privileged poetry and treated prose as something of an awkward afterthought. Morson and Emerson bring to their task of exposition a critical sympathy based on extensive research and impeccable scholarship. Their account of Bakhtin is comprehensive and invariably lucid and engaging. Given these qualities , it will undoubtedly remain the standard scholarly reference work on Bakhtin in English for many years. University of CanterburyDenis B. Walker After the Future: Postmodern Times and Places, edited by Gary Shapiro; xviii & 360 pp. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1990, $59.00 cloth, $19.95 paper. "Postmodernism" is at the very least a term peculiarly suited to generating conferences and subsequent loose anthologies, such as this one. This statement is not quite as cynical as it appears. The problematic nature ofdefining concepts, essences, or periods of history and ascribing meanings to them is something forcibly at issue in "postmodernism," understood here as a shorthand to name, well, whatever we are in the process ofdeciding has happened. The apt temporal paradox of the tide of this collection, however, is not always so clearly at...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 180-181
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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