Terry Eagleton

Janus-Faced Genius

Mikhail Bakhtin

By

Harvard University Press 416pp £19.95 order from our bookshop

No star has been rising more rapidly in the critical firmament over the past decade than Mikhail Bakhtin, communist, Russian Orthodox theologian, revolutionary philosopher of language, founding father of historical poetics and uncanny precursor of much in contemporary poststructuralism. Bakhtin brooded for a lifetime on the incarnational unity of body and word, plucking from this religious theme a ‘dialogical’ theory of human discourse, a rediscovery of the ‘carnivalesque’ sub-cultures of the Renaissance, and a startlingly original account of the world novel. His critique of Russian Formalism remains unparalleled today; his major critical works, on Rabelais and Dostoevsky, rank among the masterpieces of modem socialist aesthetics. From Freud to folklore, ethics to anthropology, there seems almost nothing which Bakhtin did not touch, transforming it with all the cavalier eccentricity which led him once to tear up one of his invaluable manuscripts for cigarette paper.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'What in other hands could have been a dry, pedantic account of Christianity’s birth and evolution becomes in Holla… ,
    • RT : One of my favourite literary magazines is celebrating 40 years this year. Here is the September edition of… ,
    • 'Now that the Thames is too fast-flowing to freeze, its spirit’s devotees ... have found other climes for their pri… ,
    • 'Bythell glowers past his till at a world in slow free fall.' on the travails of a second-hand book… ,
    • 'It is a scent of animal wrath, of instinctive need, of brutal life which affects the cultured nostrils of our civi… ,
    • 'The day produced countless stories of chance, of people taking one route or another without realising that the dec… ,
    • In this month's 'Silenced Voices', looks at the case of Azimjon Askarov, the journalist and human rights… ,