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Main page » Non-Fiction » Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics

Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics


Bakhtin is especially known for his work on the Russian writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Problemy tvorchestva Dostoyevskogo (1929; 2nd ed., 1963, retitled Problemy poetiki Dostoyevskogo; Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics), which he published under his own name just before he was arrested. It is considered one of the finest critical works on Dostoyevsky. In the book Bakhtin expressed his belief in a mutual relation between meaning and context involving the author, the work, and the reader, each constantly affecting and influencing the others, and the whole influenced by existing political and social forces. Bakhtin further developed this theory of polyphony, or “dialogics,” in Voprosy literatury i estetiki (1975; The Dialogic Imagination), in which he postulated that, rather than being static, language evolves dynamically and is affected by and affects the culture that produces and uses it. Bakhtin also wrote Tvorchestvo Fransua Rable i narodnaya kultura srednevekovya i Renessansa (1965; Rabelais and His World).

Bakhtin's "Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics" remains an essential critical writing to understand the complex and eclectic critical imagery of Dostoievsky. The plurality of consciousness within a novel (polyphony) together with the idea of simultaneity in the relationships among characters confine to this work an extremely contemporary view of what literary creation is like or must be conceived of. Bakhtin's defense of the independency of the hero from the author stands not only as a strong critique to those critical trends which regard biographical information as the only source to fully capture the essence of a literary work, but also it enables a new kind of open criticism which embraces the role of the reader in the process of authoring a text, that is, providing the text with a meaning. Bakhtin's interest on physiology to capture the real insight of human perception and, hence, of human understanding of a literary work is, in my opinion, a great advance for the reader to become an undisputed element in the literary chain formed by the author, the text and the reader. Bakhtin's work has rapidly become a cornerstone in the current flow of literary criticism and his "Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics" stands as one of his finest achievements.

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Tags: Bakhtin, Problemy, Dostoyevskogo, Problems, which