Journal of Arts & Ideas, no. 9 (Oct-Dec 1984) p. 77.


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meneutics. From that it would follow that a countering critical enterprise can well enter these genres/texts at the seams where the suppression shows (however faintly) and render the muted dialogy boldly apparent Even in the most centralized of Epics/Tragedies there are voices which if attended to can yield rich cultural reward. My own favourite instance of this is the scene in Macbeth wherein the bleeding Sergeant returns from the field of battle, is accosted by King Duncan ^nd entourage, is made to relate (indeed, is shown only too happy to relate) the full saga ofMacbeth's loyal bravery while still bleeding, and is sent off to a doctor only when it becomes apparent that he simply cannot carry on. One recalls how reduced (dialogized) Duncan appeared in Roman Polanski's rendering of the scene: the loyalties seemed not only bathed in blood but anterior to bleeding human need. Perhaps, then, the ideology of the reading act is crucially involved in determining the degree and extent of the dialogic or mon-ologic status of a text in question. And a countering interpretative enterprise must save genres and styles from a permanent delegation to an unamenable

absolutism.

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In the end, this is perhaps the most significant thing we take away from Bakhtin: reading him we can hardly read a whole spectrum of cultural producers (for such are the writers of'literature') quite as we might have gone on to read without his intervention, just as a sharpened awareness today of the history of women's exclusion from human destiny over millenia puts some of the 'greats' of cultural history (Mr. Yeats for one) into some jeopardy. We can hardly be charmed any more by that allusion to politically active/conscious/ demanding females as 'hysterical women' or by the nicely limiting and ceremonious categories of prayer for his (or anybody's) daughter. Bakhtin's as well as the feminist intervention simultaneously oblige us to rethink what it is that constitutes 'greatness' per se, or to ask whether it is at all either possible or important to make those questionable distinctions. At any rate, they teach us to be wary of received/establishment opinions in such matters. Is it also not deeply ironical, as Wayne Booth points out, that in Bakhtin himself—the passionate spokesman for polyglossia—there seems a silence on the subject of women's utterance ?22

So you see, none of us is perfect; only some put themselves to greater trouble. Clearly, Bakhtin is such a one. Yet, nothing would more directly defeat his iconoclastic enterprise, his crusade against absolutism (Stalin ruled while he wrote) than that we turn him now into the new god of theory, the god with the magic rain for fertilizing arid critical hypocrisies into the critical truth.

1. The Dialogic Imagination ed. Michael Holquist, translated by Caryl Emerson and Holquist, University of Texas Press, Austin, 1981, hereinafter cited in my text by the abbreviation DI and pagination.

2. Tzvetan Todorov's Mikhail Bakhtin: The Biological Principle translated by Wlad Godzich, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 1984, is one useful summation of all of Bakhtin's known work-Journal of Arts and Ideas 77


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