UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Speaking of Bakhtin : a study of the sociolinguistic discourse on Bakhtin and language Volek, Michael Edward 2014

Your browser doesn't seem to have a PDF viewer, please download the PDF to view this item.

Item Metadata


24-ubc_2014_september_volek_michael.pdf [ 2.06MB ]
JSON: 24-1.0167541.json
JSON-LD: 24-1.0167541-ld.json
RDF/XML (Pretty): 24-1.0167541-rdf.xml
RDF/JSON: 24-1.0167541-rdf.json
Turtle: 24-1.0167541-turtle.txt
N-Triples: 24-1.0167541-rdf-ntriples.txt
Original Record: 24-1.0167541-source.json
Full Text

Full Text

  Speaking of Bakhtin:  A study of the sociolinguistic discourse on Bakhtin and language  by  Michael Edward Volek   A Thesis Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of  the Requirements for the Degree of   DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY  in  The Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (English)    The University of British Columbia (Vancouver)    September 2014    © Michael Edward Volek, 2014   ii  ABSTRACT  Thirty years after Mikhail Bakhtin came to the attention of the English-speaking world with Emerson & Holquist’s translation of The Dialogic Imagination, he continues to hold a prominent place in the scholarly fancy – particularly among those concerned with the sociality of language. But what have we learned from Bakhtin during this time? How has the “Bakhtinian perspective” contributed to the way researchers study and interpret linguistic phenomena? And more importantly, what can we learn about the sociality of language from the way Bakhtin has been taken up in the scholarly discourse?    These questions are addressed in the present study by comparing Bakhtin’s discourse (as it has been received) with the uptake of his theory in a selection of five peer-reviewed journals published between the years 2000 and 2011. Seven of the most commonly cited topics are examined in detail: (1) genre, (2) hybridization, (3) style & stylization, (4) double-voicing, (5) heteroglossia, (6) linguistic stratification & centralization, and (7) authority.  The surprising conclusion is that Bakhtin has had relatively little influence on the way these ideas are understood, even when he is cited as their source or inspiration, and that he is frequently invoked in support of views that he argues vigorously against. This disagreement is explained not as a breakdown of communication (in the structural sense), but – in line with Bakhtin’s own observations about the nature of discourse – as a product of the sociality of language, in which the histories and concerns of his interpreters actively shape the meanings they take him to be offering. The scholarly discourse on Bakhtin becomes a case study for the very phenomena Bakhtin describes.  It reveals that even avowedly “social” language research continues to reflect what Bakhtin calls “the centralizing tendencies in the life of language”. In particular, it reveals the enduring influence of Saussure and semiotic theory at the expense of the genuinely social model that Bakhtin consistently articulates. It consequently provides the occasion for a critique of the uptake and reproduction of theory in the “softer” social sciences, calling into question the adequacy of scholarly conventions in the face of socio-linguistic reality.  iii  PREFACE  This dissertation is an original, unpublished, independent work by the author, Michael E. Volek.   iv  TABLE OF CONTENTS   Abstract ..................................................................................................................................... ii Preface ..................................................................................................................................... iii Table of Contents ..................................................................................................................... iv Acknowledgements.................................................................................................................. vi 1. Introduction........................................................................................................................... 1 1.1 Background ..................................................................................................................... 1 1.2 Aims and Objectives ..................................................................................................... 23 1.3 Methodology ................................................................................................................. 24 2. Genre................................................................................................................................... 38 2.1 The Scholarly Discourse on Genre ............................................................................... 38 2.2 The Bakhtinian Discourse on Genre ............................................................................. 56 2.3 Observations on Genre in the Literature ....................................................................... 67 3. Hybridization ...................................................................................................................... 75 3.1 The Scholarly Discourse on Hybridization................................................................... 75 3.2 The Bakhtinian Discourse on Hybridization ................................................................ 81 3.3 Observations on Hybridization in the Literature .......................................................... 88 4. Style & Stylization .............................................................................................................. 97 4.1 Review of the Literature on Style & Stylization .......................................................... 98 4.2 The Bakhtinian Discourse on Style & Stylization ...................................................... 109 4.3 Observations on Style & Stylization in the Literature ................................................ 117 5. Double-voiced Discourse ................................................................................................. 126 5.1 The Scholarly Discourse on Double-voiced Discourse .............................................. 127 5.2 The Bakhtinian Discourse on Double-voiced Discourse ............................................ 142 5.3 Observations on Double-voiced Discourse in the Literature ...................................... 149    v  TABLE OF CONTENTS (CONTINUED)   6. Heteroglossia .................................................................................................................... 162 6.1 The Scholarly Discourse on Heteroglossia ................................................................. 162 6.2 The Bakhtinian Discourse on Heteroglossia .............................................................. 174 6.3 Observations on Heteroglossia in the Literature ........................................................ 185 7. Centripetal & Centrifugal Forces of Language ................................................................ 191 7.1 The Scholarly Discourse on Centripetal & Centrifugal Forces .................................. 192 7.2 The Bakhtinian Discourse on Centripetal & Centrifugal Forces ................................ 198 7.3 Observations on the Centripetal & Centrifugal Forces in the Literature .................... 208 8. Authoritative & Internally Persuasive Discourse ............................................................. 217 8.1 The Scholarly Discourse on Authoritative & Internally Persuasive Speech .............. 218 8.2 The Bakhtinian Discourse on Authoritative & Internally Persuasive Speech ............ 228 8.3 Observations on Authoritative & Internally Persuasive Discourse in the Literature . 238 9. Conclusion ........................................................................................................................ 252 9.1 Bakhtin the Structuralist? ........................................................................................... 257 9.2 Bakhtin the Sociolinguist ............................................................................................ 267 References............................................................................................................................. 275     vi  ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS   This project would not have been possible without the help of many supporters.   I would like to begin by acknowledging the enormous contribution of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, which provided both a financial lifeline and a vote of confidence in my work.   I would also like to acknowledge the faculty and staff at UBC’s Department of English, who made a place for me in their community and set a standard of dedication and professionalism that I can only hope to emulate.  Above all, I want to thank my supervisor, Dr. Janet Giltrow, whose intellectual brilliance and common sense are matched by a rare generosity of spirit. In Dr. Giltrow I felt I had not only a mentor but an ally.   Thanks also to Drs. Natasha Rulyova and Christopher Mole for sitting on my committee and sharing their valuable expertise, and to Drs. Miranda Burgess and Jennifer Vadeboncoeur for reading my manuscript and asking the questions that needed to be asked.  I am grateful to the Program Manager, Louise Soga, for soothing my worries and sorting me out as required; to my colleague, Christen Rachul, for wading through a messy, early draft of my thesis and sharing her views; and to the faculty and staff at Carleton’s School of Linguistics and Applied Language studies, who set me on this path, especially Dr. Natasha Artemeva, whose enthusiasm and encouragement helped carry me to the finish.  A special thanks to my family and friends, for whom this changes nothing.  And to Mitsuko, the only one I could never do without. [1] INTRODUCTION  1  1. INTRODUCTION  1.1 Background  This project has evolved in many ways since it was first conceived; while the goal has never changed – to understand the functioning of language in a socially relevant discourse – the discourse on climate change, for instance, or the discourse on aging and dying – in the end, it became something a little more reflexive: an examination of the discourse on language itself. To understand how this came to be – and why anyone should care – it is important, first of all, to appreciate what is meant here when I speak of the “functioning” of language.   I am indebted in my use of this term to Michael Halliday and his “functional-semantic” approach, which focuses not on the meaning of words and linguistic constructions, but on what they do in the social and cultural contexts in which they are exchanged. This focus on function is arguably at the heart of what makes the study of language a sociolinguistics, for one cannot appreciate what a language is doing without taking into consideration the goals and activities (i.e., the social reality) of those who are using it – and this project is firmly embedded in the sociolinguistic tradition.   But a “social reality” is, of course, not homogenous; indeed, it may not even be consistent (internally or from one social body to the next). And here my position diverges from the Hallidayan view. It is not simply that the same linguistic form may function differently for different people in different situations (in which case it would be sufficient merely to account for the relevant factors and say “this form usually functions in this way under these conditions”).1 Rather, the way it functions in one context often becomes a social and cultural reality that can inform its use in other contexts; that is to say, the way one uses language may itself become a contextual factor in a given speech situation. This is one of the great insights of Mikhail Bakhtin.                                                   1As Sperber & Wilson (1986) observe, this has been the usual way of approaching pragmatics.  [1] INTRODUCTION  2  A wonderful example of this is the practice of using profane and insulting remarks as a form of address among friends and acquaintances.2 No amount of deliberation over the bare meanings of such remarks, however well contextualized, could ever lead one to conclude that they serve something like a “solidarity function” – for, indeed, such a function is possible (in this case) precisely because the meanings are so inappropriate to the task: the transgression itself turns out to be meaningful. We can see in this how the “function” operates at a certain distance from the “meaning” – or, to put it another way, that language is not (or at least not always) a means for the direct expression of a communicative intention, but often serves as the vehicle for an indirect or mediated expression.  A number of important implications follow from this. The first is that meaning is realized through the utterance (written or spoken) – not simply as the actualization of an abstract potential that exists in the “system” of language, but as a collision of that potential against the concrete reality of the speech situation. We must look, in other words, to the utterance to discover how language functions. The second, as hinted at above, is that language functions without having a function. That is to say, a given linguistic form may function in ways that diverge (perhaps radically) from one community of speakers, and even from one utterance, to the next, and thus can never be assigned a specific function a priori. Finally, we can see how the words of one speaker (or speech community) – their typical meanings and functions – can get caught up in the speech of another – not directly or to the same end (as though filling a gap), but in sometimes subtle and surprising ways that result from an active interrelation – in which one utterance is animated or illuminated by the other.                                                   2 This practice is observed, for instance, among migrant youth in Germany. See Günthner (2011) and Günthner (forthcoming). In a phrase we will come across again, Vološinov observes that the living word has two faces, like Janus: “Any current curse word can become a word of praise, any current truth must inevitably sound to many other people as the greatest lie” (1973: 23). Compare this with Bakhtin’s comments in Rabelais and his World: Praise and abuse are…the two sides of the same coin. If the right side is praise, the wrong side is abuse, and vice versa. The billingsgate idiom is a two-faced Janus. The praise…is ironic and ambivalent. It is on the brink of abuse; the one leads to the other, and it is impossible to draw a line between them. […] This is why in familiar billingsgate talk abusive words, especially indecent ones, are used in the affectionate and complimentary sense. (1993a: 165). [1] INTRODUCTION  3  These ideas, which are central to the way Bakhtin describes the functioning of language, emphasize the importance of speech3 – and not just speech, but speech about speech. As Bakhtin puts it:   The transmission and assessment of the speech of others, the discourse of another, is one of the most widespread and fundamental topics of human speech. In all areas of life and ideological activity, our speech is filled to overflowing with other people’s words which are transmitted with highly varied degrees of accuracy and impartiality. […] The topic of a speaking person has enormous importance in everyday life. In real life we hear speech about speakers and their discourse at every step. We can go so far as to say that in real life people talk most of all about what others talk about – they transmit, recall, weigh, and pass judgement on other people’s words, opinions, assertions, information; people are upset by others’ words, or agree with them, refer to them and so forth (1981: 337-338).  This project – and, indeed, the field of “discourse analysis” to which it contributes – is essentially concerned with the speech of others. It is essentially speech about speech. And here at last we can understand how this project has arrived at the focus it has. In examining the speech of others – in seeking to understand how language functions in a particular discourse or in a particular discourse community – discourse analysts necessarily produce a discourse of their own: a discourse on language. And this discourse stands at an important crossroads. On the one hand, it makes a variety of claims about how language is actually being used – in discourses on homelessness, education, employment, immigration, health, conflict, reconciliation, death and dying, and so forth – claims that influence the way we perceive the various discourses and the issues that surround them, and which could (and, indeed, may be expected to) result in changes not only of opinion but of policy. On the other hand, it makes a variety of claims about how we can know that language is being used this way – and in this, it draws on an entirely different set of discourses: scholarly discourses on language that provide a theoretical basis for the other claims.   One of the basic premises of discourse analysis is that language functions in ways that are not always obvious, that upon examination a seemingly transparent stretch of text can reveal something unexpected about the speaker and about the broader discourse community – and                                                  3 That is, the “utterance”, which, for the purposes of this discussion (as it is for Bakhtin’s), may be written, spoken, signed, etc. [1] INTRODUCTION  4  even about language in general. And here, perhaps, we can see the rationale for focussing on what we might call the “upstream” discourse: the discourse on language that informs the methodologies and interpretive frameworks employed by discourse analysts. Not only does this discourse provide the ostensible4 grounds for “downstream” conclusions about how language is being used (for instance, in the discourse on healthcare), it also provides the authority for upstream claims about how we can know that language is being used this way – for the scholarly discourse on language is the means by which the underlying theories are disseminated among scholars and their students. An examination of this discourse thus contributes indirectly both to the downstream analyses and to the upstream propagation and development of theory. But it is also important to understand the discourse on language for the same reason it is important to understand any other discourse – not for its instrumental role in certain discourse analyses or in the propagation of language theory, but for its own sake, and for what we can learn about language and society from a study of it.  Like many other discourses, the discourse on language is extremely heterogeneous. To speak of “the discourse on language” is therefore vague almost to the point of meaninglessness. Even to claim that this project addresses “the scholarly discourse on language” would be a serious exaggeration for, in reality, it is concerned only with the smallest sliver of that discourse: the sociolinguistic discourse on language. And under that still enormous umbrella it takes aim at a very specific discourse: the sociolinguistic discourse on Bakhtin. And here we make another turn in the screw, for just as this project can be described, in the broadest terms, as speech about speech; or, more precisely, as a discourse analysis of discourse analyses; it is, more precisely still, a Bakhtinian (or Bakhtin-inspired) discourse on the discourse on Bakhtin – examining what sociolinguists have had to say about Bakhtin5 and how Bakhtinian theory contributes to their own claims about language.                                                  4 Whether or not it actually grounds the analyst’s conclusions is another question. The usual assumption is that a given theory is both valid and consequential, and if the underlying theory is invalidated, the conclusions themselves may be called into question. But it may also be that a given theory plays only a superficial (or even spurious) role in the analyst’s work – and this is no less interesting a possibility.  5 Or, rather, what sociolinguists have had to say about what Bakhtin says about language. [1] INTRODUCTION  5  It is important to understand that, with a few notable exceptions, these are not primarily discussions about Bakhtin – not essentially concerned with the discourse on Bakhtin. Rather, they participate in the sociolinguistic discourse on language – and Bakhtinian theory is conceived within them not as an end but as a means of contributing to the study of discourse. Highlights from some of the titles should make this distinction clear. Concerns include:    “Competing discourses in the classroom”  “ethnicity and competing discourses in the job interview”  “Positioning gender in discourse”  “The management of heterosexist talk”  “Transgression narratives”  “Hate speech and identity”  “Changes in Venezuelan political dialogue”  “Navajo language socialization”  “Discursive competition over claims of Iranian involvement in Iraq”  “Patterns of metaphor use in reconciliation talk”  “Language and social relations in traditional and contemporary funerals”  “The semantics of science”  “Language and religion”  “The discursive construction of a world-class city”  “The social construction of asylum-seekers”  “Language testing and citizenship”  “Linguistic form and social action”  “Language and social inequality”  “Linguistic representations of culture”  “Fictive interaction…in a murder trial”  “Participant roles in court interpreting”  “Reframing family arguments in public and private”  “Business newswriting”  “The role of the chair in corporate meeting talk”  “Problem presentation and resolution in Japanese business discourse”  “Commercialization of casual conversation”  “Culture in British TV commercials”  “Commodification of language in the call centers of Pakistan”  “Haggling exchanges at meat stalls in some markets in Lagos, Nigeria”  Of course, not all of these discussions rely on Bakhtin to the same extent. Indeed, some remark on him only in passing (though as discourse analysts are aware, the briefest remarks are often [1] INTRODUCTION  6  the most telling).6 In any case, it is not the individual contributions that are the concern here; rather, it is the aggregate production that warrants our attention – the accumulation of voices comprising the broader discourse. This project is ultimately a critique of that discourse.   And here we are back to the original question: what motivates this concern and why it matters – for all this talk of “upstream” and “downstream” implications would be rather beside the point if there were no suspicion that something unexpected, something significant, was waiting to be discovered. And early in this project I began to form just such a suspicion: that an examination of the discourse on language would reveal an unexpected rupture between theory and practice (i.e., between the upstream and downstream discourses).   Dan Sperber and Deirdre Wilson, in their efforts to articulate an alternative to the traditional, code-driven view of language, hint at just such a rupture. As they explain: “This is not to deny that many semioticians have done invaluable empirical work. However, it does not follow that the semiotic framework has been productive, let alone theoretically sound; merely that it has not been entirely sterilising, or that it has not been strictly adhered to in practice” (1986: 7; my emphasis). The point here is not that the semiotic approach is mistaken (or, as Sperber & Wilson put it, “intellectually bankrupt”), but that if its practitioners have nevertheless done important and productive empirical work it is only in spite of their theoretical positions. While I admit to being in the Sperber and Wilson camp with regard to the semiotic model, my intention here is to pursue their observation that in certain respects linguistic theory – in this case Bakhtinian theory – “has not been strictly adhered to in practice”. I refer to this, below, as “the problem of adherence”.   There is another dimension to this issue as well. The discourse on Bakhtin, while providing a point of departure for the empirical study of language, is also the terminal point – that is, the point of arrival – in the transmission of theory. In other words, it can be seen as the culmination of the ideas on which it draws. In the case of the Bakhtinian discourse on language, the views ascribed to Bakhtin by discourse analysts and other applied language researchers may be said to represent the “received wisdom” of Bakhtinian theory. But just as theory may diverge                                                  6 We will see this shortly, in the example of “ventriloquation” below. [1] INTRODUCTION  7  from practice, the received wisdom may diverge from the theory. The risk, of course, is that it consequently becomes the point of departure for subsequent views in the never-ending chain of “speech communication”. I refer to this, below, as “the problem of propagation”.   It could be argued, perhaps, that any such views (whatever their merits) are, in a sense, “epiphenomenal” – that is, they draw on Bakhtin, reflecting his claims with varying degrees of success, but never propagate with any great effect – since the word of Bakhtin in its original form and various authoritative interpretations still exist, still speak to us, pointing us in the right direction. We might draw an analogy here to the presence of a dictionary or a grammar as a guarantor of the “appropriate” use of language: the means by which a malapropism or other violation of language may be stopped in its tracks. But for those espousing a “Bakhtinian” perspective, this will never do. According to Bakhtin, we rarely, if ever, take our words from the dictionary (that is, “from the system of language in their neutral, dictionary form”); our language is acquired almost entirely through exposure to the speech of others – “at the point of contact between the word and actual reality, under the conditions of that real situation articulated by the individual utterance” – and thus retain, as Bakhtin says, “the tones and echoes of individual utterances” (1986: 86-90).  It is not really much of a leap to extend Bakhtin’s pronouncements on language, in the narrow sense, to culture and ideology, broadly defined (and this, in fact, is something Vološinov, a fellow Bakhtinian, does explicitly in his own contribution to language theory): to rephrase Bakhtin’s conclusions about language, we might say that rarely are the views and positions we have of the world taken from a “system of ideas in their neutral, scientific form”; rather, our knowledge is acquired through exposure to the views of others – “at the point of contact between their claims and actual reality”, and thus retaining “the tones and echoes of individual assessments”. This may seem, at first blush, to be a rather dubious claim – especially in the context of a scholarly discourse, which has specific mechanisms built into it to avoid precisely this scenario – that is, to ensure that knowledge claims made at one end of the chain of speech communication match the sense and meaningfulness of those at the other. We have, for instance, well-worn conventions on the direct reporting of speech – that is, “quotation” (a topic of endless fascination for both Bakhtin and Vološinov) – and we have, as already [1] INTRODUCTION  8  mentioned, the continued presence of the original speech itself, the “primary source”. And these, there can be no doubt, exert a powerful centralizing force on any discourse.  But as Bakhtin observed with respect to the life of a language, the centralizing forces of authorized speech are opposed by the centripetal effects of daily interaction among those in particular “spheres of human activity and communication”. And this leads to a stratification, not only of language, but of culture, ideology, and so forth – and a weakening of the “authoritative word”. This process is not – or at least need not be – a “struggle” in the political sense (and I would argue that any such interpretation of Bakhtin reflects, with no small irony, a weakening of his authoritative word) – rather, the authorized voice is weakened, just as gravity is, by its distance from the centre of activity; it makes itself irrelevant. And this, I propose, can be seen in the discourse on Bakhtin.  There is another, deeper, irony here as well. As a Bakhtinian discourse analyst (or at least an apprentice Bakhtinian discourse analyst) engaged in the analyses of Bakhtinian discourse analyses, the last thing I should want to do is use the authoritative word of Bakhtin to argue against the authority of Bakhtin. But this is just the sort of thing that happens when language is both the means and the object of study.  Of course, some may question whether an authoritative “Bakhtinian view” actually exists or, if it does, whether it can be known with enough assurance to justify the claims I make about it. And in the final analysis, it must be admitted that my claims are interpretive. But while it is true that in some instances Bakhtin has not said enough or expressed himself with as much clarity as we would like, I take it as axiomatic that he does, in fact, have definite ideas to convey and that his claims are not “open” to differing interpretations in the way that certain works of art might be.7 In other words, we may not always agree on what Bakhtin is trying to say, but we must begin by agreeing that he has something particular in mind.                                                    7 In this, I diverge sharply from Roland Barthes (1977: 148), who famously concludes that “the birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the author”. [1] INTRODUCTION  9  At the same time, it should be emphasized that this project is not concerned with the margins – with the gaps or ambiguities in the claims that have come down to us as Bakhtin’s. It does not, in other words, seek to uncover something novel or unexpected in Bakhtin, to unveil new evidence in support of new readings. On the contrary, it is most interested in what we ought to know with the most confidence – what Bakhtin says with the greatest clarity in his most familiar works – for this is where disagreement ought to be the least likely (and therefore most interesting). In this sense, I believe we can speak of a “Bakhtinian view” or “Bakhtinian perspective” that can be established with sufficient clarity, not through great detective work, or by appeal to authority, but by attending to what Bakhtin says in the texts that are available to us.   An example from the literature, I think, illustrates this well, so I will turn to that before addressing a matter introduced earlier, the problem of adherence.   1.1.1. A Case Study  Consider the following claim from a book review published in 2001. The book itself (which addresses the “grammar of autobiography”) makes no mention of Bakhtin, but in an effort to situate the author’s ideas in the scholarly discourse, the reviewer observes: “Hill 1995 and others use Bakhtin to describe systematically how narrators speak with and ventriloquate voices, and this offers yet another type of linguistic device that might contribute to the self” (Wortham 2001a: 491). Here we can see both the “upstream” and “downstream” issues suggested earlier. The reviewer introduces the notion of “ventriloquation” as a way to understand certain linguistic phenomena: it is a claim about how language functions in autobiography (as a “device that might contribute to the self”). We can see the influence of upstream claims (by “Hill 1995 and others”) that language indeed functions this way, and that this is something that Bakhtin has established: the reviewer takes these ideas up and propagates them further. At the same time, she offers these ideas to the reader with the expectation (presumably) that they will help make sense of actual texts – that when certain linguistic devices are encountered in autobiography their role in contributing to the self will [1] INTRODUCTION  10  be recognized. Of course, as a book review, the downstream effects remain undeveloped.8 But in the majority of the texts examined in this study, the downstream implications are fully realized – genuine discourses are interpreted through the lens of theory and the conclusions offered as practical knowledge (to whatever end this knowledge may eventually be put).  And here we return to the idea that something unexpected, something significant, is waiting to be discovered. In the reviewer’s brief remarks on Bakhtin, we encounter something curious: the word “ventriloquate”. This is, in fact, a term that Bakhtin has used in his work on speech.9 There is a passage in the Dialogic Imagination where Bakhtin offers an articulation of what he describes elsewhere as “double-voicing” – the notion that in “genuine” novelistic prose the author’s expressive intentions are served only indirectly by the words he puts in his characters’ mouths, that the words in fact belong to the characters themselves, and that the author, without taking ownership of them, may nevertheless be heard through them, much as we may hear the voice (or the implicit “expressive intention”) of someone who purports to be offering a “verbatim” account of what someone else has said. It is one of the central ideas in Bakhtin’s description of language, formulated over and over, in a variety of contexts. He writes:  Thus a prose writer can distance himself from the language of his own work…. He can make use of language without wholly giving himself up to it, he may treat it as semi-alien or completely alien to himself, while compelling language ultimately to serve all his own intentions. The author does not speak in a given language…but he speaks…through language, a language that has somehow more or less materialized, become objectivized, that he merely ventriloquates (1981: 299; my emphasis).                                                    8 We do, however, see precisely this sort of downstream effect resulting from another of Wortham’s texts, cited by Yamaguchi (2005: 287) who credits Wortham (2001b) – along with Bakhtin (1981) – for the idea that a particular speaker (“Marco”) “represents and enacts” his American identity through ventriloquation: “Marco represents Americans while ‘ventriloquating’ them…i.e. appropriating and ‘speaking through’ the voice of Americans”. He adds: “Marco ventriloquates Americans in direct quoted speech to position them as a particular type of people, i.e. casual and frank”. 9 It does not, in fact, appear in the original Russian, but that is not our concern, for we are interested only in the word of Bakhtin as it has come down to us. The problem of translation is taken up in Section 1.3.4.  [1] INTRODUCTION  11  In all of his efforts to articulate how a speaker can “refract” his expressive intentions through the words of another, the figure of a ventriloquist comes up only this once. And yet it appears in more than a dozen discussions in the discourse examined below.10 Of course, such an evocative term could be expected to find uptake. But the story continues. We find that nowhere in the discourse is the original passage ever quoted. In fact, we never find even a page reference. Indeed, in less than half the cases is the relevant text even mentioned – and in one case it is the wrong text. But it is always (more or less explicitly) presented as a Bakhtinian notion.11  We can go on. In the book review, the author uses the term “ventriloquate”, just as Bakhtin does. But in a number of texts the word takes on the nominal form, as though it were a technical term. We thus encounter phrases like “the process of ventriloquation” (Wertsch 2001: 222)12 and “the concept of…ventriloquation” (Josey 2010: 21) and “Bakhtin’s notion of ventriloquation” (Wetherell 2001: 191). Indeed, the notion is now so entrenched that it has its own entry in a recent dictionary of sociolinguistics (Tusting & Maybin 2007: 576).13 What began as figure of speech has now become a concept in its own right. And what is more, it has come to take on meanings that Bakhtin himself could hardly have anticipated. We see, in the book review, how it gets construed as a “device that might contribute to the self”. Another                                                  10 That is, in the corpus of the present study. A Google search of “Bakhtin + ventriloquation” yields over 1500 hits. 11 Linell (1998: 49) is typical. He cites Bakhtin (1984 and 1986) and even Vološinov (1973) before explaining that “some ideas of Bakhtin will be ventriloquated (to use his own term) throughout this book”. Grossen & Orvig (2011: 62) are less explicit. They use the French term ventriloque without direct reference to Bakhtin – but as Bakhtinian theory plays a prominent role throughout their paper, the connection here, too, seems likely. 12 This is a reprint from Wertsch (1991), where an earlier chapter cites both Bakhtin (1981) and Holquist (1981b) as the source of this idea. Wertsch writes: In Bakhtin’s view, a speaker always invokes a social language in producing an utterance, and this social language shapes what the speaker’s individual voice can say. This process of producing unique utterances by speaking in social languages involves a specific kind of dialogicality or multivoicedness that Bakhtin terms “ventriloquation”…the process whereby one voice speaks through another voice or voice type in a social language (1991: 59). 13 Park & Bucholtz (2009: 283) are the only ones in the present study to use the term “ventriloquism” – but they appear to be in the majority as a Google search of “Bakhtin + ventriloquism” yields over 36,000 hits. [1] INTRODUCTION  12  voice argues that “In a view grounded in ventriloquation… the very act of speaking precludes any claims about the individual’s being ‘metaphysically independent of society’” (Wertsch 2001: 222). And another goes so far as to claim that “In Bakhtin’s (1981) sense, to be an intelligible person requires an act of ventriloquation” (Gergen 2001: 57).  Tannen (2004) is among a vanishingly small number sociolinguists to question how the idea of “ventriloquation” has come to be seen as Bakhtinian.14 Citing Bubnova & Malcuzynski (2001), she observes that “the term ventriloquate is actually the innovation of translators Emerson and Holquist and that the concept that has come to be associated with this term is not found in Bakhtin’s own writing” (403); that is, neither the Russian word for ventriloquism “nor any notion related to it” can be found anywhere in Bakhtin. Given a more literal translation, she insists, the final sentence of the passage cited (on p. 9) above actually reads: “the language through which the author speaks is more densified, objectified, as if it would appear to be at a certain distance from his lips” (Bubnova & Malcuzynski 2001: 31; quoted in Tannen 2004: 403; my emphasis).  As Tannen remarks, it is easy to see how the word ventriloquate might be appropriate here. But this, she insists, is a mistake. Again citing Bubnova & Malcuzynski (2001), she argues that “Bakhtin’s point…is that an author of prose fiction finds the ‘language’ of the novel given in the conventions of literary discourse. An author must speak through those conventions” (403)15 – which, of course, is not at all what we normally understand the word “ventriloquate” to mean. It would seem that we have been deceived. But, in a surprising twist, she adds:  Although Bakhtin apparently did not use the term and was concerned with literary discourse, one of the effects of what I am calling ventriloquizing in conversational discourse is precisely to make the words spoken “appear to be at a certain distance” from the speaker’s lips in the sense of distancing the speaker from responsibility for the utterance.16 Thus, although the term ventriloquize does not trace, after all, to Bakhtin, nonetheless Bakhtin’s notion of polyvocality (by which authors speak                                                  14 Her essay is reprinted in Tannen, Kendall & Gordon (2007). 15 We will return to this interpretation below. But note how even the counter-interpretation appears to be grounded on the interpretation of others. 16 This notion of “distancing” is one that we will see again and again in the literature. [1] INTRODUCTION  13  through the conventions of literary discourse, thereby causing their words to appear “at a certain distance” from their lips) does capture an aspect of interaction that is crucial for the understanding of how speakers use [others’ voices] as a resource in communicating with each other (Tannen 2004: 404-405).  Thus, even after calling into question whether Bakhtin said or meant anything comparable to “ventriloquate”, Tannen concludes that the term nevertheless conveys the “spirit” of Bakhtin. Her objection, then, is a rather minor one: on her view, the word “ventriloquate” may be an innovation of the translators, but a justified one. Indeed, the objection itself is rather unpersuasive: the idea that Bakhtin is describing the prose writer’s subordination to literary convention rings hollow even if we take into account nothing but the claims he actually makes in the quoted passage. Bakhtin writes: “a prose writer can distance himself from the language of his own work.... He can make use of language without wholly giving himself up to it, he may treat it as…alien to himself, while compelling language ultimately to serve all his own intentions” (1981: 299; my emphasis). Not only is the author not compelled to speak through literary convention, according to Bakhtin he has the active power to compel language to do his bidding. However this cashes out, it clearly puts the author – and not the language (or literary convention) – in control. We are thus left where we started: with the idea that ventriloquation means what we have taken it to mean, and that Bakhtin offers an important articulation of it.  Tannen, I think, was on the right track. She simply failed to take her investigation far enough back.17 Cooren (2010: 88) hints at an earlier source. The passage is worth quoting at length:  Although the phenomenon of ventriloquism has rarely been mobilized to analyze the functioning of dialogue and interaction, it is noteworthy that a few authors dared to explore this question and its connection with dialogism. Holquist (1981[b]), for instance did not hesitate to draw interesting parallels between Bakhtin’s dialogic theory and the ventriloquist’s figure, positing “the author as a ventriloquist who tries out and even exploits the voices of others in order to express his true intentions, the particular message of truth…he wishes to communicate” (Carroll 1983; see also Wall 2005). In a way similar to what happens with Socrates in Crito, making characters and figures speak allows the author to create a distance (and a form of undecidability) between what is affirmed in the text and what she or he is supposed to believe and think (in a way similar to what happens in irony). The phenomenon of polyphony,                                                  17 In taking up this thread, we must make a brief foray outside the sociolinguistic discourse. [1] INTRODUCTION  14  identified by Bakhtin (1994) in Dostoevsky, for instance, is a way for an author to ventriloquize characters whose viewpoints are then relativized.   Like Tannen, Cooren suggests that Holquist was the first to draw the connection between Bakhtinian theory and the figure of the ventriloquist.18  He cites a passage from Carroll (1983: 74), who also comments on Holquist’s insight:  In Holquist’s interpretation of ventriloquism, the other is simply a way back to the self; all voices are made to serve the authority and intentions of the master author-ventriloquist. If this is dialogism at all – and there are moments of Bakhtin’s text that tend to support such a view – it is a weak form of dialogism, one that is more an appropriation of the other than an opening to or an affirmation of alterity. I would agree with Holquist that for Bakhtin, “all utterance is ventriloquism” [p. 181], but I would also argue that a much more radical view of ventriloquism must be taken than the one he puts forth: one in which the intentions of the ventriloquist himself cannot be given a special status outside and preceding the dialogue of voices, where the ventriloquist himself must be seen as ventriloquated as much as ventriloquating. (cited in Cooren, 2010: 88; Cooren’s italics).  Cooren adds: “Although Carroll does not mobilize the figure of the dummy in his argument, his position appears perfectly compatible with Goldblatt’s (2006) to the extent that a certain vacillation or undecidability is identified between the ventriloquist and the dummy” (88).  Despite adding relativity – and thus a certain “undecidability” – to the mix, Cooren construes ventriloquism, as Tannen and others do, in terms of polyphony, which cashes out for them as an appropriation of language, in which the other is recruited to speak on one’s behalf. Once again, the “ventriloquist’s figure” is taken extremely literally – to the point that even the dummy has been introduced.19 But here the question of translation is never raised. The issue is treated, instead, as a matter of interpretation: Holquist has interpreted dialogism as a kind of ventriloquism. In other words, any talk of Bakhtin and ventriloquation is a legacy of Holquist’s claims about dialogism. Indeed, a closer look at Holquist’s claims reveals that his lexical contribution has little, if anything, to do with his translation of The Dialogic Imagination.                                                  18 Morson & Emerson (1989: 3) likewise identify Holquist as the originator of this notion. 19 Tannen’s (2004) essay, “Talking the dog”, examines the role of the family pet as a sort of ventriloquist’s dummy: “The term ventriloquize…captures the sense in which family members, by voicing their dogs, distance themselves…from their own utterances” (405). [1] INTRODUCTION  15  Holquist made two notable presentations in September 1980, one at the annual meeting of the English Institute, titled “The politics of representation”; and the other, a reworking of that paper, titled “‘Bad Faith’ Squared: The Case of M. M. Bakhtin”, at the Second World Congress for Soviet and East European Studies. The earlier paper was subsequently published in Greenblatt (1981)20 and the latter in Bristol (1982). In both, he argues that Bakhtin uses Vološinov’s “Marxist voice” to articulate a view based not on Marxism but on Orthodox Christianity, the premise being that “if the Christian word were to take on Soviet flesh it had to clothe itself in ideological disguise” (1981b: 173; 1982: 224). Holquist writes: “Bakhtin, as author, manipulates the persona of Voloshinov, using his Marxist voice to ventriloquize a meaning not specific to Marxism, even when conceived only as a discourse” (1982: 225-226; my emphasis).21 In the earlier text Holquist uses the phrase “ventriloquate a meaning” (1981b: 174), which is the version that gets taken up, for instance, in Black (1983), Carroll (1983) and Cole (1983), and in the profusion of discussions we see to this day.   Black argues that the idea “may be taken a step beyond the religious and political parallels suggested by Holquist”.22 But Holquist already takes it beyond the religious and political,                                                  20 This version was reprinted in 1983, and then again, as part of a collected volume, in 1997. 21 The later text includes a reference to “ventriloquism” that is particularly apposite here. Holquist writes: “Bakhtin’s ventriloquism raises several thorny questions, but the one I’d like to concentrate on is the issue of linguistic determinism. How can we systematically account for his ability to use terms from one ideology to body forth a message born in a different ideology?” (1982: 228). Note that in neither version of the paper does Holquist actually ascribe the term to Bakhtin; regardless of its appearance in The Dialogic Imagination, it is clearly offered as his term for what he believes Bakhtin is doing. 22 He writes:  such a paradox may point to a fundamental relation between artistic and political activity as modes of representation. In order to represent his ideas, insights, or visions aesthetically, the author in effect must first find some way to represent himself politically – he must find someone to represent him as a kind of proxy. Thus, when Holquist suggests that “Bakhtin, as author, manipulates the persona of Voloshinov, using his Marxist voice to ventriloquate a meaning not specific to Marxism, even when conceived only as a discourse” ([1981b]:174), he is revealing that the aesthetics and the politics of representation are inextricably related (Black 1983: 113). In a section headed “Authors and Ventriloquists”, Carroll (1983) also looks to take the idea further: I would agree with Holquist that for Bakhtin, “all utterance is ventriloquism” [p. 181], but I would also argue that a much more radical view of ventriloquism must be taken than the one he puts forth: one in which the intentions of the ventriloquist himself [1] INTRODUCTION  16  arguing that “what in the English comic novel is often written off as mere irony, actually constitutes a paradigm for all utterance: I can appropriate meaning to my purposes only by ventriloquating others” (1981b: 169; my emphasis). He repeats: “all utterance is ventriloquism” (1981b: 181; original emphasis). It is worth quoting the broader passage:  Bakhtin’s example provides at least the beginning of an answer to some troubling questions raised recently by Paul de Man in his reading of Pascal: “From a theoretical point of view,” de Man writes, “there ought to be no difficulty in moving from epistemology to persuasion. The very occurrence of allegory, however, indicates a possible complication. Why is it that the furthest reaching truths about ourselves and the world have to be stated in such a lopsided, referentially indirect mode?” The answer provided by Bakhtin in both his theory and his practice…suffices at least to point us in a further direction. If we begin by assuming that all representation must be indirect, that all utterance is ventriloquism, then it will be clear…that difficulties do exist in moving from epistemology to persuasion. This is because difficulties exist in the very politics of any utterance, difficulties that at their most powerful exist in the politics of culture systems (1981b: 181-182).23  At this early stage there is no confusion as to where the notion of ventriloquation comes from – whose utterance it is, or the context in which it is offered – or that Holquist’s claims are ultimately interpretive (even if his readers are largely persuaded of the case he makes). Cole (1983), for instance, notes that “The particular form of collaboration that Holquist terms ‘ventriloquation’ was a necessary condition for Bakhtin’s invention” (1; my emphasis). Carroll (1983) likewise observes:   For Holquist…the Marxist voices Bakhtin ventriloquated were only the external trappings in which Bakhtin was obliged to clothe his ‘true message’ in order to get                                                                                                                                                        cannot be given a special status outside and preceding the dialogue of voices, where the ventriloquist himself must be seen as ventriloquated as much as ventriloquating. Bakhtin is certainly a man of many voices, so much so that his “own voice” can only be determined as the product of a conflict and dialogue of voices rather than as an original voice; it is a voice divided against itself, a voice in conflict even with its most profound ‘intentions’ (74). 23 As Greenblatt (1981) explains in his preface to the papers collected from the meeting of the English institute, the latter half of the program, which includes Holquist’s presentation, was conceived in part as a response to the issues raised earlier, particularly by Paul de Man. Like Holquist, Greenblatt cites de Man’s question about the apparent inevitability of a “lopsided, referentially indirect mode” of representation, which he takes to be the clearest articulation of the problem. Holquist’s claims about ventriloquation thus appear to be formulated precisely with this question of allegory in mind. [1] INTRODUCTION  17  his work published and read […] Holquist’s Bakhtin simply uses Marxism out of political necessity to transport and translate a religious message that cannot be expressed in its own terms (1983: 73; my emphasis).  At some point, however, the distinction between Bakhtin and Holquist’s Bakhtin is lost. Holquist’s argument, in short, is:  If we begin by assuming that all representation must be indirect, that all utterance is ventriloquism, then it will be clear…that difficulties do exist in moving from epistemology to persuasion. This is because difficulties exist in the very politics of any utterance, difficulties that at their most powerful exist in the politics of culture systems (1981b: 181; original emphases).24    It is therefore possible that:  the text of Marxism and the Philosophy of Language  itself constitutes the kind of dialogic space Bakhtin is talking about within it. Bakhtin, as author, manipulates the persona of Voloshinov, using his Marxist voice to ventriloquize a meaning not specific to Marxism (1981b: 174).25  But if this is true of “all utterance”, then it ought to be true a fortiori of Holquist’s as well, and – whether or not we accept the idea that Bakhtin  “manipulates the persona of Vološinov, using his Marxist voice to ventriloquize a meaning not specific to Marxism” – we may well ask whether Holquist, as author (and sensing these very difficulties in persuading us of his own view of language) has created the kind of “authorial loophole” he ascribes to Bakhtin (that is, “in which he describes exactly what he is doing”): manipulating the persona of Bakhtin, using his Dialogic voice to ventriloquize a meaning not specific to Dialogism. Certainly, as one who articulates the possibility of such discursive “bad faith” (and even suggests its inevitability), Holquist ought to be aware of the implications for his own claims                                                  24 In this way, Vološinov’s (1973) text becomes, for Holquist, a model of dialogism-as-ventriloquation, “sending out transcoded messages from the catacombs” in its effort to deceive the censors. 25 Holquist’s understanding of the Bakhtinian project itself can be seen in a claim that appears a few paragraphs earlier: For Russians, utterance has ever been a contest, a struggle. The need to speak indirectly has resulted in a Russian discourse that is always fabular precisely when it is fueled by the most intense desire to mean. Such indirection has resulted in an allegorical mode known as “Aesopic language.” Bakhtin’s achievement is to refine, out of the particular features that have created such a situation, a synthetic philosophy of language (1981b: 181). [1] INTRODUCTION  18  about Bakhtin.26 Indeed, this offers a ready explanation for the differences we see in the scholarly discourse and the Bakhtinian one: bad faith. We could argue that Bakhtin has been made the dummy for language theorists seeking to move from epistemology to persuasion. Just as Holquist’s Bakhtin ensured that his ideas were “carefully camouflaged in Marxist terminology” (1982: 231), it is possible that those who followed – especially those who see what Holquist (1982: 227) calls the “transcoding possibilities in indirect speech” – have “appropriated the code of [Bakhtinian] ideology to make public the message of quite another”.27   But I am sceptical of such an interpretation – indeed, I am sceptical even of the idea that Holquist has used Bakhtin this way – for the very possibility presupposes the sort of semiology that Bakhtin explicitly rejects. As we  will see, it is tremendously misleading to treat the Bakhtinian notion of indirect speech as a sort of allegorical mode of communication – as though dialogism were simply the encoding of one’s real meanings in alien form (Jesus as a lamb, for instance, or Vološinov as a Marxist) – which is what Holquist’s notion of “ventriloquation” ultimately conveys. When Holquist (1981b: 181) insists that “Allegory is the prosecution of semantic intention by other means”,28 he is taking a structuralist approach: we are directed elsewhere for insight into the significance of Bakhtin’s message, to something absent, something distant (something authoritative). The “dialogizing background” of speech is thus configured as an abstraction – a (political, intellectual, historical, etc.) “situation” capable of providing the necessary interpretive framework. Indeed, conditioned as we are to                                                  26 Indeed, he ends his presentation (1981b: 182) with a curious allegory of his own about the Bakhtinian project: the tale of a debauched merchant who manages, through the mendacity of his deathbed confession, to persuade the world that he had led the life of a saint – and at whose final resting place miracles do, in fact, begin to occur. Holquist’s point, it seems, is that Bakhtin has been canonized for all the wrong reasons, but that he is nevertheless genuinely worthy. But what has Bakhtin been canonized for, if not for his ideas about genre, dialogue, double-voicing, carnival, etc.? And what, then, should we consider his actual contribution? Holquist argues that Bakhtin’s Marxist/anti-Saussurean claims are just a cover for ideas based on his religious views. But if this argument is itself allegorical, symbolic of what Holquist actually means to convey, perhaps what we are really being led to appreciate is the Saussurean notion of comparison and exchange. 27 And as this talk of coding and transcoding suggests, the “other” message appears to be a Saussurean/structuralist one.  28 Of course, we must be careful, once again, in what we suppose “allegory” to mean. But Holquist makes his point clear: “In a very real sense, what Bakhtin is doing may be likened to the efforts of the early Christians to spread their message by parable and allegory” (1981b: 180). [1] INTRODUCTION  19  thinking of discourse as the realization of language in the form of speech, which is to say, to thinking of speech as something grounded on an abstract system of language, it may be difficult to imagine what alternative Bakhtin may have intended. And in the sociolinguistic discourse, this way of thinking remains under the surface (despite the fact that almost every reference to Saussure reproduces the claim that Bakhtin rejects the Saussurean model). To be clear, I am not suggesting that sociolinguists have been consciously pursuing a “Saussurean” programme (if such a thing even exists), though some commentators are, in fact, quite overt in their treatment of Bakhtin as a (Saussurean) structuralist (see note 30 below; cf. Ch. 9.1). My point is that they continue, by and large, to look for meaning in the system of language – a system that may be realized in a variety of ways (some very unSaussurean).29   When I speak of a “Bakhtinian perspective”, I am pointing to an alternative that Bakhtin seems to develop throughout his major works: the idea that we must often look elsewhere than the system of language (however that system is construed) if we wish to understand the speaker.  The one idea that connects every topic we will explore in this discussion, from genre to style to the forces of language, is the active relationship – the collision – between two linguistic centres – “two utterances, two speech manners, two styles, two ‘languages’, two semantic and axiological belief systems” (1981: 305). This, I believe, is the essence of the Bakhtinian perspective, this “inter-animation” or “inter-illumination” of meaning, which he calls dialogism – and which, in turn, is fully revealed only in light of its manifestation as genre, hybridity, style, heteroglossia, etc. (which is why these ideas are important for Bakhtin and for us). Nowhere in this do we find anything like a notion of “transcoding”. Indeed, nowhere in this do we even begin with the notion of “code”. What is more, Bakhtin never characterizes the essential linguistic centres as “structures” in the Saussurean sense (as systems of meaning grounded in difference). Far from deriving these ideas from Bakhtin, they are imposed on him, and he is then congratulated for cleverly concealing them in his text – or worse, he is                                                  29 I am thinking here not only of the social and cultural systems that are a frequent focus of sociolinguistic analyses, but of what Vološinov (1973: 48ff.) calls “individualistic subjectivism” – the opposite face of structuralism – according to which meaning is structured by the individual’s style or psychology.  [1] INTRODUCTION  20  accused of some kind of lapse or change of heart for failing to account for them.30 The following chapters will argue not only that Bakhtin means something very different from what sociolinguists have come to expect, but – perhaps surprisingly – that even the grossest misrepresentations are consistent with what Bakhtin says about the way language functions, which is to say, not in terms of “code manipulation”, but of illumination against a background of discourse, which is naturally dominated by certain “leading ideas of the ‘masters of thought’”.31                                                    30 Lechte (1994) offers a useful illustration of such a tendency, first by saddling Bakhtin with a structuralist view and then by criticising him for his inadequacies as a structuralist. He begins: Although Bakhtin formally distanced himself from structuralism and semiotics, his refusal to embrace the ideology of the author’s intentions as a way of explaining the meaning of a work of art, places him much closer to a structural approach than might at first appear. For Bakhtin, the author is an empty space where the drama would take place – or better: the author is the dramatization itself (10).  Of course, for Bakhtin, the author is precisely not “an empty space where the drama would take place”. His is a space filled with intention. The point is not that the author steps aside for the drama (indeed, the notion of “drama” itself is problematic for Bakhtin), but that he acts indirectly, conveying his intentions through others’ languages – and not even directly through those languages, but rather through the intersection of those languages with each other and with the language of the reader. Nevertheless, Lechte concludes: the effect of Bakhtin’s use of macro-categories like ‘chronotope’ and ‘genre’ is to render invisible the unique, the singular, the individual, and the unclassifiable. […] One might…suggest that the problem of genre is that it risks turning individual works of art into myth. For myth exhibits a homogenous, and relatively undifferentiated structure; this allows it to be communicated to a vast audience. […] Perhaps if Bakhtin had been more structuralist in the Lévi-Straussian sense, and had seen the structure of genres as a kind of grammar which constituted the precondition of specific works done under its aegis, he would not have given the impression of a lack of rigour which comes with a procrustean attempt to place all works of an era under the same classificatory umbrella (11). The very idea that Bakhtin conceives of genre as a “classificatory umbrella” reveals a profound misunderstanding of the notion, for as we shall see, it is not simply an organizing principle (neither in the “Lévi-Straussian sense” of a kind of a grammar, nor in the traditional sense of a formal literary category). Genres – at least living genres – are the outgrowth of a concrete historical situation, and when the conditions that give them life pass away, they too pass away, persisting only “in moribund form, in the lifeless and stilted genres of ‘high’ ideology” (Bakhtin 1981: 22). As for “the unique, the singular, the individual, and the unclassifiable”, Bakhtin directs us to the “utterance” (not merely to their generic types) and, of course, to the vexing question of dialogue. 31 This phrase, from Bakhtin (1986: 88-89) is taken up in more detail on p. 58, below. [1] INTRODUCTION  21  The point here is not that Bakhtin has been misunderstood, but that he has not been fully heard. In the case of “ventriloquation”, at least, it is clear that the scholarly claims are almost completely untethered from the Bakhtinian texts. They appear, rather, to have been generated in a peripheral discourse, one that has begun to escape the gravity of Bakhtin’s authority. But, again, while it might be alarming to think that, in aggregate, these views have begun to coalesce and impose their own gravity, drawing researchers into orbit around their own centre while Bakhtin shines brightly in the distance, the fact is that this is just what we would expect to happen according to Bakhtin’s description of language.   What we learn from Bakhtin is that the author’s expressive intention must always encounter the responsive understanding of a listener, that it is only in the collision of these two perspectives that communication happens. Thus Bakhtin writes:  When constructing my utterance, I try actively to determine this response. Moreover I try to act in accordance with the response I anticipate, so this anticipated response, in turn, exerts an active influence on my utterance (I parry the objections I foresee, I make all kinds of provisos, and so forth). When speaking I always take into account the apperceptive background of the addressee’s perception of my speech: the extent to which he is familiar with the situation, whether he has special knowledge of the given cultural area of communication, his views and convictions, his prejudices (from my viewpoint), his sympathies and antipathies – because all this will determine his active responsive understanding of my utterance (95-96).  Of course, Bakhtin could never have anticipated the responsive understanding of researchers who are already predisposed to particular interpretations of his own ideas. He could thus never address such interpretations or present his ideas in ways that took them into account. Such listeners, then, are at a curious disadvantage. They hear Bakhtin in a certain way – even when they return to the source – and they reinforce this understanding in their own communications among their peers. In a sense, it is not simply that Bakhtin has not been heard, but that he cannot be heard, at least not without considerable effort.   All of this puts us well on our way to addressing the “problem of adherence”. What I have been calling the “problem of adherence” and “the problem of propagation” are two sides of the same coin. Even if those who posited a “Bakhtinian notion” of ventriloquation were [1] INTRODUCTION  22  subsequently exposed to the original and authoritative word of Bakhtin, they would still bring an apperceptive background – and thus a style – shaped by their identification with a peripheral discourse community, and consequently bring an active, responsive understanding that fails to resolve Bakhtin’s communicative intention.   The story of ventriloquation is the story of the discourse on Bakhtin in a nutshell. It is the story of how language is transformed in the process of communication. We can see in it how the discourse community produces the meanings it ascribes to Bakhtin. It thus calls into question what we think we know about Bakhtinian ideas: if “ventriloquation” means something different in the contemporary sociolinguistic discourse than it did for Bakhtin, what are we to conclude about other important notions, like “genre”, “hybridization”, “stylization”, etc.? Does it not follow that these, too, have been transformed in the sociolinguistic discourse? And if so, how do they differ from what Bakhtin might have wanted to convey?   This, of course, leads to another important question: how can we know what Bakhtin intended?  If his meanings are so easily misconstrued, how can we be sure that the interpretations offered here are any more reliable? Bell (2007: 98) enumerates some of the challenges that Bakhtin poses:  Bakhtin is difficult to read. His syntax is tortuous, his argument is not structured or ordered in the way Western academics are accustomed to, and he creates a terminology rife with cumbersome and opaque neologisms…. Among these neologisms see for example the following, whose meanings are by no means always clear in the texts which introduce and explicate them, and whose pronunciations can be difficult even for native speakers to be sure of:  multilanguagedness internally persuasive discourse internally dialogized interillumination.  There is something almost comical about this list, which subtly underlines the point that the reader can be forgiven for failing to make any sense of it. But I would argue, on the contrary, that these “cumbersome and opaque neologisms” serve as an important reminder that meaning derives from the discourse, and that we should not presume to know what they mean on their own. Indeed, I argue below that some of Bakhtin’s most important insights –[1] INTRODUCTION  23  about “genre”, “hybridity”, “style”, and so forth – have been misconstrued in large part because the terminology is so familiar that the reader feels already in command of it. That is to say, Bakhtin has not been misconstrued because his thoughts are hard to follow, but because we think we already know what he is saying. And this perhaps explains why the discrepancies go unnoticed even in the peer-reviewed literature: Bakhtin is made to say precisely what is expected of him, and so the idea that there might be a discrepancy never arises. My response is to turn back to the texts and let Bakhtin speak – to say “everything he wishes to say” (1986: 82). In that sense, what I offer is not so much an “interpretation” grounded on my own uncertain authority as it is a guided tour of what I consider to be an internally persuasive discourse.   1.2 Aims and Objectives  This study makes a number of contributions to the scholarly discourse on language. First, it brings the recent sociolinguistic discourse on Bakhtin together for critical analysis: more than a decade’s worth of disparate utterances previously obscured by the surrounding speech are foregrounded and, as a result, once-hidden patterns and characteristics are now exposed to scrutiny. It is possible now to say what the sociolinguistic discourse on Bakhtin actually entails and how it compares with Bakhtin’s own pronouncements. This leads to the second contribution: an explication of Bakhtinian theory that arises directly from the concerns and confusions expressed in the sociolinguistic discourse – making that discourse a genuine link in a concrete chain of communication for which the present discussion is inherently relevant. No other discussion of Bakhtin has done this, for no other discussion of Bakhtin has been conceived as a rejoinder to the sociolinguistic discourse. This leads to its third contribution: a detailed analysis of the discourse on Bakhtin grounded on Bakhtinian principles, offering an explanation for the apparent divergence between the sociolinguistic interpretation and Bakhtin’s actual claims that is concordant with Bakhtin’s description of language. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it raises the possibility that the treatment of Bakhtin in the sociolinguistic discourse is being paralleled elsewhere, in other disciplines and other areas of enquiry, calling into question not only our understanding of the various theories being propagated in the scholarly literature (and the various phenomena interpreted in light of those [1] INTRODUCTION  24  theories), but the adequacy of the very mechanisms we rely on to ensure that those theories have been accurately and meaningfully communicated.  1.3 Methodology  While this study is firmly qualitative in design (e.g., Denzin & Lincoln 2005) and thus largely unconcerned with numerical data, efforts were made to ensure that both the texts selected for analysis and the topics examined within them were representative of the recent scholarly discourse on Bakhtin. 1.3.1 Text Selection  Five scholarly journals – chosen for their focus on discourse and discourse analysis, and widely regarded as among the “key journals in sociolinguistics”32 – were selected to represent the scholarly discourse:  (1) Journal of Sociolinguistics;  (2) Language in Society;  (3) Text & Talk (formerly Text);  (4) Discourse & Society; and  (5) Discourse Studies  In order to examine the most recent discourse, the period of study extended from the time the data-collection began, in early 2011, back to the year 2000, a relatively arbitrary cut-off point, but one that allowed for the inclusion of a full decade’s worth of data from the beginning of the 21st century (the third decade since the publication of The Dialogic Imagination in the West).   Within these boundaries, every text to mention “Bakhtin”, “Bakhtin’s” or “Bakhtinian” was flagged as a candidate for analysis. For practical and methodological reasons, a mere allusion to, or unattributed uptake of, Bakhtinian theory was ignored – and a contribution to the discourse on Bakhtin was defined as an utterance – any article, or review – in which Bakhtin was invoked somewhere in the body of the text by name. In the case of a book review, the review and the reviewed book were both included – as these were construed as parts of the                                                  32 This phrase is used on Georgetown’s M.A. in Language & Communication homepage to describe a selection of 12 publications in sociolinguistics, four of which are represented here. [1] INTRODUCTION  25  same discourse – while books and articles cited within a given text (the preceding links in the chain of discourse) were excluded on practical grounds. Mentions of Vološinov or Medvedev were also included as broadly “Bakhtinian” references, but no specific search was made for comments about either figure.  This method yielded 352 items distributed as follows:  (1) Journal of Sociolinguistics:  44 entries (2) Language in Society:  70 entries (3) Text & Talk/Text):   53 entries 33 (4) Discourse & Society:  53 entries (5) Discourse Studies:  50 entries (6) Reviewed books:   87 entries34  Each entry includes all mentions of Bakhtin, with enough context to make the claim comprehensible. For instance, the entry for Wortham (2001) appears as:  246.  Wortham, S. (2001). Book review: The grammar of autobiography: A developmental account. Language in Society 30, 490-493.  As Quigley herself says, both presupposed information and verbal action undoubtedly play some role in narrative self-construction. But a full account will have to specify more precisely how the various functions of narrative discourse (denotational, conative, interactional, textual, etc.) create cognitive, interpersonal, or some other sorts of patterns that can then influence the self. Quigley considers, but does not clearly choose among, various possibilities. She claims that grammatical categories create possible worlds for speakers. This Whorfian idea has been elaborated systematically by Lucy 1992, and it offers one possibility for how language might create a pattern that could influence the self. Quigley also claims that a narrator “emplots himself or herself in an autobiographical storyline” (15). Labov & Waletsky 1967, among others, describe how linguistic devices create plots, and this offers another possible linguistic mechanism for narrative self-construction. Quigley proposes that narrators can position themselves with respect to their characters and the social voices that these characters represent. Hill 1995 and others use Bakhtin to describe systematically how narrators speak with and ventriloquate voices, and this offers yet another type of linguistic device that might contribute to the self. (491).                                                   33 Text (2001-2005): 19; Text & Talk (2006-2011): 34. 34 Two of the reviewed books, Amossy (1999) and Tuomarla (1999), were excluded as non-English texts, and three others, Dickinson et al. (1998), Toolan (2002), and Thompson & Hunston (2006), could not be located, reducing the final number of books in the corpus to 82. [1] INTRODUCTION  26  Some entries include more than one mention, separated by a number of paragraphs or pages. For instance, the entry for Maclean (2010) appears as:  332.  Maclean, R. (2010). First-year law students’ construction of professional identity through writing. Discourse Studies 12(2), 177-194.   A single author may use several voices in a given text, so that a writer’s identity is often constituted by the dialogical interaction of several voice types, particularly in complex texts (Bakhtin, 1981). One example of this type of dialogism is provided by Ivanic’s (1998) analysis of a social work essay by the student writer Rachel. Rachel’s essay is characterized by relations between positions that ‘interanimate’ (Ivanic, 1998: 153) each other. This dialogized heteroglossia (Bakhtin, 1981) is evident in the lexical and grammatical patterns of the writing: Rachel moves, often within a single sentence, from one kind of voice, realized by narrative accounts of personal experience, to an academic discourse realized by nominalized language. (178).  […]  Although one might expect that the writing of these student letters is merely an artificial exercise, they resemble the writing of a professional lawyer or solicitor more than they resemble academic writing. The genre of the letter of advice has its own ‘memory’ (Bakhtin, 1986). It shapes the students by bringing with it from its primary context in legal practice constraints that remain in force even in an academic setting. (184).  Some mentions are extremely brief. For instance, the entry for Argenter (2006) appears as:  138.  Argenter, J.A. (2006). Responsibility in discourse: Evidence, report and entitlement to speak in the Book of deeds of King James. Language in Society 35, 1-25.   The king himself is alleged to be the author of the Book, and the narrative is written in the first person plural of royalty. This feature alone discursively indexes a monologic narrative (Bakhtin 1981) (4).  Others – usually book chapters – go on for many pages and pursue their topics in depth. Prodromou (2008), for instance, includes a mention of Bakhtin on 34 different pages. In such cases – where it is impractical to transcribe all the relevant material – a partial transcription appears and a note indicating where the remaining mentions can be found for separate analysis. Such cases, fortunately, were uncommon enough to be manageable. In the end, 329 entries were fully transcribed, and all but a handful were transcribed at least partially. Holquist (2002) is the lone exception as he makes Bakhtin and dialogism the central theme [1] INTRODUCTION  27  for over 200 pages;35 the text is thus given its own separate treatment (in Ch. 9), as part of a more extended discussion of Holquist’s role in the sociolinguistic discourse.   1.3.2 Topic Selection  After assembling the corpus, a “grounded theory” approach (e.g. Strauss & Corbin 1998) was used to identify recurrent discourse topics. Candidate notions, like “genre”, “double-voicing”, “polyphony”, etc., were colour-coded upon their first encounter and immediately highlighted throughout the corpus. As the analysis proceeded, a picture emerged of both the density and distribution of the candidate topics and the gaps where the relevant topics had yet to be identified. As these gaps were filled in the following topics presented themselves:36   Voice: 997 mentions  Dialogue: 696 mentions  Genre: 687 mentions (105 texts)  Utterance: 539 mentions  Style/stylization: 327 mentions (76 texts)  Identity: 278 mentions  Authority/authoritative: 256 mentions (53 texts)  Ideology: 250 mentions  Intertextuality: 210 mentions (74 texts)  Heteroglossia: 213 mentions (65 texts)  Addressivity: 165 mentions  Double-voicing: 130 mentions (53 texts)  Reported speech: 76 mentions (29 texts)  Persuasion: 70 mentions (24 texts)  Centripetal/centrifugal: 61 mentions (14 texts)  Polyphony: 62 mentions (32 texts)  Interdiscursivity: 59 mentions (30 texts)  Hybridization: 59 mentions (33 texts)  Parody: 47 mentions (16 texts)  Polemic: 34 mentions (11 texts)   Chronotope: 33 mentions (9 texts)                                                  35 Hoquist also merits special attention in light of his role as translator of what is arguably Bakhtin’s most influential work. 36 Here we can see the relevance of the transcription process, as only the transcribed text contributed to this picture of the scholarly discourse. [1] INTRODUCTION  28   Ventriloquation: 24 mentions (14 texts)  Carnival: 19 mentions (10 texts)  Polyvocality: 14 mentions (9 texts)  The first number indicates the frequency with which a given term appears in the corpus, and the second the number of texts. This is a rather rough measure of uptake, however, as some terms simply get repeated more often in a given text (“genre”, for instance appears 14 times in a single paragraph in Tardy (2009), and not every instance is related to the discourse on Bakhtin (“address”, “authority”, “persuasion”, etc., are all somewhat overrepresented as a result). There is nevertheless little ambiguity as to the topics that resonate the most among sociolinguists. Topics marked in bold were selected for direct examination, which resulted in the chapters set out below; topics marked with italics were examined indirectly, as part of the discussion elsewhere (“parody” and “polemic”, for instance, are treated under the heading of “double-voiced discourse”). The rest were passed over.   It may be observed that some of Bakhtin’s most recognizable ideas do not get examined in this discussion:37 an entire chapter is devoted to the relatively obscure notion of “centripetal” and “centrifugal” forces, but hardly a word to “carnival” or “chronotope”. “Voice” and “dialogue”, in contrast, are mentioned or alluded to on almost every page, yet still do not merit a chapter of their own. And between these two extremes, important notions like “polyphony”, “addressivity”, and “reported speech” are conspicuously absent. There are a number of reasons for this. It must be emphasized, first of all, that the point was not to do an inventory of Bakhtinian concepts but to analyze the scholarly uptake – and as it turns out, notions like “chronotope” (taken up by 7 authors in 9 texts) and “carnival” (by 9 authors in 10 texts) are not among the most interesting to sociolinguistic researchers.38 Given the time and space, it would have been interesting to show how these important ideas fit with the                                                  37 According to Lechte (1994: 8), for example: “Bakhtin is best known in the West, first, for his notion of carnival…second, for the concept of the dialogical, polyphonic novel…and finally, for terms, such as ‘chronotope’ and ‘novelistic discourse’”. 38 Likewise, with less than three mentions each, Bakhtin’s interesting and important discussion of the “epic” and the “romantic”, and his notion of “polyglossia” barely register in the sociolinguistic discourse. On the other hand, “intertextuality” proves to be one of the most popular notions, and (like “ventriloquation”) demands our attention even though it is not, strictly speaking, a Bakhtinian contribution. [1] INTRODUCTION  29  others in the broader Bakhtinian scheme, but their absence is largely a reflection of their relatively minor role in the sociolinguistic discourse.   In the middle of the pack, notions like “polyphony”, “addressivity” and “reported speech” were simply elbowed out. It could be argued that “polyphony” (taken up in 32 texts) or “reported speech” (taken up in 29) should have been given preference over less familiar and less cited notions like the “centripetal” and “centrifugal” forces (taken up in 14) – and, again, given the time and space, they would certainly have been included. But a variety of factors militated against it: “polyphony”, for instance, is conceptually very close to themes (like double-voicing and hybridization) that are already well-represented in this discussion, and “reported speech” is less a concept than a site for the application of Bakhtinian ideas. “Identity” and “ideology”, on the other hand are not essentially Bakhtinian notions despite the interest they are shown in the literature. In any case, it is hoped that the conclusions offered on the basis of the topics studied here can be extended to those that have been set aside.   Finally, at the top of the list, notions of “voice”, “utterance” and “dialogue” present a very different challenge. Here, the overwhelming number of texts (nearly 150 on each topic) and the extended treatment they are given in many of these discussions demanded a more general, collective, approach. Indeed, it will be argued that these notions underlie all the rest, and that any discussion of Bakhtin will necessarily (if only indirectly) reveal their significance, both for the scholarly discourse and for Bakhtin’s own. We return to these important ideas more directly in the conclusion.  1.3.3 Organization  As an examination not only of “speech about speech”, but of the scholarly discourse on speech in particular, a certain recursiveness pervades this discussion: the literature simultaneously establishes the recent scholarly approach to Bakhtinian theory and is illuminated by it.39 As a result, far from grounding the approach and interpretations offered                                                  39 It seems appropriate, at this point, to add a footnote about the footnotes that populate this discussion. They are provided as a resource (for the curious or confused), and may be safely ignored by those who would rather not have their reading interrupted. [1] INTRODUCTION  30  here or establishing a gap that needs to be filled (both of which presuppose the very sort of extrinsic structuring that this project calls into question), the scholarly discourse is literally absorbed into the present one. In a sense, the project itself may be construed as one enormous literature review, which for sake of clarity has been divided into the different chapters below.   Each chapter begins with as thorough a reproduction of the scholarly discourse as possible. For the sake of clarity, the various utterances are divided according to theme into smaller subsections (for instance, genre is characterized in turn as a “linguistic constraint”, as a “social purpose”, as an “abstract category”, etc.), but little critical commentary is offered. It is an axiom of Bakhtinian theory (and of sociolinguistics in general) that such a reproduction is subject to all manner of expressive and semantic “reaccentuations”. But the intention here is to make the original voices present for the reader without evaluation or interjection in what might be imagined as a sort of carnivalesque clamour of viewpoints.40   Each review of the literature is followed by a presentation of Bakhtin’s own discourse on the given topic. Here, too, the intention is to make the original voice present for the reader, to let Bakhtin speak for himself.41 At the same time, however, the goal is to illuminate his ideas, to draw connections between the different topics and articulations – in short, to establish a dialogizing background that makes his intention evident. The scholarly discourse is notably absent from this effort, but it maintains an invisible presence, providing its contextualizing background. Indeed, the scholarly discourse establishes both the topic and the claims to which the “Bakhtinian discourse” implicitly responds. As a result, this section of each chapter offers a much more coherent narrative, with more explicit authorial intervention, while nevertheless remaining entirely grounded on Bakhtin’s own utterances.   It is not until the final section of each chapter that the scholarly discourse is brought face to face with the Bakhtinian one and its claims are shown to diverge in sometimes profound                                                  40 Some may nevertheless see an intentional “double-voicedness” in this effort, an implicit commentary; while others may observe the “heteroglossia” (the inter- animation or illumination of viewpoints); others may simply be struck by the contrariness of the many claims. 41 The important question of whether (or to what extent) the English translation can be considered “Bakhtin’s voice” is taken up at the bottom of Section 1.3.4. [1] INTRODUCTION  31  ways from the Bakhtinian model. In a sense, this is already accomplished in the preceding section, but here at the end of each chapter the implications are finally foregrounded, bringing closure to the current topic and extending the discursive background in ways that will inform the reading of subsequent chapters.    1.3.4 The Bakhtinian texts  This study draws primarily on the English translation of Bakhtin’s five canonical texts:   The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays. (C. Emerson & M. Holquist, trans.)  Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics (C. Emerson, trans)  Speech Genres and Other Late Essays. (V. W. McGee, trans.)  Rabelais and His World. (H. Iswolsky, trans.)  Toward a philosophy of the act (V. Liapunov, trans.)  and one disputed work published under the name of Bakhtin’s associate Valentin Vološinov:   Marxism and the Philosophy of Language (L. Matjka & I.R. Titunik, trans.)   There are a number of issues to be addressed in this: (1) the neglect of other important texts written by or attributed to Bakhtin (e.g. Art and Answerability, which contains some of his earliest essays, Freudianism: A Marxist Critique, published in Vološinov’s name, or The Formal Method in Literary Scholarship, published under the name of yet another Bakhtin associate, Pavel Medvedev);42 (2) a failure to pursue the origins of the disputed texts; and (3) a reliance on these works in translation.   All of these issues reflect, in one way or another, the imperatives of this project. Just as notions such as “chronotope” and “carnival” have been passed over in light of the fact that they do not show the same uptake among sociolinguists as “genre” and “stylization” do – certain texts, despite their theoretical interest and importance, are not at the centre of the sociolinguistic discourse on Bakhtin. It follows, for instance, that the lack of interest in “carnival” would be matched by relatively muted interest in the Rabelais text (and analysis of                                                  42 It may also be noted that among the texts cited, some (e.g. The Dialogic Imagination) are given far more weight others (e.g. Toward a philosophy of the act). [1] INTRODUCTION  32  the sociolinguistic discourse confirms this). Again, the point is not to do an inventory of Bakhtinian concepts (or, in this case, Bakhtin’s written works) but to analyze the scholarly uptake. Here, it turns out, the discourse is overwhelmingly influenced by four particular texts, and these are consequently appealed to most frequently when a Bakhtinian “rejoinder” is offered in the discussion below:   The Dialogic Imagination: 182 texts  Speech Genres and Other Late Essays: 112 texts  Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics: 41 texts  Marxism and the Philosophy of Language: 39 texts  Rabelais and His World: 8 texts  The Formal Method in Literary Scholarship: 6 texts  Toward a philosophy of the act: 3 texts  Art and Answerability: 3 texts  Freudianism: A Marxist Critique: 2 texts  Note here, as well, how frequently Vološinov’s work on the philosophy of language appears in the discourse on “Bakhtin” – despite the fact that Vološinov’s name was not included among the search terms that defined the boundaries of the discourse. This reflects two important realities: first, that the text is so close in its concerns and conceptions to what we have been calling the “Bakhtinian perspective” – being a product of what is commonly known as the “Bakhtin Circle”43 – that it provides relevant insight into what this perspective entails irrespective of who authored it;44 and, second, that authorship of the text was so long taken to be Bakhtin’s own that Bakhtin and Vološinov continue to be treated as the same individual.45 As Holquist (1981b: 170) puts “This is not the place to rehearse the long and                                                  43 This circle included “first and foremost” (according to Bakhtin himself): Lev Pumpianskii, Pavel Nikolaevich, Pavel Medvedev and Valentin Vološinov (Shepherd 2004: 1). 44 Thus, for instance, Pietikainen & Dufva (2006: 205) can speak of “the dialogical philosophy of language” as something “based on the work of the Bakhtin Circle…particularly Mikhail Bakhtin (1895-1975) and Valentin Voloshinov (1895-1936)”. 45 We see this clearly when commentators refer to “Bakhtin/Vološinov”, “Bakhtin-Vološinov”, “Vološinov/Bakhtin”, etc. (e.g. Occhi 2003, Dedaic 2003), or speak of “Vološinov and Bakhtin” (e.g. Prior et al. 2006), or cite them side-by-side without distinguishing between them (e.g. Karkkainen 2006), or cite Vološinov’s text as an articulation of Bakhtin’s position, perhaps footnoting the dispute over authorship (e.g., Vandelanotte 2004). Such moves appear to be the rule rather than the exception in the sociolinguistic discourse. [1] INTRODUCTION  33  complex proofs of Bakhtin’s authorship”.46 For us it is enough that the text continues to be taken up in the sociolinguistic discourse as an articulation of the “Bakhtinian” perspective on language. Indeed, we may go so far as to say that actual historical authorship is irrelevant to our concerns – it may even be the case, as Poole (1998, 2001) provocatively demonstrates, that Bakhtin made a habit of appropriating the work of others without attribution, and that the “seminal portion” of his work is arguably not even his own.47 None of this concerns us, for we are interested only in the discourse that has come down to us as Bakhtin’s: even if that discourse turns out really to have been Vološinov’s or Scheler’s or Cassirer’s, none of the observations or conclusions we arrive at below will be effected in the least.48   And this takes us to the question of translation. Generally speaking, the sociolinguistic discourse on Bakhtin is no more conscious of the original Russian texts than it is of the Russian individual who has come down to us as the author of those texts, and just as uncertainties over authorship in no way affect what was actually heard, the original Russian in no way contributes to the meanings that readers actually take from the translated works. The concern here is therefore not to reconcile the sociolinguistic interpretation with a putative “original” (let alone establish an authoritative reading of the original), but to examine the scholarly                                                  46 Holquist (1981b: 172) says there is no doubt about it (and, indeed, he makes this position the foundation of an argument that continues to reverberate – as we will see – in the sociolinguistic discourse). On the other hand, in what Shepherd (2004: 19) calls “by far the most persuasive account”, Hirschkop (1999: 126-140) argues that Bakhtin was not the author. Shepherd (2004: 20) himself concludes that the issue of authorship “has all but become a non-question”.  47 Poole (1998: 543), for instance, writes: We are less concerned with the ethical questions this raises. (Bakhtin never cites Cassirer in his work on Rabelais.) More important: the example simplifies the tedious task of demonstrating word for word that what we have in this seminal portion of Bakhtin’s work – his philosophical analysis of the grotesque body and the significance of its imagery – is about five pages of Cassirer punctuated intermittently with quotations from Bakhtin. 48 In this we can see a distinction that will be repeated many times throughout the following discussion, a distinction between the abstract and the concrete. For us, the implications of Vološinov being the author are purely abstract: even if based on objective, historical fact, they are nevertheless grounded in a discourse that has failed to animate the sociolinguistic one; on the other hand, the claims and writings attributed to Bakhtin, whatever their provenance, whatever their plausibility, have a real, concrete significance derived from the fact that they continue to be reproduced in the sociolinguistic discourse as “Bakhtinian”. [1] INTRODUCTION  34  discourse in the context of the actual and avowed source of its claims. To accomplish this, it is not only sufficient to limit ourselves to the translated works, but necessary to do so.   These methodological concerns, moreover, do not entail the bracketing out of a genuinely “Bakhtinian” approach – as though Bakhtin’s message were embedded in the original system of language and only fully accessible through it, and that by concerning ourselves with its recontextualization in a new system we were content to lose its original significance. This project is thus markedly different from those that attempt to make the case for an authoritative reading based on certain historical, linguistic or other facts.   Wierzbicka’s (2006) discussion of “dialogue” offers an instructive contrast with our own. In her critique of the scholarly discourse, she argues that “Bakhtin’s ideas…have often been misunderstood – partly because they have been interpreted through the prism of English (and French) words like dialogue” (684). She thus turns back to the original Russian (“obščenie” and “dialogičeskoe obščenie”) to show how it diverges from the English rendering.49 Her assumption – and one that pervades the discourse on Bakhtin – is that meaning is grounded, extrinsically, in the system of language. As Wierzbicka (2006: 692) puts it: “the meanings of words are social facts which cannot be changed at will by individuals, no matter how prominent. The meaning of the word dialogue…is also a social fact, which cannot be changed at will and which is not a matter of anyone’s opinion” (692).50   Such an assumption, I will argue, is inconsistent with Bakhtin’s description of language (propagating the same semiological interpretations that Bakhtin argues against at every opportunity). An appeal to the Russian text is therefore neither necessary nor justified on Bakhtinian principles. Indeed, one of the primary conclusions offered below is that meaning is derived not so much from the words of language as from the discourses in which they are employed, and that our failure to understand Bakhtin results from the mistaken assumption that we already know what he means simply by knowing the words he has used: “voice”,                                                  49 Tovares (2006: 463) takes a similar approach to the term “zhytejskaya germenevtika”, which she says is better translated as “quotidian” rather than “living” hermeneutics “because it better captures Bakhtin’s concept of the everyday nature of meaning-making in discourse”.  50 Cf. Ch. 9, note 7. [1] INTRODUCTION  35  dialogue”, “genre”, “hybrid”, “style”, etc. – the problem is not that these mean something different in Russian than they do in English, but that they mean something different in his discourse than they do in any other. Indeed, as the discussion of “ventriloquation” (and, to a lesser extent, “intertextuality”) will show, these same failings can be seen to occur even when dealing with a single language. The answer, I suggest, is precisely not to rely on the authority of language, but to orient ourselves to the meanings that develop out of the Bakhtinian discourse.  Now, this may strike the reader as either contradictory or impossible. As one commentator puts it: “If you ignore the authority of language, how do you understand what Bakhtin says? Bakhtin neither draws nor dances; how does he express his ideas if not through language, and the Russian language in particular?”51 To be clear, the Bakhtin of interest to contemporary North American sociolinguistics does not express his ideas through the Russian language; he communicates in English. So any reference to a “Bakhtinian view” or “what Bakhtin tells us” is restricted to this “English speaker”. The central problem is that even this Bakhtin appears to say something profoundly different from what many in the West suppose.52 At the same time, this Bakhtin provides an explanation for why such differences might occur.   The explanation, I believe, is that we continue to rely on the authority of language (even if we invest this authority in an abstract social body and call the meaning a “social fact”); we continue to look for understanding in the words themselves instead of the discourse in which the author’s intentions have been developed and the words acquire their actual, concrete meaning). There is thus no contradiction in saying that Bakhtin conveys his thoughts through language while rejecting the authority of language: the meanings are not subject to authority (in the sense of an extrinsic structuring principle); they are immanent to the discourse and cannot be fully understood without exposure to the discourse. And this is why I suggest we orient ourselves to what this English speaker we call “Bakhtin” says in his texts, for in this way we acquire the language necessary to interpret his claims.                                                   51 Natalia Rulyova (2013; private correspondence). 52 It would be ironic (and a very different problem) if contemporary sociolinguistic interpretations somehow accorded with claims made by the Russian-speaking Bakhtin while nevertheless diverging from the English text. But this is not a possibility that concerns us. [1] INTRODUCTION  36  1.3.5 The Participants  Before turning to the various discourses, it is important to know something about the participants – about the kinds of sociolinguists that have turned their attention to Bakhtin. The sheer number of texts involved makes it difficult to focus on them individually, and the variety of topics they address makes generalizations nearly impossible. We can nevertheless draw important insights about the areas of activity in which they are engaged – and thus, at least in the broadest strokes, the “apperceptive” backgrounds that contribute to their reception of Bakhtinian claims – through an examination of the scholarship they bring to these discussions.  A number of overlapping groups can be distinguished. One cluster includes those concerned with Systemic Functional Linguistics, as demonstrated by their engagement with such figures as Michael Halliday, Jim Martin, Ruqaiya Hasan, Susan Eggins, Eija Ventola, Rick Iedema, and Peter White.53 This group overlaps considerably with those who show an interest in discourse analysis (often, critical discourse analysis) through their engagement with scholars like Norman Fairclough, Teun Van Dijk, Ruth Wodak, Gunther Kress, Theo van Leeuwen, Lilie Chouliaraki, and Jay Lemke. It also overlaps with a smaller group oriented to other areas of the “new” genre studies articulated by figures like John Swales, Vijay Bhatia, Charles Bazerman, Carolyn Miller, and Carol Berkenkotter.   Another large group, which presents somewhat less overlap with those above, evinces an orientation to linguistic anthropology or ethnography, engaging such figures as Richard Bauman, John Gumperz, Jane Hill, Dell Hymes, Judith Irvine, William Hanks, Michael Silverstein, Kathryn Woolard, Charles Briggs and Ben Rampton. Also frequently cited are those best known for their work in variationist sociolinguistics: William Labov, Penelope Eckert, Nikolas Coupland, Allen Bell, and Natalie Schilling-Estes; interactional sociolinguistics: Deborah Tannen; and sociology in general: Erving Goffman.                                                   53 The list is not exhaustive, but these are among the most frequently cited scholars in what we might call the “SFL group”, ordered according to the number of texts in which their names appear. In some cases, the scholars themselves are among the participants – e.g., Martin (2004a and 2004b) and White (2003).  [1] INTRODUCTION  37  Al-Ali’s (2005) analysis of newspaper death announcements, and Lassen’s (2006) investigation of the press release as a speech genre are some one of the clearest representatives of the first group, drawing on a variety of texts associated with SFL/APPRAISAL, CDA and the new genre studies, while drawing on nothing at all from the second group. In contrast, Howard’s (2009) examination of Thai children’s play genres, and Günthner’s (2011) look at communicative practices in “transmigrational contexts”, both draw on a variety of figures from linguistic anthropology and ethnography, but none from those we have assigned to the first group.   Many, like Trinch’s (2001) look at narratives of domestic violence, and Orr’s (2007) study of retail encounters in traditional Chinese markets, draw on figures from both groups, but only a small number of texts approach the discourse on Bakhtin from entirely different perspectives, eschewing the scholarship cited by the overwhelming majority of participants. Boyarin’s (2008) discussion of the Talmud as Menippean satire, and Perri’s (2008) reassessment of the traditional views of reading and writing, are good examples. Boyarin approaches the topic from the perspective of Jewish theology, and Perri from what he describes as a “semio-anthropological” perspective influenced by the work of Umberto Eco.   The paucity of such outliers reinforces the idea that the sociolinguistic discourse on Bakhtin – at least the discourse that appears in the journals examined here – has been shaped by what we might call the “leading ideas of the ‘masters of thought’”. And this will be an important theme as the discussion unfolds: the idea that certain claims are cited, imitated and followed, claims that set the tone for the broader discourse within the community, that Bakhtin has therefore been understood in the sociolinguistic discourse not in terms of his own perspective on language, but in light of certain “leading ideas” from the sociolinguistic community.     [2] GENRE  38  2. GENRE  Our look at the scholarly discourse begins with the notion of genre, a concept that plays a prominent role in much of Bakhtin’s work (and is the central topic of his famous 1953 essay, “The Problem of Speech Genres”). As a concept addressing language and discourse in terms of human activity, its appeal to sociolinguists is easy to understand: genre puts the sociality of language front and centre. As Bakhtin tells it:  A study of the utterance and of the diversity of generic forms of utterances in various spheres of human activity is immensely important to almost all areas of linguistics and philology. This is because any research whose material is concrete language… inevitably deals with concrete utterances (written and oral) belonging to various spheres of human activity and communication…. And it is here that scholars find the language data they need. A clear idea of the nature of utterances (primary and secondary), that is, of various speech genres, is necessary, we think, for research in any special area (1986: 62-63).  This notion, however, has little to do with our usual conception of genre – as a means of categorizing artistic production (film, literature, music, etc.) – and, indeed, promises to be something much more – something “of fundamental importance for overcoming those simplistic notions about speech life, about the so-called speech flow, about communication and so forth – ideas which are still current in our language studies” (1986: 67). In this we come to our first paradox in the Bakhtinian discourse on discourse: the use of a notion “still current in our language studies” as a means of overcoming simplistic notions that are still current in our language studies. To understand how such a feat may be accomplished we must understand what Bakhtin has to say about genre. We turn, then, to the scholarly literature to see how Bakhtin has been understood and how this understanding has influenced language studies.  2.1 The Scholarly Discourse on Genre  2.1.1 Genre as unproblematic and self-evident  One of the first things we discover in the literature is a tendency to treat the notion of genre as self-evident, and this will become an important theme for us: the idea that we already understand the issues that Bakhtin addresses because the terminology itself is familiar. In [2] GENRE  39  some cases – for instance, in the review of another’s work – there is arguably little need or opportunity to unpackage the concept. Thus, in her review of Blackledge (2005), Milani (2006: 404) only hints at the notion of genre when she describes how textual voices “become more authoritative as they move from one genre to the other”. In reviewing Clark (2006), Riggs (2008: 484) alludes to “Bakhtin’s concept of genre” and the “mixing of genres”. Stakhnevich’s (2004: 537) review of Holquist (2002) mentions “Bakhtin’s allegory of the literary genre of the novel” without elaboration, Chakorn (2007: 707) mentions Zhu’s (2005) success at incorporating “different methods for cross-cultural genre research such as intertextuality… and analyses of generic moves”, and Strauss, Feiz, Xing & Ivanova (2007: 187) mention Wertsch’s (2007) idea that various speech genres belong to a “generalized collective dialogue”. In each case, the reader must turn to the relevant text to determine what genre might mean.1    In Billig (2001) and Coupland (2001a), the word “genre” makes an appearance, but only in quoted passages,2 where it is arguably peripheral to points the authors are making. In other cases, the term is used by the authors themselves, but only in passing – in what we might call a “naïve” or “categorical” sense that stakes little claim to the views developed in Bakhtin or sociolinguistic theory in general. Scott (2002: 301), for instance, speaks of the “types and genres of conflict talk”, while Pinto (2004: 651) addresses “the genre of didactic literature”. Baron (2004: 270) discusses “prayer as a genre”; Tovares (2006: 569), “gossip as a speech genre”; Badarneh (2009: 647), the genre of editorials; Schiffrin, D. (2009: 421), narrative as “a blend of genres”; and Álvarez, Hoyle & Valeri (2010: 359), the genre of the written letter. Sclafani (2008: 509) mentions “print media discourse, as well as other genres of written and spoken discourse” while Sclafani (2009: 618) looks at “parody as a literary genre”. Solin                                                  1 Takano (2006: 741) is a bit of an exception. In his review of Yotsukura (2003), he suggests that “Genres are derived from commonalities and shared communicative activities that native speakers are assumed to develop through recurring experiences in their everyday lives”. While this does not explain what genres are, it also does not assume the reader already understands what is involved. 2 Billig (2001b) cites Vološinov’s (1973: 19-20) claim that “social psychology exists primarily in a wide variety of forms of ‘utterance’ of little speech genres of internal and external kinds” (211), while Coupland (2001a: 345) cites Bakhtin (1986), who insists: “Modern man does not proclaim”; rather, “he ‘speaks with reservations’”; “he stylizes…the proclamatory genres of priests, prophets, preachers, judges, patriarchal fathers, and so forth”. [2] GENRE  40  (2004) speaks of “less obvious genres”, like “conversations, courtroom discourse, and therapy sessions” (268). Wei (2002: 166) refers to a speech genre (used in Papua New Guinea) known as kros, and Weninger (2010: 595) discusses what is arguably the least obvious genre of all: citing Collins (1999), she describes “the neoliberal concept of partnerships” as “a Bakhtinian speech genre that is based upon collaboration and consensus”.3 Each of these expresses a concern for genre, and makes reference to Bakhtin in this context, but none takes up his views in a recognizable way.   In many cases (as with Weninger 2010, above), even the expressly Bakhtinian view of genre is treated as unproblematic. Manning (2004), for instance, cites Bakhtin’s notion of “primary” speech genres, and Chang (2001) refers to “complex” ones. But neither finds it necessary to explain what genres are or what Bakhtin’s distinction entails.4 The Bakhtinian view plays a prominent role in Argenter (2001), Filliettaz & Roulet (2002), and Boyarin (2008), where it is similarly left unexplored. Genre also plays an important role in De Fina’s (2003) discussion of narrative, where despite drawing a connection between intertextuality, genre and the Bakhtinian notion of dialogism, the author never explains what we are to take genre to mean. Genre is central to the discussion in Poveda, Cano & Palomares-Valera (2005: 92), who cite “Bakhtin’s (1986) seminal work” on the notion, but never tell us precisely what genres are.5 Majors (2007: 481) cites a number of authors (including