Feminism, Bakhtin, and the Dialogic

Feminism, Bakhtin, and the Dialogic

Feminism, Bakhtin, and the Dialogic

Feminism, Bakhtin, and the Dialogic


Feminism, Bakhtin, and the Dialogic assembles thirteen essays on the intersection of Bakhtin's narrative theory, especially his concept of dialogism. The book explores the dimensions of using Bakhtin for a feminist analysis and discerns the connections between feminist dialogics and cultural materialism. The authors offer various views ranging from studies of ecofeminism, gender theories of novelistic discourse, Bakhtin and French feminism, to analyses of contemporary novelists such as Toni Morrison, Nadine Gordimer, and Pat Barker.

Drawing on Bakhtin's sociolinguistics, this book provides an introduction to feminist work on Bakhtin and the development of a cultural politics of reading. Challenging questions are raised: What is dialogic feminism? Can Bakhtin's theories advance a feminist politics? How does a feminist dialogics fit into a materialist feminist practice? Can the dialogic imagination also describe some of the most radical moments within feminist thinking? The interdisciplinary focus of these responses represents the ongoing dialogue among literary critics, cultural theorists, and feminists."


Dale M. Bauer and Susan Jaret McKinstry

On December 6, 1989, Marc Lepine shot fourteen women at the Ecole Polytechnique of the University of Montreal, accusing his victims of being "feminists." Refused admission into the Ecole Polytechnique, he sought to destroy the women admitted into the competitive engineering school. Taking individuality and rationalization to its extreme, Lepine murdered those "feminists" who represented for him a challenge to masculine control. The gender polarity that Lepine constructed destroyed him; he committed suicide after his rampage because he could not imagine recognition of the "other" — women, feminists — in his fantasy of autonomy and power.

Lepine's anti-feminism took the most radical form possible — assassination — but we would argue that a new and violent backlash against feminism takes place in linguistic as well as psychotic forms. This anti-feminist backlash is addressed in the following chapters, which deal with the various stances feminist critics take in arguing for and with a feminist dialogics. No ahistorical or singular method, feminist dialogics challenges the assumption in contemporary culture of a monolithic or univocal feminism.

Moreover, feminist dialogics — as the authors conceive of it here — overcomes the public-private split which has become part of the rationalization of daily life. As Jessica Benjamin argues, "The public world is conceived as a place in which direct recognition and care for others' needs is impossible — and this is tolerable as long as the private world 'cooperates"' (Bonds of Love 197). The public sphere becomes alienated, atomized; the private sphere, a compensatory, but inadequate sphere. Feminists turn to Bakhtin's notion of the word and dialogue in order to break down this separation of public rationality and private intersubjectivity. In using Bakhtin's theories to address this split, feminist critics advocate taking on rhetorical or dialogic authority . . .

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