Christianity in Bakhtin: God and the Exiled Author

Christianity in Bakhtin: God and the Exiled Author

Christianity in Bakhtin: God and the Exiled Author

Christianity in Bakhtin: God and the Exiled Author

Synopsis

This book examines the influence of Christianity on the thought and work of the great Russian theorist Mikhael Bakhtin, paying particular attention to the motifs of God the Creator, the Fall, the Incarnation and Christian love. This is the first full-length work to approach Bakhtin from a religious perspective, and introduces the reader to a vitally important but hitherto ignored aspect of his work. In this context Ruth Coates presents readings of Bakhtin very different from those of Marxist and Structuralist critics.

Excerpt

This book is about Christian motifs in the writings of the philosopher Mikhail Mikhailovich Bakhtin (1895–1975). As such it is already contentious if one is to judge by the way in which this writer's work has been received, especially in the West. For although Bakhtin has been appropriated for a wide variety of critical and literary theoretical positions, ranging from Marxism to post-structuralism, it has been generally assumed that he is a secular thinker even where it has been accepted that he was a religious man. I believe that this assumption stands in need of some correction. If at first critical neglect of Christian motifs in Bakhtin was due to pardonable ignorance — certain crucial, early and late, texts being made available only by the mid 1980s (in Russia) and the early 1990s (in the West) — it now seems attributable to a certain, uncanny 'blindness', at least among Slavists, who have had time enough to respond to this particular voice among the many that contend for attention in Bakhtin's work. By focusing on the Christian voice in Bakhtin to the exclusion of all others, I hope to provide what I believe to be a necessary counterbalance to extant readings, and something of an 'eye-opener' for those who would dismiss the idea of a religious dimension in his work as unfounded, irrelevant or naive. I do not, however, take on opposing views within the bounds of the book; my task is to demonstrate the presence and development of Christian influences in Bakhtin's work. Although there is biographical evidence to support the view that Bakhtin was acquainted with and sympathetic to Christianity, I do not appeal to this in the body of my text, as I hope that my reading will be found justified on purely textual grounds. However, for background and general information with a tangential relevance to my topic I have devoted the first part of the Introduction to a review of Bakhtin's 'religious biography'. The second part aims to situate the book with respect to . . .

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