Speech Genres and Other Late Essays

Speech Genres and Other Late Essays

Speech Genres and Other Late Essays

Speech Genres and Other Late Essays


Speech Genres and Other Late Essays presents six short works from Bakhtin' Esthetics of Creative Discourse, published in Moscow in 1979. This is the last of Bakhtin' extant manuscripts published in the Soviet Union. All but one of these essays (the one on the Bildungsroman ) were written in Bakhtin' later years and thus they bear the stamp of a thinker who has accumulated a huge storehouse of factual material, to which he has devoted a lifetime of analysis, reflection, and reconsideration.


"To strive at higher mathematical formulas for linguistic meaning while knowing nothing correctly of the shirt-sleeve rudiments of language is to court disaster."

Benjamin Lee Whorf, "Linguistics as an Exact Science," 1941

". . . there can be neither a first nor a last meaning; [anything that can be understood] always exists among other meanings as a link in the chain of meaning, which in its totality is the only thing that can be real. In historical life this chain continues infinitely, and therefore each individual link in it is renewed again and again, as though it were being reborn."

M. M. Bakhtin, "From Notes Made in 1970-71"

The first recognition in the United States of Bakhtin's status as a major thinker came in 1968, when he was included among a group of internationally known theoreticians contributing to a volume of Yale French Studies on the topic "Game, Play, Literature." The identification of Bakhtin provided in the notes on contributors has an unmistakable diffidence about it: "M. Bakhtin . . . is reaching the end of a long career, but only recently have the boldness of his speculation and the breadth of his ideas been appreciated outside the restricted circle of his Russian friends and colleagues." Less than a mere two decades later, Bakhtin is being hailed as "the most important Soviet thinker in the human sciences and the greatest theoretician of literature in the twentieth century." And in March 1985, the executive director of the Modern Language Association announced a "trend-spotting contest to PMLA readers . . . I will offer [a prize] to the first reader to locate the earliest mention in PMLA of any of the following: Bakhtin, Barthes, Derrida, Freud, Lévi-Strauss, and Karl Marx." In the great marketplace of ideas, Bakhtin has obviously risen very high.

It is, however, a curious fact that of all the names listed in PMLA's roster of trends, Bakhtin is surely still the least known, if only in the sense that much of his work is still unavailable in English translation. Although deceased, he is similar to the still living figures with whom . . .

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