Статья 'К вопросу о рецепции теории полифонического романа М.М. Бахтина в русском литературоведении ' - журнал 'Litera' - NotaBene.ru
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On the question of the reception of the theory of the polyphonic novel by M.M. Bakhtin in Russian Literary Studies

Ma Mentsyu

ORCID: 0000-0002-9381-6943

PhD in Philology

Postgraduate Student, Department of the History of Russian Literature, Lomonosov Moscow State University

119991, Russia, Moscow region, Moscow, Leninskie Gory str., 1

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Abstract: The article is devoted to the problem of reception of the theory of the polyphonic novel by M.M. Bakhtin in Russian literary studies. The theory of the polyphonic novel by M.M. Bakhtin has been attracting the attention of researchers for more than 90 years. To date, a large number of works devoted to the study of Bakhtin's polyphonic theory have been published in Russia. A broad dialogue between researchers led to an increase in the degree of perception of Bakhtin's polyphonic theory, as well as to the deepening of research on Dostoevsky's novels. The purpose of our work is to identify the state and main trends in the reception of the theory of Bakhtin's polyphonic novel in Russia. In the article, the author gives an idea of the gradual development of Bakhtin's polyphonic idea in Russian literary studies, analyzes the specifics of the reception of the theory of the polyphonic novel at each stage. Based on the analysis, we came to the conclusion that the reception of Bakhtin's polyphonic novel theory in Russian literary studies is connected not only with the publication of the book by the scientist Dostoevsky, but also with the state of perception of Dostoevsky's work, and the hottest discussions in the process of receiving Bakhtin's theory are around the question of the independence of the voices of heroes and the role of the author in Dostoevsky's polyphonic novel, Bakhtin's methodological approach to the analysis of Dostoevsky's creativity. The scientific novelty of this work lies in the fact that the author considers various interpretations of the theory of Bakhtin's polyphonic novel in Russian literary studies.


Bakhtin, Dostoevsky, polyphony, dialogue, author, hero, poetics, russian religious tradition, reception, Russian literary studies

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The process of reception of the theory of the polyphonic novel by M.M. Bakhtin in Russian literary studies can be divided into 4 stages: the first stage begins in 1929 and continues until the mid-1950s, the second stage begins in the mid-1950s and continues until the end of the 1980s, the third stage begins in the 90s of the twentieth century in post-Soviet literary studies and continues until 2010, the fourth stage has been observed in Russian literary studies in the last decade.

1. The first stage of the reception of the theory of the polyphonic novel by M.M. Bakhtin in Russian literary studies: from 1929 to the mid-1950s.The reception of Bakhtin's theory of the polyphonic novel in Russian literary studies begins with a literary-critical reaction to the publication in 1929 of "Problems of Dostoevsky's Creativity".

Special articles and responses were written about the publication of this book.

Among the most significant responses to Bakhtin's book should be mentioned the article by A.V. Lunacharsky "On "polyphony" A.V. Lunacharsky highly appreciates the analysis of Dostoevsky's "polyphony" made in the book, but at the same time he expresses disagreement with Bakhtin on a number of points.

According to Lunacharsky, it is necessary to back up Bakhtin's thoughts with a sociological analysis, since Bakhtin explores only the structural moments of Dostoevsky's artistic vision. Lunacharsky sees in the splitting of Dostoevsky's consciousness the reason for his polyphony, and connects polyphonism with the ideological content of Dostoevsky's works.

Unlike Bakhtin, Lunacharsky believes that polyphonism is peculiar not only to Dostoevsky, but also to two great realists of the West — Shakespeare and Balzac.

Lunacharsky's article created, according to S.G. Bocharov's characterization, a "well-known polyphony" of voices in the Soviet press. Thanks to the publication of Lunacharsky's article, Bakhtin's book about Dostoevsky was constantly in the field of view of Soviet literary critics and served as a kind of reference point for them when evaluating Bakhtin's book.

In addition to Lunacharsky's article, there were also responses from such researchers to Bakhtin's book as N.Ya. Berkovsky (1929), A.L. Boehm (1929), P.M. Bicilli (1930), R.V. Pletnev (1931). V.L. Komarovich (1934). Researchers have launched criticism on a number of problems of Bakhtin's polyphonic theory: on the question of the independence of the voices of the characters in Dostoevsky's novel, the originality of Bakhtin's polyphonic idea, the applicability of Bakhtin's polyphonic theory to all Dostoevsky's works.

Thus, the theory of Bakhtin's polyphonic novel was initially not recognized unconditionally. Many researchers have been critical of it.

Interest in Bakhtin's theory did not last long. V.V. Kozhinov draws attention to this in a conversation with N.A. Pankov, reflecting on Bakhtin's first book about Dostoevsky: "He completed his first book dedicated to Dostoevsky, perhaps the main work of his life, at the age of Christ, and published it in 1929, having reached the age of 34. But instead of creative communication with his colleagues in the workshop, he was forced to be silent for several decades, as if he no longer existed for readers and waited for the republication of his first book for more than 30 years [1, p. 112].

2. The second stage of the reception of the theory of the polyphonic novel by M.M. Bakhtin in Russian literary studies: from the mid-1950s to the end of the 1980s.The revival of interest in Bakhtin's book about Dostoevsky in the mid-1950s is largely due, according to Bocharov, to "the resurrection of Dostoevsky himself in public and literary life" [2, p. 501].

Some literary critics engaged in the research of Dostoevsky's work persistently argued with Bakhtin about the role of the author in the polyphonic novel.

Thus, G.M. Friedlander insists that in Dostoevsky's novels the independence of the voices of individual characters is only "relative and does not lead to the loss of the ideological and artistic integrity of the work" [3, p. 104]. In his article "The Novel "Idiot", the researcher notes that "the author's "voice", the author's point of view on the events depicted here are by no means hidden, but on the contrary, they are expressed very sharply and definitely, although in a very peculiar way" [4, p. 211].

A.V. Chicherin in the article "The poetic structure of language in Dostoevsky's novels" defends the idea of the decisive importance of the author's consciousness. He tries to show the role of the author in the monologue, in the dialogue, in the "polyphony" [4, p. 443].

V.B. Shklovsky proceeds from the fact that the basis of the artistic form of Dostoevsky's works is the dispute of ideological voices. In his article "Against" he tries to explain "what caused the dispute, which is followed by the literary form of Dostoevsky, and at the same time, what is the universality of Dostoevsky's novels, that is, who is interested in this dispute now" [5, p. 98].

In 1963, Bakhtin's book about Dostoevsky was republished. The release of the "Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics" caused a lively controversy. A number of acutely polemical responses to each other appeared in the press.

The controversy revolved around the question of Bakhtin's methodological approach in his book about Dostoevsky. Some researchers found formalism, subjectivism and signs of metaphysical thinking in Bakhtin's book and believed that Bakhtin's statements "remain descriptive, devoid of historical justification, since they are not related to clarifying those specific features that distinguished Dostoevsky's "vision of the world" [6, p. 98]. Other researchers saw precisely the anti-formalistic nature of the book and emphasized that "Bakhtin reveals the deepest connection of the structural elements of poetics with the writer's artistic thinking" [7, p. 94].

In the 60s and 70s, there was a surge of interest in the theory of Bakhtin's polyphonic novel. We see its assessment in the works of such famous scientists as D.I. Chizhevsky, D.S. Likhachev, V.N. Toporov, M.L. Gasparov.

In the article "The principle of Historicism in the study of the content and form of a literary work", D.S. Likhachev rightly points out that polyphonism is not inherent in all Dostoevsky's works, in the "Diary of a Writer" there is absolutely no polyphony in the artistic structure. Likhachev sees Bakhtin's mistake in the fact that "in his enthusiasm for the discovery he made, M. Bakhtin put "polyphonism" as an artistic principle above "monologism"." According to the scientist, "no method can be put above another: each has its own advantages" [8, p. 31].

Bakhtin's most principled opponent was M.L. Gasparov, who views Bakhtin's works as a "nihilistic selection of values." The researcher notes with disapproval that Bakhtin accepts only two things: "comic chaos" and "tragic discord" [9, p. 112].

3. The third stage of the reception of the theory of the polyphonic novel by M.M. Bakhtin in Russian literary studies: in the 1990s-2010s.In the last decade of the XX century, a change of methodological paradigm has been observed in Russian Dostoevsky studies.

Judging by the titles of a number of scientific works ("Dostoevsky and World Culture", "Dostoevsky and the Church: at the origins of the writer's Religious beliefs", etc.), we can conclude that in the 1990s the culturological approach prevailed. Dostoevsky's researchers are attracted by the writer's national and religious roots. The guiding vector of the works becomes the religious, in particular, the Orthodox context of Dostoevsky's work.

So, according to I.A. Yesaulov, the idea of Vyach. Ivanova on the conciliarity of Dostoevsky's work "anticipated M.M. Bakhtin's idea of a polyphonic type of artistic thinking" [10]. I.A. Esaulov suggests comparing the category of conciliarity (Orthodox code) with the category of Bakhtin's polyphony for their comprehensive study.

V.V. Kozhinov defends the idea of the Russian origin of Bakhtin's discoveries. In his work "Bakhtin and his Readers: Reflections and partly Memories," Kozhinov emphasizes that a certain thread from Nile's "conversation" with God leads both to Dostoevsky and to Bakhtin's dialogical idea [11, pp. 123-124].

N.D. Tamarchenko tries to look for the origins of Bakhtin's interpretation of Dostoevsky's novel as a type of artistic whole in Russian religious philosophy. In the monograph "Aesthetics of verbal creativity" Bakhtin and Russian religious Philosophy" the researcher notes that the dispute of philosophical and religious traditions about God-manhood (V. Solovyov, E. Trubetskoy) represents the context in which the Bakhtin interpretation of concepts — author, hero, dialogue, aesthetic love - arose [12].

Bakhtin's idea of the fundamental equality of the semantic positions of the author and the characters continues to cause great controversy.

Thus, speaking about Bakhtin's book about Dostoevsky, N.F. Budanova notes that the authority of the author's word in Dostoevsky does not cause any doubt, it relies on the authority of Christian truths, the guide and herald of which was Dostoevsky.

V.E. Vetlovskaya also objects to Bakhtin's conclusion about the "equality" of the voices of the author and his heroes, believing that "no matter how deep ideas he gives him, these ideas always remain only part of an even deeper and more comprehensive system of views belonging to the author" [13, p. 36].

In the monograph "Confession and introspection of the hero in Dostoevsky's novels", A.B. Krinitsyn notes that "the author's position consists of an artistic whole work, which includes all the images of the heroes with their ideas, therefore the author's position is at a completely different, higher communicative level." In addition, the researcher defends the idea that Dostoevsky's novels are "extremely ideologized, and the "truth" in them is undoubted and unambiguous, despite all the difficulties and contradictions of the heroes' path to it" [14, p. 245].

4. The fourth stage of the reception of the theory of the polyphonic novel by M.M. Bakhtin in Russian literary studies: in the last decade In the last decade, Bakhtin's concept of polyphony has become the basis of research by a number of modern literary critics.

The sphere of interests of researchers is still the search for the origins of Bakhtin's ideas and the analysis of the formation of the Bakhtin concept of polyphony. Thus, in her works O.A. Bogdanova analyzes the process of formation of Dostoevsky studies as a science and Bakhtin's participation in it, finds out the philosophical and literary prerequisites for the creation of the Bakhtin theory of the polyphonic novel.

Some researchers continue to debate Bakhtin's concept.In the monograph by K.A. Stepanyan "Shakespeare, Bakhtin and Dostoevsky: heroes and authors in a big time", the creative heritage of the English playwright and the Russian writer is compared, the concepts of artistic polyphony, carnival and "supra-legal crime" are analyzed with a thorough consideration of Bakhtin's works on these issues, while the researcher largely polemizes with the concept of Bakhtin.

Regarding the author's position in Dostoevsky's novels, Stepanyan notes that the writer's position still manifests itself, referring to the work of the American researcher J.P. Scanlan, who argued that "Dostoevsky's philosophizing is dialogical in style and monological in essence" [15, p. 157].

K.A. Stepanyan suggests that Bakhtin's refusal to consider the "meaningful depth" of Dostoevsky's works was caused not only by "the desire to remain in the sphere of pure poetics" and censorship considerations, but also by the special worldview of the thinker, who believed that "an alternative to ideological oppression can only be the recognition of a plurality of equal truths."

M.M. Bakhtin's concept of polyphony is also actively used to analyze the literary heritage of the XX-XXI centuries. In its light, works of Russian and foreign literature are read (O.A. Kharitonov, "The Theory of Polyphony in the novel practice of the XX century"; I.A. Avramenko, "Dialogical relations in the novel by V. Wolfe "To the Lighthouse""; T.P. Dudin, "Semantic Polyphonism" of L. Tolstoy's minor Dramaturgy", etc.).

In addition, in the modern period, the concept of polyphony proposed by M.M. Bakhtin is widely used not only in the philological branches of knowledge proper, but also in the entire Russian humanities (M.V. Krizhevsky, "Neo-Kantian discussions in literary studies: B.M. Engelhardt and M.M. Bakhtin on Dostoevsky's novel"; L.N. Stolovich, "A.Z. Steinberg and M.M. Bakhtin. To the history of the idea of dialogue", etc.). Various interpretations of the theory of polyphony appear due to its complexity and richness — it is broader than the theory of the novel, since it relates not only to poetics and the problem of literary genres, but also to philosophy and the foundations of the humanities.

 ConclusionSo, analyzing various interpretations of Bakhtin's theory of the polyphonic novel, we can notice that among Russian researchers one of the hottest discussions is around the question of the independence of the voices of the characters and the role of the author in Dostoevsky's polyphonic novel.

In our opinion, in his book Bakhtin studies precisely the complex and completely new novel construction of Dostoevsky. The scientist's attention is paid to the fact that "the author in his "model of the world" shows by what laws the universe is arranged." Bakhtin thinks about "the life of great works of art that lasts forever in a long time" [15, p. 166].

In the preface to the Problems of Dostoevsky's Creativity, Bakhtin emphasizes that "Dostoevsky's philosophical and socio-political ideology survived in his work — his revolutionary innovation in the field of the novel as an artistic form" [16, p. 8].

Interpreting F.M. Dostoevsky, many philosophers consider the writer as a kind of precursor of existential philosophy or true Orthodoxy. This interpretation of Dostoevsky's work is one-sided and subjective, since the ideological heritage of the writer is really multidimensional and polyphonic, it does not contain only an existential or Orthodox dominant. In this sense, "the greatest success has always been achieved by works where Dostoevsky's philosophy was not directly approached, but through his poetics and psychology, as in the famous books of M.M. Bakhtin" [14, p. 3].

Bakhtin's theory of polyphony is still authoritative. Many scientific works are based precisely on the provisions of this theory. Although many researchers express their objections to the concept of Bakhtin's polyphony, but for modern literary studies its importance can hardly be overestimated.

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