Thursday, June 15, 2023

Discourse in the Novel, Part 4

 Part 4: The Speaking Person in the Novel

B starts off by restating the inherently heteroglossic character of the novel, as a form of writing that, even when it does not actually contain heteroglossia, nevertheless acknowledges its “heteroglot environment, such that even “unitary and direct” language used by an author recognizes itself as contestable, necessary of being “championed” and “defended” in a polemical environment (332). Nevertheless one of the most important ways that the novel recognizes and engages with the “heteroglossia that surrounds it,” is the introduction of characters who give voice to different languages (in B’s definition of the term):

From this follows the decisive and distinctive importance of the novel as a genre: the human being in the novel is first, foremost and always a speaking human being; the novel requires speaking persons bringing with them their own unique ideological discourse, their own language. (332)

B then clarifies this importance with the explication of three “aspects:”

1) Heteroglossic discourse in the novel is not merely “transmitted or reproduced,” as it might be, for instance, in drama; it is instead “artistically represented... by means of (authorial) discourse” (332: emphasis in original). The significance of this is that it brings in all the complexity of reported speech, and exists in a more complicated, entangled and interacting relationship, (aka orchestration) with the author’s language, than presumably would be the case in [the ideal types of] contrasting genres such as drama or epic. Cf. also the argument made by the editors in the introduction that polyphony exists only in the interaction of centripetal and centrifugal forces, not simply in one or the other.

2) What is important about speaking characters is not their actual characters or fates, but the social languages they represent, the dialogicality they introduce into the novel.

3) Speaking characters in novels are always ideologues, and their words “ideologemes” (333); this is the same point made before, above and in the Dostoevsky book, about their independence from and equality with the narrator, and ability to in principle be authors or narrator/personalities of their own.

The activity of a character in a novel is always ideologically demarcated: he lives and acts in an ideological world of his own (and not in the unitary world of the epic), he has his own perception of the world that is incarnated in his action and in his discourse. (335)

What’s important, again, is not that these are individual characters but that they are socially representative; also, that their speech is represented by the author, because this act of representation itself qualifies and undermines the independence and authority of the author’s speech (which uncontested authority it would otherwise have in the ideal types of epic or poetry). This is actually a very interesting perspective on the problem of representation, in general, as something that is inherently double-voiced, and which problematizes, rather than privileges, the voice or author doing the representing; furthermore, from B’s point of view, this is also important because it shows the actually fluid and always contested nature of language (and of languages, in all the senses B uses this word). Thus, “the central problem for a stylistics of the novel may be formulated as the problem of artistically representing language, the problem of representing the image of a language” (336: emphasis in original). Even stylization and parody are “double-voiced and double-languaged phenomena” (337).

One of B’s major goals in this section is to discuss how this artistic representation of heteroglossic speech in the novel is both related to, and distinct from, the general [citationality] of language in “extra-artistic” everyday communication. The relationship to the speech of another is central to any act of enunciation/[articulation]:

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 more intensive, differentiated, and highly developed the social life of a speaking collective, the greater is the importance attaching, among other possible subjects of talk, to another’s word, another’s utterance, since another’s word will be the subject of passionate communication, an object of interpretation, discussion, evaluation, rebuttal, support, further development, and so on. (337)

[In the above he is basically describing the “heteroglot context” previously referred to, in which any act of articulation/enunciation takes place; also, the increased complexity or “developed” nature of a society presumably underlies the relevance of the novel in modernity, as opposed to earlier, simpler forms of society for which epic was more appropriate.] [It seems to me this historical theory of his would not stand scrutiny, however, since epic and poetry probably never really had this separate and unquestionable rigidity that he assumes in the ideal type; cf. call and response, and the whole Albert Lord argument about the situated re-working of living, oral epics in context, in each retelling.]

He writes at length about the importance of metadiscourse in everyday life and speech, and the importance of making sense and interpreting what others are saying, and saying about us, and our words, as “living hermeneutics” (338); “ the everyday speech of any person living in society, no less than half (on the average) of all the words uttered by him will be someone else’s words...” (339). He makes an interesting point about quotation marks:

... not all transmitted words belonging to someone else lend themselves, when fixed in writing, to enclosure in quotation marks. Their degree of otherness and purity in another’s word that in written speech would require quotation marks (as per the intention of the speaker himself, how he himself determines this degree of otherness) is required much less frequently in everyday speech. (339)

The point here is the distinction between the stylistic and artistic means by which speech is artistically represented in the novel, and the way the speech of others is reported/cited/echoed in everyday speech, quotation marks being one of the “special formal devices” used in written speech, to demarcate between the author or narrator’s speech, and that of others. In everyday speech, such clear boundaries are used less often, and the speech of others flows through our mouths, and becomes our own. B expresses this in a somewhat weird way as the “engaged transmission of practical information,” which he contrasts with “artistic representation.”

For this reason everyday speech is not concerned with forms of representation, but with means of transmission. (339: emphasis in original)

On the one hand, this recreates the poetics/rhetoric distinction which imho B was rightly castigating in an earlier part of the essay. B has a valid point to make, but it may not be best served by a reductive opposition between “representation” and “transmission.” The important point is that the stakes, and the means, of orchestration, indirect speech, and so on, in everyday conversation, and in the novel, are distinct, though related. In any event B does go on to complicate the distinction by recognizing that there are “certain aspects of representability” (340) involved in this “transmission,” but insists that “[t]his representation is always subordinated to the tasks of practical, engaged transmission and is wholly determined by these tasks” (341).

Expanding on the way others’ speech is transmitted in everyday speech, B distinguishes between the two school-taught modes of “reciting by heart” and “retelling in one’s own words” (341); in the first the voices of the speaker and that of the recited text are kept clear and distinct, but in the latter they are mixed, it is double-voiced. This is a crucial part of the assumed superiority of the latter in the modern disciplinary subject, and one of those aspects of pedagogy most imperilled, or seemingly so, by the rise of AI chatbots that can spew out plausible student essays. In any event B develops this distinction into a further one, between authoritative discourse and internally persuasive discourse (342). Here, the distinction relates to the role of these received or repeated texts in the development of the speaking subject’s ideology (or “idea system”). The recited text forms an exterior, authoritative discourse outside of the speaker, to be followed or obeyed; the retold, double-voiced text becomes internally persuasive, part of the speaker’s own belief system and sense of self.

The “authoritative word” stands outside the subject and demands recognition or submission; there is a distance established between it and the subject. The subject does not necessarily respond with submission (but can be either “sympathetic or hostile,” or take more complicated positions (343); the point is that this distance is established. B states that “the degree to which a word may be conjoined with authority” is what creates this distance; he notes the complexity of this, with the authoritative word on the one hand surrounding itself with a swirl of interpreting, evaluative discourses which nevertheless are like a cushion or protective layer; the authoritative word or discourse itself remains intact, unalterable; “... it demands, so to speak, not only quotation marks but... a special script, for instance.” [Specialized religious languages like Latin, Church Slavonic, etc. come to mind, but one could think also of the logical notation of certain branches of philosophy.] B emphasizes that that [entextualized, reified] word of authority allows no play:

no play with the context framing it, no play with its borders, no spontaneously creative stylizing variants on it. It enters our verbal consciousness as a compact and indivisible mass; one must either totally affirm it, or totally reject it.

[Here, in addition to the beautifully ultra-Volosinovian phrase “verbal consciousness,” is a direct link to Rappaport’s theory of the importance of the digital/binary in ritual.]

[Somewhere around here I had a brilliant paragraph which got deleted somehow, on the relevance of Bakhtin’s points about authoritative language to modern scientific and critical approaches. Above, I put Bakhtin’s terms authoritative discourse and internally persuasive discourse originally in italics (a special script), and other phrases in quotation marks; this marks their use or invocation as authoritative discourse, drawn from Bakhtin-as-authority, and placed in his voice, not my own. However, through further discussion, I start adopting the terms on my own, without demarcation, showing the shift from authoritative into internally persuasive discourse. However, there was a further, brilliant point to be made about play and scientific/critical discourse’s relation to authority, which I can’t quite remember.]

B continues emphasizing the difference between AD and IPD: AD cannot be represented, it can only be transmitted (because representation requires that play which AD disallows). Authoritative discourse in the novel appears as a thing, a “dead quotation” (344).

At this point B starts throwing out references to a key concept, zone of contact or contact zone; with no attempt to provide a definition. And here I have lost another brilliant paragraph in which I went online, found numerous sources using the term “zone of contact” very confidently and usually with no clear definition, but with a wide range of largely inconsistent meanings. Without recreating all that iirc the common usages were that the “zone of contact” is 1) the zone in which two speakers/characters interact in speech; 2) the zone of contact between two languages (in the sense of such speakers’ languages, or social languages in society); 3) the contact between an authoritative discourse and a speaker interacting with or challenging it; and 4) contact and mutual exchange/influence between two cultures or languages (in the usual sense of the word). My sense is that definitions 1 and 2 are the closest to what B seems to intend. His point is that authoritative discourse tries to keep itself distant from this zone of contact to protect itself, as it does not want to be played with or refracted; yet speakers respond to this with struggle:

... there is a struggle constantly being waged to overcome the official line with its tendency to distance itself from the zone of contact, a struggle against various kinds and degrees of authority. In this process discourse gets drawn into the contact zone, which results in semantic and emotionally expressive (intonational) changes: there is a weakening and degradation of the capacity to generate metaphors, and discourse becomes more reified, more concrete, more filled with everyday elements and so forth. (345)

B now switches to the obviously preferred term, internally persuasive discourse. Against the discussion of authoritative discourse with imagery of “thingness” and death, IPD is all about openness, creativity, and life. There is still a struggle involved, but this is not a struggle against death but within life, over what path the subject is to take in forming themself, in the midst of so many creative and competing discursive possibilities:

Internally persuasive discourseas opposed to one that is externally authoritativeis, as it is affirmed through assimilation, tightly interwoven with ‘one’s own word.’ In the everyday rounds of our consciousness, the internally persuasive word is half-ours and half-someone else’s. Its creativity and productiveness consist precisely in the fact that such a word awakens new and independent words, that it organizes masses of our words from within, and does not remain in an isolated and static condition. It is not so much interpreted by us as it is further, that is, freely, developed, applied to new material, new conditions; it enters into interanimating relationships with new contexts. More than that, it enters into an intense interaction, a struggle with other internally persuasive discourses. Our ideological development is just such an intense struggle within us for hegemony among various available verbal and ideological points of view, approaches, directions, and values. The semantic structure of an internally persuasive discourse is not finite, it is open, in each of the new contexts that dialogize it, this discourse is able to reveal ever new ways to mean. (345-6)

The term “zone of contact” reappears:

The internally persuasive word is either a contemporary word born in a zone of contact with unresolved contemporaneity, or else it is a word that has been reclaimed for contemporaneity... (346)

So here, the contact is with “unresolved contemporaneity,” the discursive present; the word that has been reclaimed from the past gains multiple contemporaneities and contexts, retaining those from the past and gaining new ones from the present. Along with such words in IPD is a conception of the listener: “Every discourse presupposes a special conception of the listener, of his apperceptive background and the degree of his responsiveness; it presupposes a specific distance.”

B of course wants to get back around to the role of speaking characters in the novel, as a form of heteroglossic representation, and the next step he makes is to formulate a theory of what could be called [proto-representation] in everyday thought and speech [he eventually names it “organic hybridization”]. There are all these ways in which we take on others’ speech [and styles, ways of thinking and acting, etc.] in our search to develop our own self out of these influences; we crassly mimic some, transmit others, come to reject others, etc. “A few changes in orientation and the internally persuasive word easily becomes an object of representation.” By taking these words/discourse which had come to be IP for us, and placing it in the mouths of imaginary speakers, or “images” (B suggests a preacher, a wise man, a leader, for ethical, philosophical, and sociopolitical discourse); while experimenting with this discourse, “we attempt to guess, to imagine how” such a person would talk, act, and so on; and this is the [proto-representation] of characters in our own minds and speaking.

This process—experimenting by turning persuasive discourse into speaking persons—becomes especially important in those cases where a struggle against such images has already began, where someone is striving to liberate himself from the influence of such an image and its discourse by means of objectification, or is striving to expose the limitations of both image and discourse. The importance of struggling with another‘s discourse, its influence in the history of an individual‘s coming to ideological consciousness, is enormous. One‘s own discourse and one‘s own voice, although born of another or dynamically stimulated by another, will sooner or later begin to liberate themselves from the authority of the other‘s discourse. (348)

B uses the concept of “experiment” throughout this discussion: “experimentally objectifying another's discourse” allows “liberation from this discourse by turning it into an object.” I also think we can see here Bakhtin’s more complex and nuanced concept dialogism or dialogicality, substituting for the three-part dialectic movement of more standardly Marxist approaches.

B returns to his favorite subject of all time, which is the importance of Dostoevsky. There are two ways in which D’s works show “the acute and intense interaction of another’s word” (349). First, in each of his characters’ languages there is “a profound and unresolved conflict with another’s word” on the levels of lived experience, of ethical life, and of ideology. Second, the novels in their entirety are never-resolved conversations between the author and the characters, in which the characters are not subordinated to the author, and the characters always remain “incomplete and unresolved,” in other words, alive and agentive.

He spends a few pages discussing “extra-artistic ideological communication,” the very Foucauldian subjects of [veridiction and interpellation] in confession, and legal, religious, and scientific discourses; he gives some recommendations for improved methods and approaches in philology and the study of rhetorical genres.

Returning to the novel, he states that there are two ways in which this dialogized discourse is present in the novel. First, it is present in the speech of characters, and in the inserted genres; second, it is “subordinated to the task of artistically representing the speaker and his discourse as the image of a language” (355). It is this second aspect which turns out to be essential to the difference between artistic and “extra-artistic” dialogism (and to the distinction mentioned above, between “representation” and “transmission”: extra-artistic dialogism is merely concerned with transmitting the content, or information of specific statements (“isolated utterances”); only artistic dialogism endeavors “to recognize and intensify images lying behind the isolated utterances of social language, a language that realizes itself in them, but is not exhausted by them...” (356). The novel, thus, moves beyond double-voicedness to double-languagedness, the interaction and confrontation of two social languages.

A social language, then, is a concrete socio-linguistic belief system that defines a distinct identity for itself within the boundaries of a language that is unitary only in the abstract.

A social language is a “potential dialect:”

Language, in its historical life, in its heteroglot development, is full of such potential dialects: they intersect one another in a multitude of ways; some fail to develop, some die off, but others blossom into authentic languages.

Key to the distinction between, and the importance of, these social languages is not simply their differention around identities, but around ideological beliefs:

The image of such a language in the novel is the image assumed by a set of social beliefs, the image of a social ideologeme that has fused with its own discourse, with its own language.

B now delineates three categories under which “devices in the novel for creating the image of a language” may be subsumed (358): hybridizations, the dialogized interrelation of languages, and pure dialogue. Hybridization is “the mixture of two social languages within the limits of a single utterance.” This is done intentionally in the novel, but unintentional or unconscious hybridization plays an important role in the evolution and historical change of languages, as indicated above in the discussion of the formation and dissolution of dialects, and the historicity of language change. He provides the compelling image of the utterance as the “crucible” in which these hybridizations (and thus, social languages and dialects themselves, over time) are forged. Novelistic hybridization differs from hybridization-in-the-wild [which he also calls “historical, organic hybrids”] not only on account of being intentional, but by involving two individualized (as opposed to “impersonal”) language consciousnesses, that is, the image of the language is individualized or [embodied] in the voice of the author and of the character. The importance of these individuals in intentional hybridization is because these are, not merely the mixing of two languages or styles, but “the collision between differing points of views on the world that are embedded in these forms” (360). Compared to organic hybrids, that are “mute and opaque,” intentional hybrids make use of “conscious contrasts and oppositions.” Nevertheless, organic hybrids have played important historical roles, as they are “pregnant with potential for new world views, with new ‘internal forms’ for perceiving the world in words.” Intentional hybrids go beyond organic hybrids by being internally dialogic, that is, the two points of view are “set against each other dialogically.”

He goes on to talk about the relationship between the representing and the represented languages; the language embodied in, reified in the novel itself (as the style of the author), versus that embodied or represented in the speech of the characters, etc. through hybridization. He draws a contrast between hybridization “in the strict sense” and “internally dialogized interilluminations of language systems taken as a whole” (the second of his three categories, above) (362). His first example of this is stylization, which has been covered at length in his Dostoevsky book; the second is variation, which

freely incorporates material from alien languages into contemporary topics, joins the stylized world with the world of contemporary consciousness, projects the stylized language into new scenarios, testing it on situations that would have been impossible for it on its own. (363)

The writing style of Philip Reeve in Mortal Engines comes to mind: a somewhat goofy mock-Dickensian style, set in a steampunk future, with numerous quirky and witty references to contemporary pop culture, the effect being to create a completely new and unique style, mood, and voice. (A truly epic book series, unfortunately travestied by a disgracefully bad film adaptation.)

The third style is parodic stylization, in which “the intentions of the representing discourse are at odds with the intentions of the represented discourse” (364). He notes that stylization and parody form two extremes, between which there are many “varied forms for languages to mutually illuminate each other.” He ends with some observations on dialogue and plot, and summarizes his views on the importance of the artistry involved in hybridization in the novel (when it is done right), which distinguishes it from organic hybridization, as well as from the incompetent mixings of hack writers.

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