Sappho 31 and catullus 51: The dialogism of lyric

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Mikhail Bakhtin, in “Discourse in the Novel,” formulates what seems an ironclad distinction between poetic and novelistic discourse. Poetry, he argues, is essentially.“monologic” and strives for a unity of discourse, “so that the finished work may rise as unitary speech, one co-extensive with its object” The novel, on the other hand, is “dialogic,” representing a multiplicity of voices, not only through its characters, but also in its style, ideology, and representation of society,1 This distinction, while provisionally useful for establishing what is unique to novelistic discourse, offers an ultimately unsatisfying account of dialogism’s role in literature as a whole, and poetry in particular. To remedy this problem and thereby deploy the considerable power of Bakhtin’s theoretical insights for a more satisfying account of the poetic as well as the novelistic, this paper will propose that a further distinction be made between primary and secondary dialogism. Such a distinction, as Caryl Emerson and Gary Saul Morson have pointed out, is implicit in Bakhtin from the beginning, though never made explicit.2 This failure on Bakhtin’s part to distinguish between the various but related ways in which he uses the terms dialogue, dialogism, and dialogic has, in turn, become the source of no small amount of confusion.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGreek Literature
Subtitle of host publicationGreek Literature in the Roman Period and in Late Antiquity
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781136065866
ISBN (Print)0415937701, 9780415937702
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2014

Bibliographical note

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© 2001 by Routledge. All rights reserved.


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