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A word about material (Bakhtin and Tynianov).

Renfrew, A. (2006) 'A word about material (Bakhtin and Tynianov).', Slavonic and East European review., 84 (3). pp. 419-445.


The Bakhtin school's critique of Formalism as a `material aesthetics', culminating in Medvedev's The Formal Method, accurately identifies two conflicting conceptions of literary material in various Formalist analyses. The first, associated with fabula and the pre-literary environment of the work, eventually gives way to a conception of material as language itself, associated with the increasing influence on literary studies of linguistics. In rejecting both conceptions of material and the different but equally dichotomous conceptions of the relationship between form and content they imply, the Bakhtin school also expose conventional Marxist approaches to literature, often perceived as a principled sociological alternative to Formalism, as merely the other side of the material aesthetic coin. In conflating these two conceptions of literary material, the Bakhtin school is consistent with the incomplete renovation and `historicization' of Formalism in the later theoretical works of Tynianov, which share the aim of orientating literary studies towards a methodology that will be adequate both to the immanent and to the contextual aspects of the literary text, pursued through a new conception of genre.

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Last Modified:16 Aug 2016 15:15

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