Tuesday, September 11, 2012

On Chronotope

For me, one of Bakhtin's most inspiring ideas is chronotope. I think this concept has much potential in second language writing too. I wonder if anyone has explored this idea in SLW. I have never read anything like that though. Something to look into. Below are some chronotope related quotes I like. All are from The Dialogic Imagination from the essay on time and chronotope.

Bakhtin defines chronotope as "the intrinsic connectedness of temporal and spatial relationships that are artistically expressed in literature." With the exception of the artistic expression part, this interconnectedness of time and space reminds me of Giddens's structuration theory. I hope to post some quotes from his book too, unfortunately I don't have time to write a commentary.

The image of man is always intrinsically chronotopic. (p. 85)

I'm not sure if it is going to be a problem when I write about my SLW experience in my dissertation because there will be the chronotope of me as a participant, as an author, as a researcher. Since the dissertation is going to be autoethnographic all these roles of the same person have to coexist somehow in a potentially uncomfortable relationship. I guess we will see. Fingers crossed. The task is all the more complicated if you think about the reality and its representation in writing, as well as the subjective wholeness and objective analytical expectations of the dissertation as a genre. Just like artistic perception, emic perspective does not compartmentalize experience. I should really stop scaring myself and take refuge in laughter.

A literary work's artistic unity in relation to an actual reality is defined by its chronotope. Therefore the chronotope in a work always contains within it an evaluating aspect that can be isolated from the whole artistic chronotope only in abstract analysis. In literature and art itself, temporal and spatial determinations are inseparable from one another, and always colored by emotions and values. Abstract thought can, of course, think time and space as separate entities and conceive them as things apart from the emotions and values that attached to them. But living artistic perception (which also of course involves thought, but not abstract thought) makes no such divisions and permits no such segmentation. It seizes on the chronotope in all its wholeness and fullness.
And now on chronotopes and narratives...

What is the significance of all these chronotopes? What is most obvious is their meaning for narrative. They are the organizing centers for the fundamental narrative events of the novel. The chronotope is the place where the knots of narrative are tied and untied. It can be said without qualification that to them belongs the meaning that shapes narrative.
And the following is quite an ecological description, don't you think? I love the basic idea and the language but if only Bakhtin didn't think, or at least write, all in binaries. Life would be so much easier for me. Sigh...

However forcefully the real and the represented world resist fusion, however immutable the presence of that categorical boundary between them, they are nevertheless indissolubly tied up with each other and find themselves in continual mutual interaction, uninterrupted exchange goes on between them, similar to the uninterrupted exchange of matter between living organisms and the environment that surrounds them. As long as the organism lives, it resists a fusion with the environment, but if it is torn out of its environment, it dies. The word and the world represented in it enter the real world and enrich it, and the real world enters the work and its world as part of the process of its creation, as well as part of its subsequent life, in a continual renewing of the work through the creative perception of listeners and readers. Of course this process of exchange is itself chronotopic: it occurs first and foremost in the historically developing social world, but without ever losing contact with changing historical space. We might even speak of a special creative chronotope inside which this exchange between work and life occurs, and which constitutes the distinctive life of the work.

1 comment:

  1. Ah, I remembered this source. Memory is a funny thing, how could I forget. I think I can find more sources in genre studies.

    Chronotopic Lamination: Tracing the Contours
    of Literate Activity
    Paul Prior and Jody Shipka
    Center for Writing Studies
    University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
    Urbana, Illinois 61801
    This chapter explores the chronotopic lamination (Bakhtin, 1981; Prior, 1998) of writers’literate activity—the dispersed, fluid chains of places,times, people, and artifacts that come to be tied together in trajectories of literate action along with the ways multiple activity footings are held and managed. Twenty-one academic writers (undergraduates, graduates,and professors) participated in interviews where they were asked to draw and then discuss two representations of their processes in writing a particular piece. To further explore writers' multiple streams of activity and the ways texts mediate that activity, we also asked participants to share drafts, final texts, notes, annotated readings or other material they used in their writing. We focus here on four case studies that illustrate our findings. The interviews showed that the writers’ work crossed institutional settings, especially mixing home, community, and discipline, and thus was deeply laminated (multimotivational and multi-mediated). In particular, we found that writers actively engage in what we call ESSP’s (environment selecting and structuring practices), which not only lead to their texts but also contribute to the distributed, delicate, and partly intentional management of affect, sense, identity, and consciousness.