Allgemeine und Vergleichende Literaturwissenschaft
“It was not Death” : The Poetic Career of the Chronotope
- As Bakhtin noted, chronotopes arise from the density and fusion of temporal and spatial indicators. In prose narrative, the density of temporal and spatial indicators arises as a natural consequence of setting scenes and explaining action, and those indicators are fused by the centripetal forces of plot, character and so on that encourage us to read the various elements of the text as aspects of a coherent story and world. In non-narrative poetry, however, there is no story to drive the setting of scene or generation of character; there may not even be scene or character. As a result, temporal and spatial indicators can be quite sparse, and there may be little centripetal force to encourage their fusion. In a textual environment bereft of character, plot, scene, in which even the centripetal forces of syntax are frayed by linebreaks and other poetic devices, how can chronotopes form and function? [...] In the centripetal environment afforded by most prose narratives, the stable chronotopes and the relationships among them define consciousness, world and values. In the centrifugal environment of non-narrative poetry, chronotopes flicker and flow in a series of hints, glimpses, dissolves, defining consciousness, world and values via evanescence rather than stability. However, as I hope to show below, the evanescence of chronotopes in non-narrative poetry can be as central to the vitality and meaning of those texts as the stability of chronotopes is to the vitality and meaning of prose narratives.