Allgemeine und Vergleichende Literaturwissenschaft
Heterochronic Representations of the Fall : Bakhtin, Milton, DeLillo
- Bakhtin argues that each literary genre codifies a particular world-view which is defined, in part, by its chronotope. That is, the spatial and temporal configurations of each genre determine in large part the kinds of action a fictional character may undertake in that given world (without being iconoclastic, a realist hero cannot slay mythical beasts, and a questing knight cannot philosophize over drinks in a café). Recent extensions of Bakhtin’s theory have sought to define the chronotopes of new and emergent genres such as the road movie, the graphic novel, and hypertext fiction. Others have challenged Bakhtin’s characterization of certain chronotopes, such as those of epic and lyric poetry, arguing that these genres (and their chronotopes) are far more dynamic and dialogic than Bakhtin’s analysis seems at first glance to allow. Rather than taking issue with Bakhtin’s characterization of particular genres here, however, I wish to argue that we should pay closer attention to the heterochrony, or interplay of different chronotopes, in individual texts and their genres. As Bakhtin’s own essay demonstrates, what makes any literary chronotope dynamic is its conflict and interplay with alternative chronotopes and world-views. Heterochrony (raznovremennost) is the spatiotemporal equivalent of linguistic heteroglossia, and if we examine any of Bakhtin’s readings of particular chronotopes closely enough, we will find evidence of heterochronic conflict. This clash of spatiotemporal configurations within a text, or family of texts, provides the ground for the dialogic inter-illumination of opposing world-views.