Finding the Essence of Life and Art: Bakhtin’s Open-Ended Dialogue

Current linguistic studies tell us much about the formal characteristics of language, it’s static structural elements, but they don’t tell us a whole lot about the living, all inclusiveness of language and its many contingencies, cultures, groups, levels, jargons, etc. However, understanding, examining, and practicing open-ended dialogue, as Bakhtin terms it, in both art and life, becomes effective when one understands texts, artistic artifacts, and even conversations, not within their constituent parts, but as residing within the dialogically interactive sphere of speech life as it exists in its ever-changing entirety.

Here’s what Bakhtin says about it:

“The single adequate form for verbally expressing authentic human life is the
open-ended dialogue. Life by very nature is dialogic. To live means to
participate in dialogue: to ask questions, to heed, to respond, to agree, and so
forth. In this dialogue a person participates wholly and throughout his whole
life: with his eyes, lips, hands, soul, spirit, with his whole body and deeds.
He invests his entire self in discourse, and this discourse enters into the
dialogic fabric of human life, into the world symposium. Reified (materializing,
objectified) images are profoundly inadequate for life and for discourse. A
reified model of the world is now being replaced by a dialogic model. Every
thought and every life merges in the open-ended dialogue. Also impermissible is
any materialization of the word: its nature is also dialogic” (Bakhtin, PDP
293).

This entry was posted in Art, Bakhtin, Critical Theory, Essay.

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