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A Word about Material (Bakhtin and Tynianov)

Renfrew, Alastair

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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.


Renfrew, A. (2006). A Word about Material (Bakhtin and Tynianov). Slavonic and East European Review, 84(3), 419-445

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Jul 1, 2006
Deposit Date May 30, 2008
Publicly Available Date May 30, 2008
Journal Slavonic and East European Review
Print ISSN 0037-6795
Electronic ISSN 2222-4327
Publisher Modern Humanities Research Association (MHRA)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 84
Issue 3
Pages 419-445
Public URL
Publisher URL


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