Monday, May 18, 2009

Quote of the Day: Vernon Robbins

I rarely quote scholarship. Even in my written work, I give pride of place to ancient sources with scholarship relegated to footnotes. Nonetheless, I have been reading the volume of Bakhtin and Genre Theory in Biblical Studies, edited by Roland Boer of Stalin's Moustache fame. Bakhtin, by the way, is my favorite (at the moment) literary non-theorist (I am always fascinated by how the most productive "theorists" claim to be anti-theory as Bakhtin himself claims). I primarily activate his "chronotope" in my current writing, yet his concepts of heteroglossia, polyphony, dialogism, etc., highly inform my approach even if I do not use the lingo. The final chapter in the aforementioned volume is the response to the essays of the Bakhtin and Bible SBL group by Vernon Robbins (famous for his "sociorhetorical criticism), and some of his final words on the chronotope (a dialogized chronotope), I thought worthy of blog quotation:

Perhaps...the idea of a new Moses or a new Elijah is the result of two chronotopes, one of the "prophetic politics of fulfillment" and another of a "cyclical prophetic language," contending with one another in the context of multiple "biblical" and "extrabiblical" languages in the Mediterranean world. Perhaps earlier discussions in biblical interpretation about type and antitype were a way of talking about relationships among characters and events that exist in contending conceptualities of space and time, and in multiple languages and language-worlds. And perhaps references to "allegory" were yet another way. Is it the case, then, that only the modern novel and works contemporary with it contain pervasive dialogism and heteroglossia? Or is there pervasive dialogism and heteroglossia especially, perhaps, in deuterocanonical, pseudepigraphical, and New Testament literature during the Hellenistic-Roman period?
(Vernon Robbins, "Response--Using Bakhtin's Lexicon Dialogicae to Interpret Canon, Apocalyptic, New Testament, and Toni Morrison," 202)

These sources mentioned at the end of the quote do remind of Bakhtin's penchant for lesser-known sources in producing his ideas (e.g., his preference for Hellenistic literature to discuss menippean satire to develop his concept of carnivalesque) rather than Auerbach's tendency to focus upon canonical works, such as his own beloved Dante's Divine Comedy. Nonetheless, I really like both Auerbach and Bakhtin. Is there a good literary theorist (or non-theorist) whose name begins with a "c"? I think anyone who works without the canon or without particular regard for canonical boundaries should pay attention to Bakhtin, thinking of genre dialogically.

No comments: