Critique of Heteroglossia

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Hirschkop, Keith. Mikhail Bakhtin: an aesthetic for democracy. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

  • Hirschkop observes a limitation of Bakhtin's notion of heteroglossia when writes:

Perhaps these developing languages and modes of discourse don't express anything as coherent, or even interesting, as a value or point of view? Conversely, ideological structures do not necessarily manifest themselves in the form of a recognized language. One can accept the view of society as a field of endlessly, even randomly clashing interest, without assuming that heteroglossia will follow. The distinguishing feature of the latter is the assumption that socially distinct experience will be articulated as language (i.e. by means of a the creation of distinct, ideologically charged syntactic, grammatical and lexical forms. But social pressures and conflicts are not always translated into coherent languages or ideologies; they may find expression in other means: as "nonsensical" ruptures in normal language or social practice, or as a turning away from language altogether, to retreat into silence or resort to physical force. Such eventualities are not covered by the concept of heteroglossia, which assumes that ideological distinctions play themselves out as a 'heteroglot conception of the world,' confronting the ordinary speaker. But do we invariably interpret stylistic features as signs of social ideologies? (p. 251)


This begs the question: Are these features absent or do we lack the literacies to observe them?


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