Dialogism–Michael Holquist

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Michael Holquist’s Dialogism, a highly approachable introduction to the theory of Mikhail Bakhtin, is the most enjoyable book of literary theory I’ve wrapped my head around in quite a while. Bakhtin’s dialogism is–and I’m drastically paraphrasing here–a way of interpreting texts in terms of the way that they “speak” to other texts. In Bakhtinian dialogism, language exists in an endless play of call and response, of modulation and echo of all language that has come before and all language that is to come after. Written in short, concise bursts of information, Holquist’s Dialogism illuminates Bakhtin’s complex ideas; additionally, Holquist reads Bakhtin against heavyweights like Roman Jakobson, Kant, Saussure, and, uh, Albert Einstein. Most useful and enlightening of all are Holquist’s own dialogical readings, particularly his reading of Shelley’s Frankenstein. Dialogism is an essential introduction to an important philosopher, and, more importantly, a pretty good read.