In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Mikhail Bakhtin

  • Introduction
  • Works
  • Biographies and Overviews
  • Bakhtin and Anthropology
  • Carnival(esque)
  • Genre
  • Addressivity

Anthropology Mikhail Bakhtin
Chaise LaDousa
  • LAST MODIFIED: 11 January 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766567-0186


Mikhail Mikhailovich Bakhtin (b. 1895–d. 1975) was a literary theorist whose work remained obscure until the last decade of his life. He was raised and educated in Oryol, Vilnius, and then Odessa. Bakhtin’s early published work emerged during the years of Stalinist censorship and repression, and many of those scholars in conversation with him did not survive. The group of scholars with which Bakhtin was associated began to meet in 1918 in Nevel, and then in Vitebsk on Bakhtin’s move there in 1920. Bakhtin then moved to Leningrad in 1924. He was arrested in 1928, but intervention by associates saved him from being sent to a labor camp. He and his wife were sent instead to Kazakhstan. He taught for some years in Saransk before moving to Moscow. Bakhtin was eventually denied a doctorate of sciences for his dissertation work on Rabelais. Bakhtin was hired by the Mordovian Pedagogical Institute in Saransk, where he became Head of Russian and World Literature. Bakhtin moved back to Moscow in the late 1960s for medical treatment. It was not until after Bakhtin’s death that the importance of his work was realized and he gained international renown. Many of the terms used by Bakhtin—carnivalesque, chronotope, dialogism, voice, monologism, genre, and addressivity—have entered the lexicon of fields in the arts, humanities, and social sciences.


Part of what makes the relationship between Bakhtin’s biography and the works for which he is known so complicated is that his work was not published in the sequence in which it was written. Also, some scholars have argued about the authorship of some of the work written by members of what has come to be known as the “Bakhtin Circle.” Bakhtin 1981 explores the notions of dialogicality, heteroglossia, and chronotope, and has been particularly important in anthropology. Bakhtin 1984a focuses on voice and dialogic relations between authors and character in the work of Dostoevsky. Bakhtin 1984b is Bakhtin’s sustained examination of carnival and the carnivalesque. Bakhtin 1986 reexamines the notion of genre and has been especially influential in linguistic anthropology (as have Bakhtin 1981 and Bakhtin 1984a). Bakhtin 1990, Bakhtin 1993, and Bakhtin and Medvedev 1978 constitute his early writing and have been much less influential in anthropology than Bakhtin’s other work. Bakhtin 2004 is an article on teaching stylistics in Russian.

  • Bakhtin, Mikhail. 1981. The dialogic imagination: Four essays by M. M. Bakhtin. Edited by Michael Holquist. Translated by Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist. Austin: Univ. of Texas Press.

    Develops the importance of orientation and relatedness in the study of discourse. Introduces the concepts of heteroglossia and chronotope.

  • Bakhtin, Mikhail. 1984a. Problems of Dostoevsky’s poetics. Edited and Translated by Caryl Emerson. Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press.

    A major work in which Bakhtin develops the notion of voice in Dostoevsky’s writing. A later publication of the work (including the one cited herein) includes commentary about the carnivalesque.

  • Bakhtin, Mikhail. 1984b. Rabelais and his world. Translated by Hélène Iswolsky. Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press.

    The work submitted as Bakhtin’s dissertation. Examines Rabelais’s Gargantua and Pantagruel for the “openness” of the works made possible by the employment of grotesque imagery of the body.

  • Bakhtin, Mikhail. 1986. Speech genres and other late essays. Edited by Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist. Translated by Vern W. McGee. Austin: Univ. of Texas Press.

    Reflects on the literary study of genre and calls for an extension of the concept outside of literary genres to include speech.

  • Bakhtin, Mikhail. 1990. Art and answerability: Early philosophical essays. Edited by Michael Holquist and Vadim Liapunov. Translated by Vadim Liapunov. Austin: Univ. of Texas Press.

    An early set of essays in which Bakhtin develops ideas about artistic production.

  • Bakhtin, Mikhail. 1993. Toward a philosophy of the act. Translated by Vadim Liapunov. Austin: Univ. of Texas Press.

    An early work in which Bakhtin begins to develop ideas about the self and other.

  • Bakhtin, Mikhail. 2004. Dialogic origin and dialogic pedagogy of grammar: Stylistics in teaching Russian language in secondary school. Translated by Lydia Razran Stone. Journal of Russian and East European Psychology 42.6: 12–49.

    Reflects on teaching Russian in the seventh grade and argues for emphasizing style as well as syntax.

  • Bakhtin, Mikhail, and Pavel Nikolaevich Medvedev. 1978. The formal method in literary scholarship: A critical introduction to sociological poetics. Translated by Albert J. Wehrle. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press.

    Offers a critique of Russian Formalism as an analytic method.

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