This third installment in a chronologically arranged, three-part sequence concludes the author’s examination of Anglo-American literati who, in the later nineteenth and twentieth centuries, turned—in acts of combined xenophilia and xenophobia—to Russian literature and literary theory in order to escape the dominant influence of avant-garde movements in France. These Anglophone writers found in Russian exemplars a responsible, morally rigorous, and pragmatic, yet philosophically sophisticated, alternative to what they described as the amoral, superficial, and pretentious aestheticism of French literary culture. Part 3 treats the way in which certain American critics of the 1980s and 1990s, primarily the scholars of Russian literature Caryl Emerson and Gary Saul Morson, deployed their translations and studies of Mikhail Bakhtin’s literary theory to undercut the work of French poststructuralist theorists (notably, Derrida, Barthes, and Foucault). American Bakhtinians objected above all to the influence on American criticism of the poststructuralist idea that texts have no authors, and they turned to Russian criticism for a dialogical approach that assumes authorial participation while, at the same time, disapproving of authorial domination of a dialogue that includes both the reader and, in fiction and drama, the characters whom the author develops.
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Noa Halevy; English Emergencies and Russian Rescues, c. 1875–2000: Part 3: Bakhtin and the American Bakhtinians. Common Knowledge 1 January 2018; 24 (1): 90–125. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0961754X-4253834
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