Iurii Tynianov’s characterization of the relationship between Fyodor Dostoevsky and Nikolai Gogol as parodic, which he later develops into a broader concern with the mechanics of literary evolution, also provokes a concern with the specifically dialectical nature of the change of historical forms. Rather than viewing this interest in dialectics as a tactically convenient phase in the accommodation of Formalism to the ideological requirements of the Soviet 1920s, the present article interprets Tynianov as the author of a particular “literary-historical” dialectic: it pre-dates the reifying tendencies of “official” Soviet dialectical materialism and is intimately related to the key Formalist category of “estrangement.” This dialectic proceeds from textual relationships (hence the initial focus on parody) as opposed to relationships between “base concepts.” It can usefully be related to Fredric Jameson’s recent attempt to reconnect dialectical thought with the rise and fall of various strands of twentieth-century theory (structuralism and deconstruction chief among them). Jameson’s revisionism is then extended to a consideration of a personalized, “dialogic” dialectic in the work of Mikhail Bakhtin.

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