What exactly is Mikhail Bakhtin trying to explain in "Discourse in the Novel?"
The main thesis of "Discourse in the Novel" is that a novel's complexity lies in the combination of multiple forms, tropes, and references. Thus no novel stands alone, it is rather constructed in a social context. It includes the different types of narration by the author, oral narrative style, epistolary or letter-writing style, "the stylistically individualized speech of characters," and philosophical references. The novelist (and the readers of novels) arrange these references in ways that make the text comprehensible. So a novel is always, in a sense, in dialogue with other works, and the multiplicity of forms contained within it was "the basic distinguishing feature of the stylistics of the novel." This is a departure from some other critics who denied the novel had any artistic form at all.