Mikhail Bakhtin Additional Biography


Danow, David K. The Thought of Mikhail Bakhtin: From Word to Culture. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1991. This gracefully written introduction is a clear and accessible presentation of Bakhtin’s thought for readers encountering the philosopher for the first time.

Dentith, Simon. Bakhtinian Thought: An Introductory Reader. New York: Routledge, 1995. This anthology reprints excerpts from Bakhtin’s key works and presents well-researched critical guides to the concepts in those works.

Emerson, Caryl. The First Hundred Years of Mikhail Bakhtin. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1997. An indispensable book for those who wish to explore the ongoing world of Bakhtin scholarship. It provides an in-depth overview of the issues debated by Russian Bakhtinians as well as those debated by Bakhtin scholars of the English-speaking world.

Emerson, Caryl, and Gary Saul Morson. Mikhail Bakhtin: Creation of a Prosaics. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1990. Though it is a little too detailed to be an accessible introduction to Bakhtin’s philosophy, this is an invaluable companion to anyone trying to read his entire body of work.

Holquist, Michael, and Katerina Clark. Mikhail Bakhtin. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1984. An excellent biography of the man and a penetrating study of his ideas. Includes useful and unusually thorough summaries of Bakhtin’s major works, terms, and concepts. Notable in part for its assertion that selected works of Bakhtin’s associates, Pavel Medvedev and Valentin Voloshinov, were in fact the work of Bakhtin, dictated to his friends and published under their names when he was out of favor with the Stalinist government.

Vice, Sue. Introducing Bakhtin. New York: Manchester University Press, 1997. Though this may not be the most definitive guide to Bakhtin’s thought available, its use of contemporary references in long discussions of Bakhtin’s concepts of heteroglossia, polyphony, dialogism, and the carnival make it helpful for those coming to his work with only a basic knowledge.


In the late 1970’s, Mikhail Mikhailovich Bakhtin (BEHK-tehn) emerged from decades of obscurity to be hailed as one of the leading and most original theorists in a remarkably wide variety of disciplines ranging from linguistics and the social sciences to semiotics and literary criticism. Bakhtin, who was born in Orel, south of Moscow, in 1895, studied philology at the University of Odessa and later at Petrograd. He began his teaching career in a provincial elementary school, from where he went to secondary schools and the teachers’ college at Saransk. Three books written in the 1920’s—Freudianism: A Marxist Critique, The Formal Method in Literary Scholarship, and Marxism and the Philosophy of Language—have been attributed to him, either in their entirety or in part, even though the works were signed by his friends and colleagues V. N. Voloshinov and P. N. Medvedev. The political climate in postrevolutionary Russia, as revolutionary freedom gave way to political repression, may have necessitated this deception on the part of a writer whose religious views made him suspect. In 1929, the year he published the early version of his important study of Fyodor Dostoevski, Bakhtin was sentenced to internal exile and forced to work as a clerk on the Siberian border. He returned to teaching in 1936 but was beset by difficulties in the following years. In 1938, chronic osteomyelitis led to the amputation of his leg, and acceptance of his doctoral dissertation on François Rabelais, written and submitted in 1940, was delayed for political reasons until 1952 (and left unpublished until 1965). Despite physical infirmities, political difficulties, exile, and a demanding teaching schedule, Bakhtin wrote copiously throughout his entire career, but few of his books appeared under his own name during his lifetime. Only in his final years did his work begin to exert some influence on the new generation of Soviet intellectuals.{$S[A]Voloshinov, V. N.;Bakhtin, Mikhail}{$S[A]Medvedev, P. N.;Bakhtin, Mikhail}

At the time of his death in 1975, Bakhtin was largely unknown outside the Soviet Union. Within a decade, that situation changed dramatically. The reason for this sudden rise to fame had less to do with those critiques of Freudianism, Marxism, structuralism, and the social sciences that Bakhtin had...

(The entire section is 951 words.)


(Survey of World Philosophers)

Article abstract: Bakhtin had a profound impact on the philosophy and interrelatedness of language and society, on the extension of linguistics and literary theory, and on modern philosophical systems.

Early Life

Mikhail Mikhailovich Bakhtin was born November 16, 1895, in the provincial capital of Orel, Russia. Untitled and unpropertied, he came from a noble family who, like their city, dated back to the late Middle Ages. His father and grandfather were owner and manager, respectively, of state banks. The third of five children, Mikhail was closer to his elder brother Nikolai than to his three sisters or his parents. A German governess taught the boys Greek poetry in German...

(The entire section is 1842 words.)