James P. Zappen
Mikhail Mikhailovich Bakhtin was born in Orel, south of Moscow, in 1895 and grew up in Vilnius and Odessa, cosmopolitan border towns that offered an unusually heterogeneous mix of disparate languages and cultures.1 He studied classics and philology at St. Petersburg (later Petrograd) University, then moved to the country, first to Nevel and then to Vitebsk, in the wake of the revolutions of 1917. There he maintained an association with other intellectuals, the so-called "Bakhtin circle," among them Valentin Voloshinov and Pavel Medvedev. Bakhtin shared with members of this circle a variety of interests, most especially Kant and contemporary German philosophy and the new physics of Planck, Einstein, and Bohr. During this period, he completed several works on ethics and aesthetics, among them Toward a Philosophy of the Act, published long after his death. From 1924 to 1929, Bakhtin lived in Leningrad (formerly Petrograd), supported by his wife, Elena Alexandrovna, while unemployed due to suspicions arising from his religious activities and to a bone disease, which necessitated the amputation of his right leg in 1938. During the late 1920’s, he wrote Problems of Dostoevsky’s Art, published in 1929 (and partially translated in "Three Fragments from the 1929 Edition"). He may or may not have written several books published in others’ names but sometimes attributed to him, including Voloshinov’s Freudianism: A Critical Sketch and Marxism and the Philosophy of Language and Medvedev and Bakhtin’s The Formal Method in Literary Scholarship.2 Bakhtin was arrested in 1929, probably as a result of his religious activities, and exhiled in Kazakhstan, where he stayed until 1936, when he accepted a professorship at the Mordovian Pedagogical Institute in Saransk. During the 1930’s and early 1940’s, he completed some of his most important studies of the novel, including "Discourse in the Novel," "Forms of Time and of the Chronotope... [continues]
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