The concept for which Bakhtin is perhaps most famous is that of multivocality. In Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics, Bakhtin illustrates polyphany, or multivocality, in Dostoevsky's novels. Dostoevsky's novel, Bakhtin says, "is constructed not as the whole of a single consciousness, absorbing other consciousnesses as objects into itself, but as a whole formed by the interaction of several consciousnesses, none of which entirely becomes an object for the other" (Dost. 18). Dostoevsky achieves this multivocality because he is able "to visualize and portray personality as another, as someone else's personality, without making it lyrical or merging it with his own voice--and at the same time without reducing it to a materialized psychic reality" (13). "Each opinion really does become a living thing and is inseparable from an embodied human voice" (17).
Yet this multivocality should not be confused with unity. To illustrate Dostoevsky's plurality, Bakhtin uses a metaphor of a church "as a communion of unmerged souls" (26). In a church, there are righteous men and sinners side by side. They are, however, not one. Diverse voices co-exist on a plane.
See the Opening Remarks
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