Bakhtin sees the novel as a developing genre. At the time of Bakhtin's writing, the novel was (and still is, to an extent) a new creation. Before its success in the nineteenth century, the novel was rarely studied and often denounced (Epic, xxiv). Bakhtin contrasts the novel with the epic in the essay "Epic and Novel" with the premise that the epic comes down to us in "an absolutely completed and finished generic form" (15). One characteristic of the epic is its distance from contemporary reality (13). The novel, by contrast, uses contemporary reality as its subject (22). Ancient literature has memory as its primary source of creativity, whereas the novel is "determined by experience, knowledge, and practice (the future)" (15). The epic past is characterized by the "'absolute past'" (15). The novelist, on the other hand, is "drawn toward everything that is not yet completed" (27). Wholeness in the present is incomplete and inconclusive. Thus, the novel is fluid.
See the Opening Remarks
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