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"If Bakhtin is right," Wayne C. Booth has said, "a very great deal of what we western critics have spent our time on is mistaken, or trivial, or both." In Literature and Spirit David Patterson proceeds from the premise that Bakhtin is right.
Exploring Bakhtin's notions of spirit, responsibility, and dialogue, Patterson takes his reader from the narrow arena of literary criticism to the larger realm of human living and human loving. True to the spirit of Bakhtin, he draws the Russian into a vibrant dialogue with other thinkers, including Foucault, Berdyaev, Gide, Lacan, Levinas, and Heidegger. But he does not stop there. He engages Bakhtin in his own insightful and unique dialogue, meeting the responsibility and taking the risk summoned by dialogue.
Literature and Spirit, therefore, is not a typically cool and detached exercise in academic curiosity. Instead, it is a passionate and penetrating endeavor to respond to literature and spirit as the links in life's attachment to life. The author demonstrates that in deciding something about literature, we decide something about the substance and meaning of our lives. Far from being a question of commentary or explication, he argues, our relation to literature is a matter of spiritual life and death. The reader who comes before a literary text encounters the human voice. And Patterson enables his reader to hear that voice in all its spiritual dimensions.
Unique in its questions and in its quest, Literature and Spirit addresses an audience that goes beyond the ordinary academic categories. It appeals not only to students of literature, philosophy, and religion, but to anyone who seeks an understanding of spiritual presence and meaning in life. Through his affirmation of what is dear, Patterson responds to the needful question. And in his response he puts the question to his audience: Where are you? Literature and Spirit thus speaks to those who face the task of answering, "Here I am."
David Patterson, assistant professor of Russian at Oklahoma State University, is the author of The Affirming Flame: Religion, Language, Literature.
"Patterson has had access to important untranslated texts from Bakhtin's earliest period. From this perspective he is able to see what others, reading a partial Bakhtin, have not seen: that Bakhtin is a rather conservative thinker, more a 'philosopher of life' with roots in the pre-Romantics than a Marxist or a semiotician in twentieth-century parlance."—Philosophy and Literature
The University Press of Kentucky
Place of Publication
M. M. Bakhtin, Mikhail Mikhaĭlovich Bakhtin
Slavic Languages and Societies
Patterson, David, "Literature And Spirit: Essays on Bakhtin and His Contemporaries" (1988). Slavic Languages and Societies. 3.