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Internal Chronotopic Genre Structures : The Nineteenth-Century Historical Novel in the Context of the Belgian Literary Polysystem

Publication Date
  • Bachtin
  • Michail M.
  • Erzähltheorie
  • Literaturgattung
  • Ddc:801
  • Literature


One of the most fundamental problems of systemic approaches to literature is the question of how systemic principles might be translated into a manageable methodological framework. This contribution proposes that a combination of functionalistsystemic theories (in casu Itamar Even-Zohar’s Polysystem theory – especially the textually oriented versions – and the prototypical genre approach proposed by Dirk De Geest and Hendrik Van Gorp 1999) with Mikhail Bakhtin’s chronotope theory shows great promise in this respect. Since I am primarily interested in literary genres, the prototypical genre approach assumes a central position in my theoretical framework. My main argument is that Bakhtin’s chronotope concept offers interesting perspectives as a heuristic tool within a functionalist-systemic approach to genre studies, enabling the study not only of the constitutive elements of genre systems, but also of their mutual relations. Bakhtin’s own vague definitions of the concept somewhat hamper the process of putting it into practice for this purpose, but with the aid of the distinction between generic and motivic chronotopes, that problem can be solved. A detailed, comprehensive account of the theoretical premises underlying my proposal can be found in Bemong (under review); here I restrict myself to the basics.

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