A Dialogue of voices : feminist literary theory and Bakhtin by Bakhtin, Mikhail Mikhaĭlovich; Wussow, Helen; Hohne, Karen

By Bakhtin, Mikhail Mikhaĭlovich; Wussow, Helen; Hohne, Karen Ann; Bakhtin, M

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Sample text

Russo focuses her criticism of Bakhtin on his treatment of the figure of the "pregnant hag," the terracotta figurines that he discusses in his intro- 12 Lisa Gasbarrone duction to Rabelais and His World. As Bakhtin explains these figurines, he emphasizes again their ambivalent quality: In the famous Kerch terracotta collection we find figurines of senile pregnant hags. Moreover, the old hags are laughing. This is a typical and very strongly expressed grotesque. It is ambivalent. It is pregnant death, a death that gives birth.

The relationship is symbiotic, to be sure. The other is constitutive of the self, and vice versa; in this sense, there is always something of the other within each of us. " Dialogic exchange occurs only among individuals (or texts) that possess an identifiable degree of autonomy. Other- 8 Lisa Gasbarrone wise there can be no difference, and no need for exchange. "15 Though Cixous expresses the desire for a dialogic relationship between self and other, the method she prescribes for its realization produces a very one-sided conversation.

Merely to look upon her reduces the observer to silence, turns him to stone. Cixous encourages the look with inviting reassurance: "You only have to look at the Medusa straight on to see her. And she's not deadly. She's beautiful and she's laughing" (255). But Perseus, in Cixous's schema, meets the fate with which he was initially threatened. As the representative of official discourse, he remains precisely that which must be exploded, swept away, if the "new history" of feminine ecriture is to be written.

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