Reshaping Baxtinian Chronotope

Suk-Young Kim, University of Illinois, Chicago

Baxtin’s concept of chronotope has contributed significantly to the understanding of literary text by providing a balanced interconnection between time and space. Traditionally, literary criticism has focused largely on the aspects of time as the basic category of existence. However, the configuration of both time and space should be considered as a form-shaping ideology for the artistic text. It is Baxtin who recognized the indivisible relationship between the two axes, one of which cannot be regarded as less important than the other. Furthermore, he has pointed out that each chronotope, as well as genre, has its own speech zone which exists in dialogic relationship with others. Baxtin himself acknowledges the importance of mutual inclusiveness and co-existence of chronotopes. However, he has put more effort to the typology of chronotopes of different genres and authors and as a result, the interrelationship among chronotopes on various levels has been relatively neglected. The aim of this paper is to modify Baxtin’s theory of chronotope by emphasizing the “interrelationship” among various time-space models rather than identifying the nature of individual chronotopes in literary texts. For this purpose, it is needed to premise the following:

1)The configuration of time and space is not a fixture but a fluid movement itself as to be involved in more than one chronotope model. The actual nature of chronotope in literary text does not consist of single time-space axes, but the web-like connection among time1-space1, time2-space2, ad infinitum. It consists, at least, of four types: the visible chronotope of given text; the chronotope of intext, subtext and context; the chronotope of the author; the chronotope of the reader. Assuming that the chronotope of the reader varies countlessly and the numbers of other texts conversing with the given text may reach infinity, these four chronotopes should be understood as the minimum components for the fluid actualization of time and space.

2) It should be emphasized that “synchronism” is the genuine spirit of dialogic relationship among above-mentioned four chronotope models. They exist and interact simultaneously. Such notion should be taken into account even for diachronic studies of literature or literary evolution of an author.

The interconnection of more than one third-dimensional chronotope creates the fourth dimension, the area which serves as a common denominator for all chronotopes involved in actualization of the text. This is the fourth dimension which enables the convergence of opposite systems such as traditional Biblical motives and folklore, history and myth. It is where the effect of carnivalesque grotesque and fantasy arises. The fourth dimension also opens the possibility of physical and metaphysical ambivalence; visible and invisible, sacred and secular. As seen from Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita or Gogol’s Petersbug Tales, the abrupt switch of scenes or sudden disappearance of characters should pass through the fourth dimension which gives plasticity and adaptability to the third-dimensional chronotopes of mechanical world.