Towards the Problem of the Author in Baxtin

Yuliya Ilchuk, University of California, Los Angeles

The problem of the author in Baxtin's aesthetics has been considered a problematic one since the discovery of Baxtin's legacy in the late 1970s. What makes it problematic is an absence of a single organic theory of the author in Bxhtin's writings. In order to reconstruct it, I propose to analyze how Baxtin was elaborating the idea of the author throughout his career. I argue that there were no internal contradictions in Baxtin's early works compared to his last ones, as Natal'ja Bonetskaja (1985) pointed out. She states that throughout his career Baxtin vacillated between two diametrically opposed statements: in the early texts ("Author and Hero") he insists on the author's creative activity and full passivity of the hero, while in Problems of Dostoevskij's Poetics he switches to the idea of the author's passivity.

In fact, in his early work ("Author and hero"), Baxtin does not elaborate the hierarchy of the authorship in strict terms. The "author" appears there in a twofold hypostasis - as a creator of the artistic world and as passive contemplator, who does not intrude upon the created world. Only while developing the theory of polyphonic novel (in Problems of Dostoevskij's Poetics) where the position of the author has been cardinally changed, did Baxtin realize the necessity of detaching the author-creator from his objectified image. So when the author thinks of himself in order to represent himself in the text, he builds an image of himself that never coincides with his real self. In PDP Baxtin ushered in the term "secondary author," which is not "the aesthetically active subject," but one of the images of the text.

Therefore, Baxtin uses the term "author" in three different meanings: the author as a biographical person (in Baxtin's texts it is correlated with the words "artist," "prosaic"); the author as a creator (the scholar sometimes calls him a primary author), and the implied author (the notion of the secondary author corresponds to this). Sometimes the critics do not take into account Baxtin's differentiation between the author-creator and the secondary author and substitute them. Thus, Emerson and Morson (1990) propose to distinguish between two kinds of authors—"the biographical person and the author as creator of the work (the so-called image of the author)," whereas Baxtin repeatedly insists that the author-creator as natura naturans is always exotopic (in a position of vnenaxodimost') to the characters and the narrative world, as well as to the objectified image of himself (i.e. "secondary author") he has created in the text.