Bakhtin, Benjamin, Sartre: Toward a Typology of the Intellectual Cultural Critic

  • Dana Polan


To begin, an anecdote … In a small, but culturally rich, village, an intellectual takes an upper-floor room in an inn that looks out onto the market square. From his window, the intellectual witnesses ‘a ballet that … couldn’t even be seen in the Châteaux of Louis II of Bavaria’. The scene here is that of ‘la vie quotidienne’, the everyday world of the market as energetic activity of economic interaction: ‘Towards nine o’clock, when I got up, it was an orgy …. Pieces of money made their entrance on the scene in a syncopated rhythm and, slowly, young women pushed and pressed forward.’ Soon, the intellectual decides to change from passive observation to active participation, and join the scene of city-life. But ‘scarcely had I descended fully dressed onto the square, than the bustle and freshness of the spectacle had disappeared. I understood that all the gifts of the morning must be received in high places … Instead of dance and music, there was nothing more than exchange and traffic. Nothing can seem as irrevocably lost as a morning.1


Popular Culture Referential Discourse Cultural Critic Folk Culture Dialogic Reading 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes and References

  1. 1.
    Walter Benjamin, ‘Weimar’, trans. Jean Lacoste, in Sens unique, Paris, 1978, pp. 299–300.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Jean-Paul Sartre, ‘Sur “L’Idiot de la famille”’, in Situations X, Paris, 1976, pp. 106, 109–10.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    See Michael Holquist, ‘Bakhtin and Rabelais: Theory as Praxis’, boundary 2, 11/1–2, 1982/83, pp. 5–19. See also, Katerina Clark and Michael Holquist, Mikhail Bakhtin, Cambridge, Mass., 1984, for expanded discussion of the relation of Bakhtin’s writing to its time.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    See Tzvetan Todorov, Mikhail Bakhtine: le principe dialogique, Paris, 1981.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    See Martin Jay, ‘Should Intellectual History Take a Linguistic Turn: Reflections on the Habermas-Gadamer Debate’, in Modern European Intellectual History: Reappraisals and New Perspectives, ed. Steven Kaplan and Dominick LaCapra, Ithaca, 1983, p. 83.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    See Terry Eagleton, Walter Benjamin, or Towards a Revolutionary Criticism, London, New York, 1981,Google Scholar
  7. and LaCapra, A Preface to Sartre, Ithaca, 1978.Google Scholar
  8. 7.
    Benjamin, Charles Baudelaire: A Lyric Poet in the Era of High Capitalism, trans. Harry Zohn, London, 1973.Google Scholar
  9. 8.
    See Timothy Reiss, The Discourse of Modernism, Ithaca, 1982.Google Scholar
  10. For a recent defence of materialism as a pro-spective rhetoric, see Frank Lentricchia, Criticism and Social Change, Chicago, 1983.Google Scholar
  11. 9.
    See Holquist’s Preface to Mikhail Bakhtin, The Dialogic Imagination, Austin, Texas, 1981, pp. xv–xxiv.Google Scholar
  12. 10.
    Bakhtin, Rabelais and His World, trans. Hélène Iswolsky, Cambridge, Mass., 1968, p. 222.Google Scholar
  13. 12.
    See Edward Said, The World, the Text, and the Critic, Cambridge, Mass., 1983.Google Scholar
  14. 13.
    Gary Saul Morson, ‘The Heresiarch of Meta’, PTL: A Journal for Descriptive Poetics and Theory of Literature, 3, 1978, pp. 423–4.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Alvin Gouldner, The Dialectic of Ideology and Technology: The Origins, Grammar and Future of Ideology, New York, 1976; Bakhtin, Rabelais, p. 470.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 18.
    See Richard Wolin, Walter Benjamin: An Aesthetics of Redemption, New York, 1982; and LaCapra, A Preface.Google Scholar
  17. 19.
    J. M. Bernstein, The Philosophy of the Novel: Lukacs, Modernism, and the Dialectics of Form, Minneapolis, 1984, pp. 250–1.Google Scholar
  18. 20.
    See Peter Wollen, Readings and Writings: Semiotic Counter-Strategies, London, New York, 1982.Google Scholar
  19. 21.
    See LaCapra, Rethinking Intellectual History: Texts, Contexts, Language, Ithaca, 1983, pp. 295–6.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Catriona Helen Moncrieff Kelly, Michael Laurence Makin and David George Shepherd 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dana Polan

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations