Abstract

I begin my essay by noting some striking similarities between Mikhail Bakhtin's “Discourse in the Novel” and Erich Auerbach's Mimesis: both were written in exile from totalitarian regimes, and both responded to the experience of exile by championing multi-voiced, multi-perspectival literary styles. Bakhtinian “dialogism” and Auerbachian “multi-personal representation of consciousness,” I go on to argue: can both be understood as attempts to theorize an “honest” literary style in response to the “dishonest” styles of the Stalinist and Fascist states? I next ask which of these two critics is himself the more “honest” — which employs the critical style closest to “dialogism” or “multipersonal representation of consciousness.” Bakhtin's forceful, dogmatic, single-voiced style, I argue, is “dishonest” by his own terms; but Auerbach's discontinuous, self-reflexive, multi-voiced style is “honest.” I conclude by asking why Auerbach, the more honest of the two, is, by comparison to Bakhtin, so little read.

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