Mikhail Bakhtin's critical and theoretical experiments have inspired original work in the humanities and social sciences but little in the realm of classical studies, the discipline in which Bakhtin himself was trained. This volume focuses on the relationship between Bakhtin and the study of classical antiquity and demonstrates the fundamental importance of classical literature in his work. Clarifying and elaborating this connection, these essays aim to expand our understanding of both Bakhtin's thought and the literary and cultural history of antiquity. The contributors put Bakhtin into dialogue with the classics - and classicists into dialogue with Bakhtin. Each essay offers a critical account of an important aspect of Bakhtin's thought and then examines the value of this approach in the context of a significant area of literary or cultural history. Beginning with an overview of Bakhtin's notion of carnival laughter, perhaps his central critical concept, the volume explores Bakhtin's thought and writing in relation to Homer's epic verse and Catullus's lyric poetry; ancient Roman novels; and Greek philosophy from Aristotle's theory of narrative to the work of Antiphon the Sophist. Considering important questions and arguing on a level of abstraction in keeping with Bakhtin's own vision, the authors at the same time are scrupulous in illuminating specific texts and showing how attention to the ancient novel, comedy, lyric, epic, philosophy, literary criticism and other genres can extend or deepen Bakhtin's insights.
R. BRACHT BRANHAM is associate professor of Comparative Literature and Classics at Emory University. His works include The Cynics: The Cynic Movement in Antiquity and its Legacy (Berkeley, 1996) and Unruly Eloquence: Lucian and the Comedy of Traditions (Harvard, 1989).