Russian linguist and literary critic Mikhail Bakhtin used this word, literally meaning many voiced to describe literary writing that managed to liberate the voice of its characters from under the domination of the authorial or narratorial voice. In Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics (1984), Bakhtin refers to polyphony as a new kind of artistic thinking because what he has in mind goes against the grain of the traditional privileging of harmony, which means many voices heard as one. The reader of Dostoevsky, Bakhtin suggests, cannot but have the impression that he or she isn't dealing with a single author, but is in fact faced with a multiplicity of authors (Raskolnikov, Myshkin, Stavrogin, Ivan Karamazov, the Grand Inquisitor, and so on), each of whom has their own unique voice. See also carnivalesque; chronotope; dialogism; heteroglossia.
K. Clark and M. Holquist Mikhail Bakhtin (1984).M. Holquist Dialogism (2002).D. Lodge After Bakhtin (1990).
Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies.