"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Religion in the Thought of Mikhail Bakhtin

I recall clearly that when I began my undergraduate education in the 1990s, many academics in the humanities, especially English and psychology departments, were talking extensively about the hermeneutic potential of Mikhail Bakhtin. I read a bit of him in a fascinating course on psychoanalysis and literature in which we read some Russian writers, including Anton Chekhov, whose powerful and poignant short stories I have never forgotten. Since the 90s I have not heard Bakhtin discussed so much, and even when he was, I do not recall a great deal of attention being paid to his Russian Orthodox context. Along comes a new study of his thought that might reverse that: Hilary Bagshaw, Religion in the Thought of Mikhail Bakhtin: Reason and Faith (Ashgate, 2013), 176pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:

This book examines the significance of religion in the work of the twentieth century philosopher Mikhail Bakhtin, Exploring Bakhtin's contribution to debates on methodology in the study of religion, this book argues that his use of religious terminology is derived from his source material in philosophy of religion and not from his confessional commitment to Russian Orthodox Christianity. Critiquing Gavin Flood's important work Beyond Phenomenology, Hilary Bagshaw explains how Bakhtin's work on 'outsideness' presents invaluable insights for scholars of religion, particularly pertinent to the contemporary insider/outsider debate.

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