Bakhtin the Poet

Amatoritsero Ede

AuthorIn his seminal essay, “Epic and the Novel, on the concept of ‘heteroglosia,’ Mikhail Bakhtin insists that the novel is the only literary form still evolving; that it carries the future development or elaboration of all literature within its kernel through its open-endedness and its peculiar ability to incorporate other closed-ended genres – like the epic or even tragedy – within it. The novel’s vaunted permeability, its inclusiveness, its celebration of the carnevalesque, is the bedrock of his thesis on heteroglosia. In comparison other genres are moribund and dead as far as extending their literary parameters go and, even if they did strive for self-expansion, they can only do so within their hermetically sealed circle or, at best, end up breaking out of their orbits to stretch out and mimic the novel’s linear projection; they become ‘novelised’. The novel is polyglot, many voiced and democratising in its impact on the spirit of the letter and, in consequence, on society.

The Epic, in its ancient and oral roots in preliterate societies, is originally associated with poetry of course; a poetry usually sung to music and sometimes later written down when particular societies became literate. Usually the older the epic the more certain it is to be steeped in orature; and the closer it is to contemporary times, the more it becomes the literary epic. Every society started out as preliterate and oral, such that most cultures have these epics. As in the ‘world folk-epic’ – they can sometimes be the informing worldview or Weltanschauung of social contracts, in which case they are similar to what Bakhtin rightly refers to as the ‘national’ epic. There is more to this, but in a moment.

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Esiaba Irobi: The Tragedy of Exile

Olu Oguibe

I met Esiaba Irobi in the late 1980s, after I made the ill-advised decision to return to the University of Nigeria, Nsukka where, as a former student leader, I was already a pariah, rather than accept an admission offer from Harvard Graduate School. In Nsukka, Irobi, then a graduate assistant in Dramatic Arts, was already fully engaged in a battle that would dog him across three continents and mark his entire adult life, a battle that he came ever so close to winning only in the last few months before the tragic hand of fate struck him down in Berlin on April 29, 2010. He was waging a war of survival with the academy.

His prodigious talent, irrepressible garrulity, and seemingly affected eccentricity had not endeared him to some very powerful people at the university who made sure that he not only failed to graduate with first class honors, but that life would be miserable for him there as a graduate assistant. His mentor and distant kin, Professor Jas Amankulor, was away in the United States where he sadly met his untimely death through cancer.

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The Route of the Matter

Amatoritsero Ede & Tom Ue in Conversation with Lawrence Hill, Novelist, Essayist and Script Writer.

Amatoritsero Ede: It is great to be having this conversation with you. Please allow me to go off the beaten track by asking you first: what went through your mind during the recent earthquake in Ontario and part of Quebec, which covered a large swathe up to New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and probably passed through your backyard in Hamilton? I am trying to say that as a creative person who is close to the heart of things and feel the rhythms of life, what did this portend for you, for responsible art, for literature and the environment?

Lawrence Hill: Thank you for inviting me into a conversation with the Maple Tree Literary Supplement. I was writing at home when the recent earthquake shook people in Ontario, Quebec and elsewhere. Naturally, being a Canadian, I thought that this couldn’t possibly be an earthquake. Surely no earthquake would disrupt my quiet day of writing at home in Hamilton, Ontario. I stood up and looked outside to see if someone was drilling through concrete and causing my chair to vibrate. I saw no construction underway so I returned to work, and thought no more of it until an hour later, when I heard that we had just experienced an earthquake. Generally we think natural and social disasters affect other people in other places. I stand as guilty as any other Canadian on that count.

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At the Center of the Universe

Ankur Betageri

The center of the universe is where my consciousness begins to throb; or where my stomach swallows desire and sated like the sky, exudes sunlight.

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Euripides’s Iphigenia at Aulis

Nicolas Billon

Old Man

I do not sleep much anymore. At my age, the body understands the value of every waking moment. Sleep is the luxury of youth and kings. I am neither, though I serve one—King Agamemnon, who leads the Greek army against Troy.

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The Oak Tree

Claudia Del Balso

As he does every afternoon at three, Randall sits looking out from one of the library windows of his house, a Queen Anne Victorian mansion in his family since before the American Civil War. A massive oak, as old as the house, stands robust and defiant in the middle of the lawn. Its lower limbs sweep down towards the ground before curving up again, leaving little possibility for any sprouts under its enveloping shade.

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Let’s talk of a system that transforms all the social organisms into a work of art, in which the entire process of work is included [..;] Something in which the principle of production and consumption takes on a form of quality. It’s a Gigantic project.

– Joseph Beuys
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–Brendan Fernandes

Volunteers for Issue 7

For sub-editing this issue MTLS thanks:

- Lequanne Collins-Bacchus
- Amanda Tripp
- Bianca Spence
- Rosel Kim


MTLS is grateful to Ian Loiselle for his hard work on web management.