The Creative Speaker

"As a living, socio-ideological concrete thing, as heteroglot opinion, language, for the individual consciousness, lies on the borderline between oneself and the other. The word in language is half someone else's. It becomes "one's own" only when the speaker populates it with his own intention, his own accent, when he appropriates the word, adapting it to his own semantic and expressive intention. Prior to this moment of appropriation, the word does not exist in a neutral and impersonal language. . . but rather it exists in other people's mouths, in other people's contexts, serving other people's intentions: it is from there that one must take the word, and make it one's own (The Dialogic Imagination 294)."

There are two sides to the account of dialogic interplay. On the one hand, language is a massive institutional form. It is shared and used by all in a nation or culture. Abstracted from communication, language is also a denotative machine. As Barthes and Derrida show, it conceals its inherent instability as a vehicle for meaning. On the other hand, however, language can be and is appropriated for individual employment. This most commonly occurs in the dialogic speech setting, and it is in this capacity that language can be referred to as a "living thing." Bahktin therefore more directly approaches a problem that Barthes leaves in relative obscurity: how much room for creativity exists beyond the network of cultural codes, norms, paradigms, etc. that constitute the vital substance of any literary work? To be able to traverse this network freely and openly is fine enough, but is there ever the possibility for new stuff to be produced? Bahktin would assert that there is, and this opportunity, once again, is centrally located in the speech act (its being a dialogic act is crucial, because there are "monologic" utterances that Bahktin does not valorize as highly, due to their singular nature). So, when literature successfully takes advantage of heteroglossia, the stage is set for creativity. And the act can be displayed numerous ways.

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