“As Bakhtin puts it, one can ‘curl up comfortably and die’ with the abstract meaning of a sentence (MHS, p. 160), but not with its contextual meaning” (127).
A brief summary of Bakhtin’s three global concepts (according to Morson & Emerson) follows:
“As a view of the world, prosaics is suspicious of explanatory systems (of theoretism); it also suggests that the most important events in life are not the grand, dramatic, or catastrophic but the apparently small and prosaic ones of everyday life. When these ideas are important to Bakhtin, they contribute to his many insights about the value of tradition and lend a strong antirevolutionary aura to his writing. As developed in “Discourse in the Novel” (in Dialogic Imagination) and other writings, prosaics (as opposed to poetics) is an approach to novels and related forms of prose that takes them on their own terms. Since the ethos of novels is a prosaic world-view, the two senses of prosaics are closely connected.”
“Bakhtin used the term “unfinalizability” for his second global concept. The best-known formulation of it occurs in his Dostoevsky book: “Nothing conclusive has yet taken place in the world, the ultimate word of the world and about the world has not yet been spoken, the world is open and free, everything is still in the future and will always be in the future” (Problems 166). It leads to a view of people as always making themselves and as always able to render untrue any “finalizing” definition. So long as they live, people have a “loophole.” The recognition of each person’s unfinalizability, the capacity for “surprisingness,” is central to Bakhtin’s ethics. He came to view the novel as the genre that understands people in just this correct way, for in the novel, no matter how many categories are applied to a character, whether physical, social, or even psychological, something is always left over–a “surplus of humanness” (Dialogic 37). Unrealized “potential” makes one human.”
Dialogue “refers to a concept of “truth” as a conversation rather than a series of propositions. Whereas some truths are monologic–i.e., they can be stated by a single person and in a single voice–others require at least two interacting consciousnesses and are therefore essentially dialogic in nature. Dialectics is supremely monologic and must not be confused with dialogue: “Dialogue and dialectics. Take a dialogue and remove the voices (the partitioning of voices), remove the intonations (emotional and individualizing ones), carve out abstract concepts and judgments from living words and responses, [then] cram everything into one abstract consciousness–and that’s how you get dialectics” (Speech 147). When applied to language, “dialogue” has at least two principal meanings. First, it indicates that language is essentially a matter of utterances rather than of sentences; and utterances are by their nature dialogic in that listeners (or readers), real and potential, shape the utterance from the outset.”