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The polyphonic performance of testimony in Svetlana Aleksievich’s Voices from Utopia

Lindbladh, Johanna LU (2017) In Canadian Slavonic Papers 59(3-4). p.281-312
Abstract (Swedish)
This article claims that Svetlana Aleksievich’s Voices from Utopia should be read as testimony. Although based on eyewitnesses interviewed by Aleksievich, the voices represented in the five books are interpreted as the creation of an implied author. In contrast to a theoretical standpoint defining fact in a dichotomous relation to fiction, this study identifies the historical value of Aleksievich’s writing as intimately connected to the aesthetic composition. The article has two major aims. The first is to describe how the monologues and choirs in Voices from Utopia are represented. Using Mikhail Bakhtin’s concept of the polyphonic novel, the internal focalization of the testimonies, in combination with a significant reduction of the... (More)
This article claims that Svetlana Aleksievich’s Voices from Utopia should be read as testimony. Although based on eyewitnesses interviewed by Aleksievich, the voices represented in the five books are interpreted as the creation of an implied author. In contrast to a theoretical standpoint defining fact in a dichotomous relation to fiction, this study identifies the historical value of Aleksievich’s writing as intimately connected to the aesthetic composition. The article has two major aims. The first is to describe how the monologues and choirs in Voices from Utopia are represented. Using Mikhail Bakhtin’s concept of the polyphonic novel, the internal focalization of the testimonies, in combination with a significant reduction of the external perspective, both on the level of dialogue and narration, are described as together constituting a polyphonic composition. The second aim is to demonstrate how this polyphony is interrelated to trauma theory and the psychological hardships experienced by the witnesses in the act of representing a traumatic experience. The hypothesis is that the polyphonic structure could be interpreted as an ethical representation of the interviews: first, it reflects an empathy with the witnesses’ ambivalence when confessing their traumatic past; secondly, because it contributes to ethically engaging the implied reader. (Less)
Abstract
This article claims that Svetlana Aleksievich’s Voices from Utopia should be read as testimony. Although based on eyewitnesses interviewed by Aleksievich, the voices represented in the five books are interpreted as the creation of an implied author. In contrast to a theoretical standpoint defining fact in a dichotomous relation to fiction, this study identifies the historical value of Aleksievich’s writing as intimately connected to the aesthetic composition. The article has two major aims. The first is to describe how the monologues and choirs in Voices from Utopia are represented. Using Mikhail Bakhtin’s concept of the polyphonic novel, the internal focalization of the testimonies, in combination with a significant reduction of the... (More)
This article claims that Svetlana Aleksievich’s Voices from Utopia should be read as testimony. Although based on eyewitnesses interviewed by Aleksievich, the voices represented in the five books are interpreted as the creation of an implied author. In contrast to a theoretical standpoint defining fact in a dichotomous relation to fiction, this study identifies the historical value of Aleksievich’s writing as intimately connected to the aesthetic composition. The article has two major aims. The first is to describe how the monologues and choirs in Voices from Utopia are represented. Using Mikhail Bakhtin’s concept of the polyphonic novel, the internal focalization of the testimonies, in combination with a significant reduction of the external perspective, both on the level of dialogue and narration, are described as together constituting a polyphonic composition. The second aim is to demonstrate how this polyphony is interrelated to trauma theory and the psychological hardships experienced by the witnesses in the act of representing a traumatic experience. The hypothesis is that the polyphonic structure could be interpreted as an ethical representation of the interviews: first, it reflects an empathy with the witnesses’ ambivalence when confessing their traumatic past; secondly, because it contributes to ethically engaging the implied reader. (Less)
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author
organization
publishing date
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Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
keywords
Voices from Utopia, Svetlana Aleksievich, polyphony, interior monologue, testimony, Mikhail Bakhtin, Voices from Utopia, Svetlana Aleksievich, polyphony, interior monologue, testimony, Mikhail Bakhtin
in
Canadian Slavonic Papers
volume
59
issue
3-4
pages
32 pages
publisher
Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010.
external identifiers
  • scopus:85047419444
ISSN
0008-5006
DOI
10.1080/00085006.2017.1379116
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
154d3c8c-7365-4b5f-90a3-22c81765e6f9
date added to LUP
2017-12-08 11:40:35
date last changed
2018-06-10 05:25:20
@article{154d3c8c-7365-4b5f-90a3-22c81765e6f9,
  abstract     = {This article claims that Svetlana Aleksievich’s Voices from Utopia should be read as testimony. Although based on eyewitnesses interviewed by Aleksievich, the voices represented in the five books are interpreted as the creation of an implied author. In contrast to a theoretical standpoint defining fact in a dichotomous relation to fiction, this study identifies the historical value of Aleksievich’s writing as intimately connected to the aesthetic composition. The article has two major aims. The first is to describe how the monologues and choirs in Voices from Utopia are represented. Using Mikhail Bakhtin’s concept of the polyphonic novel, the internal focalization of the testimonies, in combination with a significant reduction of the external perspective, both on the level of dialogue and narration, are described as together constituting a polyphonic composition. The second aim is to demonstrate how this polyphony is interrelated to trauma theory and the psychological hardships experienced by the witnesses in the act of representing a traumatic experience. The hypothesis is that the polyphonic structure could be interpreted as an ethical representation of the interviews: first, it reflects an empathy with the witnesses’ ambivalence when confessing their traumatic past; secondly, because it contributes to ethically engaging the implied reader. },
  author       = {Lindbladh, Johanna},
  issn         = {0008-5006},
  keyword      = {Voices from Utopia, Svetlana Aleksievich, polyphony, interior monologue, testimony, Mikhail Bakhtin,Voices from Utopia,Svetlana Aleksievich,polyphony,interior monologue,testimony,Mikhail Bakhtin},
  language     = {eng},
  month        = {10},
  number       = {3-4},
  pages        = {281--312},
  publisher    = {Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010.},
  series       = {Canadian Slavonic Papers},
  title        = {The polyphonic performance of testimony in Svetlana Aleksievich’s Voices from Utopia},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00085006.2017.1379116},
  volume       = {59},
  year         = {2017},
}