A Dialogue of voices : feminist literary theory and Bakhtin by Bakhtin, Mikhail Mikhaĭlovich; Wussow, Helen; Hohne, Karen

By Bakhtin, Mikhail Mikhaĭlovich; Wussow, Helen; Hohne, Karen Ann; Bakhtin, M

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And she's not deadly. She's beautiful and she's laughing. "Laughter," Bakhtin writes, "demolishes fear and piety before an object" ("Epic and Novel," 23). What I have tried to argue here is that the Medusa is not truly laughing, not in the Bakhtinian sense, for the Medusa's laughter replaces whatever myth it subverts with another version of the same pious, perhaps even frightening, image. According to the myth, the monster is deadly. Merely to look upon her reduces the observer to silence, turns him to stone.

5. M. M. Bakhtin, "Epic and Novel," in The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays by M. M. Bakhtin, ed. Michael Holquist, trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981), 11. Quotations from this essay and others in the volume are cited in the text by title and page number. 6. Clair Wills, "Upsetting the Public: Carnival, Hysteria, and Women's Texts" in Hirschkop and Shepherd, Bakhtin and Cultural Theory, 130-51. Feminist critics have adopted Bakhtin's theory of carnival more readily than his theory of the novel, though both function dialogically and may be equally subversive.

Yeats's conception of the peasantry parallels Bakhtin's vision of the early Renaissance folk in that both serve contemporary political ends. Although in his youth he had accompanied Lady Gregory from cottage to cottage collecting folklore and fairy tales, the middle-class poet had never undertaken serious anthropological research. His attempt to combine the oral folk tradition with sophisticated poetic techniques resulted in a generic hybrid. There is no reason, however, to deplore this procedure.

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