Bakhtin’s aesthetic object and The Dream Faculty at the University of Agder

Valerie and Cosmogirl - photo Gisle Bjørneby

Valerie and Cosmogirl (photo: Gisle Bjørneby)

Tomorrow I head for Kristiansand where I have been invited to give a seminar about Sara Stridsberg’s The Dream Faculty at the University of Agder Thursday morning. Professor Unni Langås has a group of master students studying canon formation and critique, and they were already scheduled to read The Dream Faculty before I was invited to join them about a month ago.

I am looking very much forward to getting these students not only to discuss The Dream Faculty with me, but also to try out and discuss Bakhtin’s 3 step method for analysis of the aesthetic object put forth in “The Problem of Content, Material and Form in Verbal Art” (ca. 1924). Practically this means that I start out sketching Bakhtin’s method and then let every one of them try to formulate the content of their respective contemplations directed towards The Dream Faculty (step 1), before I present them to mine. Based on this I will present and discuss an overview of my description of the “work in its cognitive givenness”, as Bakhtin formulates it (step 2), the first part of the analysis that is verifiable, and that therefore potentially should be of relevance not only to understanding my immediate experience of the work, but also to substantiating the students’ experiences. Ultimately the students will be doing an hour of group work, where I intend to ask them to try to link the content of their respective contemplations to the description of the work in its cognitive givenness (step 3).

To problematize the idea of form shaping ideology (or perhaps more specifically ideology shaping form?) I will put The Dream Faculty in perspective, introducing my reading of the Norwegian theatre adaptation of The Dream Faculty: Valerie Jean Solanas will be president of America (National Theatre Torshov, 2009). I argue that although the theatre play resembles the novel at several key points on the surface (character constellations, story, style, courses of events), the two aesthetic objects produce very different meaning.  By analysis I argue that this discrepancy is not primarily result of media specific differences, but instead displays aesthetic form mirroring context and ideological choices (about transportation of transmedial phenomenons or not) made by the artists involved in the adaptation process (for instance translator, director, adapter, actors).

Bakhtin’s aesthetic object consists of aesthetics, ethics and epistemology intertwined, and might therefore inform us on the relation between (aesthetic) form and (ethical-epistemological) ideology.


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