Author Archives: Henriette Thune

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.


Being Together

As some of you know, I am working on a PhD thesis in the intersection between Bakthin, aesthetics, feminist theory and gender studies.  February 18th and 19th 2010 I went to an exchange seminar between the gender studies’ culture  research group at the University of Stavanger that I am part of,  and the research group Being  Together at the Centre for Gender Research at the University of Oslo.  The common denominator of the seminar (apart from the subjects treated) was Wencke Mühleisen who is leader of Network of Gender Studies at the University of Stavanger, co-advisor of my PhD thesis (next to main advisor Atle Skaftun), and together with Jørgen Lorentzen project leader of the Norwegian Research Council-financed project Being Together – Remaking Public Intimacies. It was a fruitful meeting between several  projects that were all tangent to one another, in one or another way.

My main contribution to the seminar was to present part of my adaptation analysis of Sara Stridsberg’s The Dream Faculty to the theatre piece Valerie Jean Solanas shall be president of  America, using (not surprisingly) Bakhtin’s concept of the aesthetic object from “The Problem of Material, Content and Form in Verbal Art” (PCMF, ca. 1924) as my starting point. I got a lot of relevant comments – the most interesting, perhaps, a claim that I would have to treat point one of Bakhtin’s three stage model of analysis from PCMF – my description of the content of my contemplation directed towards the aesthetic object – as new produced empirical data on the same level as the novel text and the theatre manuscript, and not primarily as part of my analytical reflection, since it is not verifiable. I am still (and will continue to be) reflecting over that. Comments from any of you will be very welcome!

Me being quite comfortable with the label Bakhtinan feminist, I am also excited about an interest for and initiative from a group of PhD and post doc scholars (also beyond the Being Together group) at the Centre of Gender Research at the University of Oslo to start a reading group on Bakhtin. I am happy to have been invited to be part of the group and will keep you posted as the reading starts.


Jørgen Bruhn and Sigurd Kværndrup in Media Borders, Multimodality and Intermediality

Media Borders, Multimodality and Intermediality

Following the 2007 conference Imagine Media! at the University of Växjö, now Linnaeus University Växjö, the conference publication Media Borders, Multimodality and Intermediality (ed. Lars Elleström) is available as of today (follow the link to order your copy!) Nordic Bakhtin Dialogue members Jørgen Bruhn and Sigurd Kværndrup, both belonging to the Linnaeus University Växjö, have articles in the publication:

Introduction: L.Elleström
The Modalities of Media: A Model for Understanding Intermedial Relations; L.Elleström
Border Talks: The Problematic Status of Media Borders in the Current Debate about Intermediality; I.Rajewsky
Intermedial Topography and Metaphorical Interaction; A.Englund
Intermedial Strategies in Multimedia Art; C.Ljungberg
‘Media’ before ‘Media’ Were Invented: The Medieval Ballad and the Romanesque Church; S.Kværndrup
The Intermediality of Field Guides: Notes Towards a Theory; H.Sandgren
Media on the Edge of Nothingness: Visual Apostrophes in Lettrism; S.Sjöberg
Penrose, ‘Seeing is Believing’: Intentionality, Mediation, and Comprehension in the Arts; S.Bruhn
Beyond Definition: A Pragmatic Approach to Intermediality; V.Robillard
Translating Sounds: Intermedial Exchanges in Amy Lowell’s ‘Stravinsky’s Three Pieces “Grotesques” for String Quartet’; R.Schober
‘Transgenic Art’: The Biopoetry of Eduardo Kac; C.Clüver
Photo/graphic Traces in Dubravka Ugresic’s The Museum of Unconditional Surrender; K.Sándor
The Dance of Intermediality: Attempt to a Semiotic Approach of Medium Specificity and Intermediality in Film; H.Király
Media in the Cinematic Imagination: Ekphrasis and the Poetics of the In-Between in Jean-Luc Godard’s Cinema; A.Pethő
Heteromediality; J.Bruhn
Intermediality Re-Visited: Some Reflections about Basic Principles of this Axe de pertinence; J.E.Müller


Research tweets

For a couple of months now I’ve been trying to cultivate tweeting for the purpose of ‘researchers being present in social media’  (particularly since I am not like a lot of you others on for instance Facebook). There hasn’t been an awful lot of activity, but enough to motivate me to try it out further 😉 There is contact from other Bakhtin researchers world-wide, people who get guided to this blog, and perhaps particularly the possibility of posing questions or picking up and answering requests and questions to and from other people who work on Bakhtin or other coinciding subjects. The twitter universe works fast and responses come quickly.

You may check it out here: and you find me here:


Atle Skaftun: Litteraturens nytteverdi (2009)

Associate professor and co-founder of Nordic Bakhtin Dialogue Atle Skaftun at the University of Stavanger, Norway has written the new book Litteraturens nytteverdi (Literature’s utility value) issued at Fagbokbokforlaget just before Christmas. On the cover we read (my translation):

“Does fiction have utility value in today’s school? In what way is it in that case useful? […] Reading and relating to fiction involves engaging in a world of voices, points of views, values and attitudes. Literature work in such a perspective is authorizing and a preparation to participation in democracy – useful and valuable and at the same time a new and sober way to legitimize fiction’s place in school.”

The book particularly enters current school debates in Norway, but the discussions most likely have transfer value beyond Norway, and particularly to corresponding school debates on literature and language in the other Nordic countries.

Dialogical discourse analysis

Mikhail Bakhtin is the central reference behind the book: “This book is anchored in a dialogical understanding of language, literature and culture, with the Russian literature critic Mikhail Bakhtin (1895-1975) as the key supplier of terms. Dialogical discourse analysis is what I will term the way of reading texts that is practiced in this book. Reading texts arranged towards such relational terms on different levels opens up to reading from the inside out; we establish an understanding of the text as a micro universe that may be tied to the world outside the text – from the text’s current time to our own time. All texts may hold things that are not immediately obvious. Texts change sense and meaning  as the world around and frames of understanding for the text change.  That means on the one hand that texts invite to be understood anew by still new readers.  On the other hand it means that we as readers may find traces of the time and the cultural context from which the text has emerged; we may see the contours of great social and historical contexts in the text’s micro universe.” (from the Introduction to the book, p. 22, my translation)

You may read more about the book here, at The National Centre for Reading Education and Research, University of Stavanger’s home page – and you may order the book for instance here or here.


XIV International Bakhtin Conference, Bologna, 4th-9th of July 2010

The XIV International Bakhtin Conference is being held in Bologna, Italy from 4th to 9th of July 2010. We are awaiting further information about the conference, and will update as soon as the conference’s web page is operative. The Bakhtin Centre at The University of Sheffield has this brief information to share about the conference. Responsible for the conference is Federico Pellizzi, to be reached at

As information about the conference has been scarce, the Call for Papers unfortunately outdated already a while ago; December 31st 2009.


Happy Bakhtinian 2010!

2010 is here and so is a new year of Bakhtin studies. 2009 ended with an inspiring meeting at the University of Växjö – now Linnaeus University Växjö – and more about what we discussed there will follow shortly. In the meantime, here’s a snapshot of some of the listeners to the talks the first afternoon.

From the left: Helge Vidar Holm (University of Bergen/Université de Caen), Anne Gjelsvik (NTNU), Liva Bodil Kalvik (University of Bergen), Tommy Olofsson (Linnaeus University Växjö), Sigurd Kværndrup (Linnaeus University Växjö) , Jan Lundquist (The Danish Bakhtin Society) and Torgeir Skorgen (University of Bergen).

Bakhtin and Intermediality

November is coming to an end and Nordic Bakhtin Dialogue’s  next seminar Bakhtin and Intermediality in cooperation with Forum for Intermedial Studies at Växjö University is coming up in less than a week. About 20 researchers in the fields of Bakhtin and/or intermediality travel from France, Denmark, Sweden and Norway to Växjö, Småland, Sweden December 3rd and 4th 2009 to discuss:

Can Bakhtin contribute to intermedial theory formation and analysis?

A wide range of subjects have been announced for the talks: We expect to hear about carnevalesque ballad motifs and Bakhtin’s concept of chronotope and stylistics in ballad research. We will be introduced to Mozart and Bakhtin and Flaubert as historiographer. Coming up is Bakhtin and the arts as well as  Bakhtin and the visual arts. There will be sound and speech in film and the TV-series The Wire read with Bakhtin, as well as Internet and discourse analysis, Bakhtin and net analysis, and intermedial somersaults. Jørgen Bruhn (Bakhtin and intermediality researcher, initiator and organizer) kicks off the discussion with the survey talk “Intermediality and Bakhtin?” We are looking forward to two days of customary fruitful discussions – and particularly to meeting up with the Växjö Bakhtinians and intermedialists!

Heteroglossia and intermediality

In this blog the reader will meet various voices and languages – as is also the case when the research network behind the blog, Nordic Bakhtin Dialogue, gathers for conferences and seminars. The next get-together coming up is, as Nordic readers will already know, at the University of Växjö, Sweden, in exactly one month; December 3rd and 4th 2009. Intermedialists and Bakhtin researchers – some identifying themselves as both already before the seminar – will spend two days together under the heading Can Bakhtin contribute to intermedial theory formation and analysis? We are looking forward to it!