, Volume 35, Issue 3, pp 281–302 | Cite as

Task of the teaching life: Self through bakhtinian dialogue and ideological engagement

  • Douglas McKnight


This article describes Mikhail Bakhtin’s 20th century work on dialogue as it may serve one engaged in the teaching as a vocation and existential pursuit rather than as a job or profession. Dialogue, as theorized by Bakhtin, within the pedagogical real, potentially becomes a mod of being through which the individual engages in the project of selfhood, a task basic to the human enterprise. For Bakhtin, dialogue was in part a structure within and through which we come to consciousness and give flesh and meaning to our existence. According to Bakhtin, the structure of self is dialogical and unfinalizable, meaning that each individual comes to consciousness through dialogue with some other. From a Bakhtinian perspective, the, selfhood as a dialogical formation constitutes a fundamental relation by which we much participate without end, making dialogue an unavoidable social activity immersed in language.


Bakhtin dialogue existentialism self didactic teachers ideology language monologue discourse 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bakhtin, M. (1981).The dialogic imagination: Four essays (V. Liapunov, Trans. & Notes). Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.Google Scholar
  2. Bakhtin, M. (1984).Problem’s of Dostoevsky’s poetics (W. Booth, Trans.). Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Bakhtin, M. (1990).Art and answerability: Early philosophical essays (V. Liapunov, Trans. & Notes). Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.Google Scholar
  4. Bingham, C. A dangerous benefit: Dialogue, discourse, and Michel Foucault’s critique of representation.Interchange,33(4), 351–469.Google Scholar
  5. Britzman, D. (1999). Is there a problem with knowing thyself? Toward a poststructuralist view of teacher identity. In T. Shanahan (Ed.),Teachers thinking, teachers knowing: Reflections on literacy and language education (pp. 53–75). Urbana, IL: National Council for Teachers of English.Google Scholar
  6. Burbules, N. (1993).Dialogue in teaching: Theory and practice. New York: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
  7. Burbules, N. (2000). The limits of dialogue as a critical pedagogy. In P. Trifonas (Ed.),Revolutionary pedagogies (pp. 251–273). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  8. Cherryholmes, C. (1988).Power and criticism: Poststructural investigations in education. New York: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
  9. Denton, D. (1974). The mode of being called teaching. In D. Denton (Ed.),Existentialism and phenomenology in teaching: Collected essays (pp. 99–115). New York: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
  10. Ellsworth, E. (1989). Why doesn’t this feel empowering? Working through the repressive myths of critical pedagogy.Harvard Educational Review,59, 298.Google Scholar
  11. Emerson, C. (1997).The first hundred years of Mikhail Bakhtin. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Foucault, M. (1980).Power/knowledge: Selected interviews and other writings, 1971–1977. New York: Pantheon Books.Google Scholar
  13. Greene, M. (1973).Teacher as stranger. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Company.Google Scholar
  14. Greene, M. (1995).Releasing the imagination: Essays on education, the arts, and social change. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, Inc.Google Scholar
  15. Holquist, M. (1987). Inner speech as social rhetoric.Diechlacho,10, 41–52.Google Scholar
  16. Holquist, M. (1990).Dialogism: Bakhtin, and his world. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  17. Huebner, D. (1998). Teaching as a vocation. In D. Hueber,The lure of the transcendent: Collected essays (pp. 379–388). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  18. Jones, A. (1999). The limits of cross-cultural dialogue: Pedagogy, desire and absolution in the classroom.Educational Theory,49, 299–316.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. McKnight, D. (2002). Teaching without existence: Didacticism as monological discourse.Journal of Thought,37(2), 45–62.Google Scholar
  20. Masschelein, J. (1998). World and life or education and the question of meaning (of life).Interchange,29(4), 371–384.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Morson, G. (1986).Bakhtin: Essays and dialogues on his work. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  22. Morson, G. & Emerson, C. (1990).Mikhail Bakhtin: Creation of a prosaics. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Pinar, W. & Gumet, M. (1976).Toward a poor curriculum. Dubuque, IA: Kendal/Hunt Publishing.Google Scholar
  24. Richardson, V. (Ed.). (2001).Handbook of research on teaching (4th ed.). Washington, DC: American Educational Research Association.Google Scholar
  25. Roberts, P. (1999). Beyond Buber: Dialogue, Education and Politics.Journal of Educational Thought,33(2), 183–189.Google Scholar
  26. Robinson, V. (1995). Dialogue needs a point and a purpose.Educational Theory,49(2), 235–249.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Sidorkin, A. (1999).Beyond discourse. Education, the self and dialogue. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.Google Scholar
  28. Weedon, C. (1987).Feminist practice and poststructuralist theory. New York: Basil Blackwell.Google Scholar
  29. Whitman, W. (1900). Leaves of grass. Philadelphia, PA: David McKay.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Douglas McKnight
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Secondary Curriculum, Teaching and Learning College of EducationUniversity of AlabamaTuscaloosaUSA

Personalised recommendations