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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

In the philosophy of language and philology, chronotope is a term coined by M.M. Bakhtin to describe the way time and space are described by language, and, in particular, how literature represents them. The term itself (Template:Lang-ru), from Template:Lang-el ("time") and τόπος ("space"), can be literally translated as "time-space." Bakhtin developed the term in his 1937 essay "Template:Lang-ru", published in English as "Forms of Time and of the Chronotope in the Novel."


Bakhtin scholars Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist state that the chronotope is "a unit of analysis for studying language according to the ratio and characteristics of the temporal and spatial categories represented in that language". Specific chronotopes are said to correspond to particular genres, or relatively stable ways of speaking, which themselves represent particular worldviews or ideologies. To this extent, a chronotope is both a cognitive concept and a narrative feature of language.

In the Dialogic Imagination, Bakhtin defines the Chronotope: "We will give the name chronotope (literally, "time space") to the intrinsic connectedness of temporal and spatial relationships that are artistically expressed in literature. This term [space-time] is employed in mathematics, and was introduced as part of Einstein's Theory of Relativity. The special meaning it has in relativity theory is not important for our purposes; we are borrowing it for literary criticism almost as a metaphor (almost, but not entirely). What counts for us is the fact that it expresses the inseparability of space and time (time as the fourth dimension of space). We understand the chronotope as a formally constitutive category of literature; we will not deal with the chronotope in other areas of culture.' In the literary artistic chronotope, spatial and temporal indicators are fused into one carefully thought-out, concrete whole. Time, as it were, thickens, takes on flesh, becomes artistically visible; likewise, space becomes charged and responsive to the movements of time, plot and history. This intersection of axes and fusion of indicators characterizes the artistic chronotope. The chronotope in literature has an intrinsic generic signifi cance. It can even be said that it is precisely the chronotope that defines genre and generic distinctions, for in literature the primary category in the chronotope is time. The chronotope as a formally constitutive category determines to a significant degree the image of man in literature as well. The image of man is always intrinsically chronotopic"


The distinctiveness of chronotopic analysis, in comparison to most other uses of time and space in language analysis, stems from the fact that neither time nor space is privileged by Bakhtin, they are utterly interdependent and they should be studied in this manner.

Linguistic anthropologist Keith Basso invoked "chronotopes" in discussing Western [Apache] stories linked with places. At least in the 1980s when Basso was writing about the stories, geographic features reminded the Western Apache of "the moral teachings of their history" by recalling to mind events that occurred there in important moral narratives. By merely mentioning "it happened at [the place called] 'men stand above here and there,'" storyteller Nick Thompson could remind locals of the dangers of joining "with outsiders against members of their own community." Geographic features in the Western Apache landscape are chronotopes, Basso says, in precisely the way Bakhtin defines the term when he says they are “points in the geography of a community where time and space intersect and fuse. Time takes on flesh and becomes visible for human contemplation; likewise, space becomes charged and responsive to the movements of time and history and the enduring character of a people. ...Chronotopes thus stand as monuments to the community itself, as symbols of it, as forces operating to shape its members' images of themselves” (1981:84, as cited by Basso 1984:44-45).

Recent applications

More recently chronotopicity has been adopted into the analysis of classroom events and conversations; for example, by Raymond Brown and Peter Renshaw in order to view "student participation in the classroom as a dynamic process constituted through the interaction of past experience, ongoing involvement, and yet-to-be-accomplished goals" (Brown&Renshaw 2006: 247-259).

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Chronotope" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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