Polyphony (literature)  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

In literature, polyphony is a feature of narrative, which includes a diversity of points of view and voices. The concept was introduced by Mikhail Bakhtin, based on the musical concept polyphony. Bakhtin claimed that polyphony and heteroglossia are the defining features of the novel as a literary genre.

For Bakhtin the primary example of polyphony was Dostoevsky's prose. Bakhtin argued that Dostoyevsky, unlike previous novelists, does not appear to aim for a 'single vision' and goes beyond simply describing situations from various angles. Dostoevsky engendered fully dramatic novels of ideas where conflicting views and characters are left to develop unevenly into unbearable crescendo (The Brothers Karamazov).

Modernism and contemporary examples

See also


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