Brief Encounters, Long Farewells: Bakhtin and Scottish Literature
The first textual engagement between Bakhtin and Scottish literature came in David Morris's 1987 article 'Burns and Heteroglossia', published six years after Bakhtin's vogue had been seriously enabled by the English translation of 'Discourse in the Novel' as part of The Dialogic Imagination collection. Morris sees in Bakhtin a potential resolution of the 'linguistic split' that had encumbered Burns's reception in and beyond Scotland, and in so doing implies the productive extension of Bakhtin's ideas into similarly problematic areas of the Scottish literary tradition in general. In another, albeit closely related sense, however, Morris is also responding to a perceived need to rescue the reputation of Burns - who was then a victim of much greater neglect than he is now - by associating him with a prestige figure from the contemporary moment whose primary constituency was not the Scottish or any other 'national' literary tradition, but rather the inter- or even supra-national domain of literary theory. From its very beginnings, and notwithstanding the persuasiveness of much of Morris's analysis, the relationship between Bakhtin and Scottish literature has been as much about prestige and exposure as it has about theory - much less literature.
What Morris had attempted to do for Burns, other critics would, in the early 1990s, attempt to do for an entire literary tradition. Prominent among these was Robert Crawford, who launched a journal and a concept - 'Scotlands', plural - on a wave of affirmatory Bakhtinian diversity. Crawford makes his pragmatism quite explicit in the 'Introduction' to his 1993 book Identifying Poets: Self and Territory in Twentieth-Century Poetry, which is an attempt both to recuperate the schismatic thinking that has persistently characterised Scottish criticism and to place the erstwhile 'marginal' or 'peripheral' at the productive centre of a post-modern world literature. As Crawford writes:
Scottish literature has been ghettoised recently in part at any rate by the refusal of most of its critics to engage with international developments in literary theory.
Quite apart from this local pragmatic motivation, however, there is a sense in which Bakhtin's appeal for Scottish criticism need not be differentiated from the set of reasons for which he initially appealed elsewhere, namely that his ideas are less threatening to the broad humanist project than many of the theoretical trends that preceded him, more easily reconciled with established critical approaches, and, due to their fragmented publication history, emerged in the West at precisely the point when Theory-with-a-capital-T appeared poised to consume literature and literary criticism whole. Bakhtin's almost uncanny ability to force criticism to rethink its central precepts without quite undermining them altogether is as convincing as any explanation for the sheer force of his vogue in the late 1980s and early 1990s. At the same time, however, Bakhtin appeared to offer something more - and more specific - to Scottish criticism than the generalised, 'soft' theoretical alternative that would prove so globally attractive, and in two closely related ways. The first requires us to ask why the situation Crawford describes was able to develop in the first place. How was it that, before Bakhtin, the high Structuralism of the late 1960s and early 1970s, which had colonised large swathes of the European and north American humanities, could leave Scottish literary studies largely untouched? Why was the Scottish environment not so much resistant, as virtually deaf to the deconstructive armoury of Structuralism's ungrateful progeny, Jacques Derrida, which might have been turned to account in engagement with the pretensions and aporiae of the dominant discourses of the British state? Or to the related analyses and exposure of structures of power of Michel Foucault, who has at least spawned one of the most memorable puns in Scottish or any other criticism, L.M. Findlay's 'Scots, wha hae their Foucault read'? Scottish literary studies, as we shall later see, would only respond to Derridean inversion and Foucauldian resistance once they had been absorbed and transformed in the discourses of postcolonial theory, once they had been 'domesticated' and harnessed to a project whose aims could be interpreted primarily, if at the same time a little tendentiously, in terms of national self-determination. Prior to that, however, the inter- or trans-national aspirations of much twentieth-century literary and critical theory, and particularly its late and most concentrated products like Derrida and Foucault, have rendered it consistently inimical to the very notion of literary 'traditions'; hardly inviting territory for the Scottish tradition, which has spent much of the last century struggling, critically at least, for a sense of its own legitimacy and autonomy. Bakhtin, on the other hand, represented a moment of fissure in the fabric of 'international literary theory', through which Scottish literature might rescue itself from marginalisation, without at the same time having to abandon the search for those elements of a 'native' literary culture and criticism that would further, and perhaps even complete, the process of legitimisation from within. It is one of the many paradoxes of all forms of essentialism that external influence might not only be a means by which essentialism can be overcome, but, in different circumstances, a necessary fuel for its further propagation.
The second sense in which Bakhtin has offered something more and more specific to Scottish literary criticism, which is inseparable from this question of simple timing, brings us to the substance of his ideas themselves, or at least those elements of his thinking that dominated his early reception in the West. In their different, if often recklessly conflated ways, the concepts of heteroglossia and carnival seemed, as Morris perceived from the outset, to speak directly to long-standing debates around a literary tradition that had been defined by its linguistic divisions, by its cultural (and linguistic) marginality, and, perhaps above all, which had made duality its central defining characteristic. It seems appropriate, therefore, to structure an initial survey of responses to Bakhtin in the Scottish context around these two central ideas - heteroglossia and carnival.
David Morris's central claim is that Burns, as a poet who thrives on the tensions between English and Scots diction and between high and low social registers of speech, is a 'native speaker of heteroglossia'. Carol McGuirk, in a fairly bitter response to Morris, in which she deplores his unwitting collusion in forcing Burns back into the ghetto of 'naturalness' and 'orality', argues that, if Bakhtin is right in his conception of the nature of language, we are all, in effect, 'native speakers' of heteroglossia. This in fact perfectly dramatises the tensions and critical slippages around Bakhtin and heteroglossia, because both Morris and McGuirk are, to an extent, correct in their ostensibly contradictory assertions. For heteroglossia is presented by Bakhtin as a social fact, and not primarily as a literary property; heteroglossia is the condition of language as such, and not a description of some particular literary use of language. As Bakhtin writes:
the centripetal forces of the life of language, embodied in a 'unitary language', act in the midst of actual heteroglossia. At every given moment in its evolution, language is stratified not only into linguistic dialects [.] but also, and for us this is the essential point, into socio-ideological languages: the languages of social groupings, 'professional' languages, 'generic' languages, the languages of different generations, etc.
Heteroglossia may penetrate the literary work to greater or lesser degree, assisted (or hindered) by the range of compositional devices available to different genres at different points in the evolution of any literary system. The novel, of course, is the genre Bakhtin favours as most receptive to heteroglossia (as he looks back over the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries), but it is implicit that, as literary systems evolve, other forms may become just as receptive. And particular 'vanguard' poets - Bakhtin returns again and again to Pushkin in the Russian context - may herald the 'novelization' of the poetic genres, i.e. their increased ability to absorb and interanimate the languages of heteroglossia. It is clear from our vantage point in time the extent to which this has occurred in modern poetry, in Scotland and elsewhere, so we need not dwell too long, as McGuirk does, on Bakhtin's over-emphasised and mis-read distinction between 'novel' and 'verse'.
At those historical moments when these 'languages of heteroglossia' do not simply clash, but encounter one another in a mutually self-defining process of dialogue, language itself is defined as a dynamic and evolving incorporative process. Bakhtin calls this 'dialogized heteroglossia', which is the 'authentic environment of the utterance, in which it lives and takes its shape'. One of the disarmingly simple reasons Bakhtin is so interested in literature is that the epochal boundaries between cultures and ideologies - as Rome absorbs and transforms the language and ideology of Greece, for example - are fairly difficult to monitor. Books, on the other hand, which are utterances made out of the complex organisation of a range of other contingent utterances, offer themselves as specimens in a virtual 'laboratory' for the study of human change, and at the personal as well as the broad social level. It is, however, regrettable that, despite the persistent invocation of heteroglossia in relation to Scottish literature throughout the 1990s, the results from the Scottish laboratory - in critical terms at least, and with notable exceptions - have been somewhat disappointing.
Early 'applications' of Bakhtin to individual writers include Ruth Grogan's judgement that the prevalence of constructions of direct address in the poetry of W.S. Graham is evidence of a 'dialogic imagination'; or Sheryl Stevenson, who makes a similar case on the basis of Muriel Spark's collage of registers in The Abbess of Crewe. Yet Bakhtin, as the above definitions imply, is clear that while dialogised heteroglossia may enter the literary work by means of 'surface' compositional forms, the mere presence of the compositional form of dialogue does not necessarily signify dialogism; various compositional forms of dialogue can be controlled in such a manner as to produce nothing more than an authorial monologue. Similarly, the mere presence in the literary work of a diversity of speech forms is not of itself constitutive of dialogism, which depends on the mutual orientation and indeed interpenetration of those forms. This latter point motivates Robert Crawford's slightly more sophisticated attempt to apply Bakhtin in Identifying Poets, which still falls short of either illuminating Bakhtin's ideas or the text to which it is applied. Crawford takes the line from MacDiarmid's 'The Bonnie Broukit Bairn', 'Mars is braw in crammasy', and argues that the presence in this single line of a single speaker of words that are identifiably Scots - 'braw' and 'crammasy' - and Standard English - 'Mars', 'is' and 'and' - indicates a zone of dialogue between Scots and English world-views, and that the use of this mixed diction is a form of 'dialogized heteroglossia'. Yet there is no attempt to examine the social provenance of the linguistic material - where does it come from? - and little scope, within the context of this single line, for examining the ways in which it conforms (or not) to compositional markers of, for example, change of speaking-subject in the text - in other words, what is it doing there?
J.C. Bittenbender comes closer to the matter in identifying one of the most celebrated fault lines in all of Scottish literature as fertile ground for heteroglossic analysis:
Kings may be blest, but Tam was glorious,
O'er a' the ills o' life victorious!
But pleasures are like poppies spread
You seize the flower, its bloom is shed;
Or like the snow falls in the river,
A moment white-then melts forever;
Or like the borealis race,
That flit ere you can point their place;
Or like the rainbow's lovely form
Evanishing amid the storm.- 
This passage of course provoked Edwin Muir's gaffe about Burns 'thinking in English and feeling in Scots', which has become, in relation to the tradition more broadly, one of the least welcome echoes of Gregory Smith's duality. Bittenbender is right in arguing that the lines and causes of linguistic division are more complex - and more Bakhtinian - than Muir's simplistic dichotomy would suggest. In a development of Thomas Crawford's analysis, Bittenbender argues that Burns's abrupt transition to standard English is occasioned not only by the tone of remonstration that interrupts Tam's mood of exultation, it signals also the refutation of that remonstrance through its association with a (parodied) 'official' language. Burns's narrator does not lurch from emotional celebration of bodily pleasure to a rational, sober realisation of the need for restraint, from a celebration of sensual freedom associated with the Scots dialect to a cautious, rational reflection on that freedom associated with (official) English, somewhat in the manner of the competing devils on Oor Wullie's shoulders; instead, he not only mocks the consciousness that might advise such restraint, but does so by mimicking the linguistic registers in which it might do so and, quite pointedly, their literary manifestation in Augustan verse. Two entirely different world-views are indeed brought into contact, as are two social structures, two literary cultures; they are not, however, brought into conflict as such, but rather into a mutually affective 'zone of dialogical contact'. And this is where Bittenbender undermines his own avowedly 'Bakhtinian' approach, by attributing these points of view to 'two narrators', and attempting to reconstruct a compositional dialogue between them. The dialogue, in a Bakhtinian sense, in fact takes place between languages, and between the world-views, social structures and literary cultures they embody; Burns is indeed a 'native speaker of heteroglossia', pace Morris, because it is in his language and in his entire socio-cultural profile - in him as a speaking, writing, instantiating human being - that this embodiment is effected.
The above lines from 'Tam o'Shanter' are offered as a point at which the dialogical interaction between languages becomes obvious, or is made obvious through the authorial choices Burns makes. Yet Bakhtin would insist, in vindication this time of McGuirk, that these dialogic 'peaks' are surrounded on all sides by similar if less marked effects, in literature as beyond it, because
dialogic orientation is, of course, characteristic of any discourse - it is the natural disposition of any living word.
In this context, McGuirk's criticisms of Morris, which are founded on the idea that Morris somehow denies Burns's artistic agency by implying that his gift is to be 'wired to the folk', that he is a neutral sounding-board for the social life of language, appear misguided. If all discourse is inherently dialogic, a Bakhtinian 'standard' for verbal art implies a new, higher form of verisimilitude: what makes Pushkin - and Dostoevsky, for that matter - 'great' in Bakhtin's estimation is this prescient 'receptiveness' to what other writers fail to hear, the personified and embodied ideologiia of social life in all its layers and complexities. Indeed, Dostoevsky characterises himself not as a 'psychologist', but rather as 'a realist in the highest sense', and Bakhtin defines his specificity thus:
Dostoevsky possessed the genius to hear the dialogue of his epoch or, more precisely, to hear his epoch as a great dialogue, to detect in it not just separate voices, but above all dialogic relations between voices, their dialogic interaction.
Pushkin and Dostoevsky are not bad company in which to be, as McGuirk complains of Morris's characterisation of Burns, 'an isolated special case'.
The hunt for heteroglossia in Scottish literature has also, however, in its sublimated competitive desire to capitalise on the linguistic diversity that was for so long regarded as a weakness, led to something of a paradox. The mere presence of diversity of speech or the orchestration of multiple registers has been unproblematically equated with heteroglossia in the Scottish context, where in fact they are often indicative of quite the opposite. Further, in a reverse reminder of Bakhtin's general caution with regard to the naked value of diversity of style and register, James Kelman, the central figure in the contemporary 'vernacular revival' in Scottish prose fiction, has sought not diversity, but rather to extend the ambit of a single or 'pure' dialect voice into those areas of the narrative from which it has traditionally been excluded; Kelman might thus, in distinction to Burns, be characterised as a native speaker of (literary) monoglossia. Kelman's How Late It Was, How Late, for example, is saturated with the single register of its central character. There is little distinction in terms of speech register between the zones of the novel dominated by dialogue, narration or interior monologue; indeed the merging of these zones might be said to be Kelman's explicit aim. By way of contrast, Alasdair Gray's Poor Things is almost entirely unconcerned with the question of non-standard English, but, through its 'redoubling' of the narrative and its reliance on parody and stylisation, offers more promising ground for an examination of the way in which novels are penetrated by social heteroglossia. Indeed, Gray's somewhat desultory rendition of various regional dialects in Something Leather demands to be read not as parodic of those forms of speech in themselves, but rather of the practice and techniques of their representation in fiction. Scottish criticism, in its partial embrace of Bakhtin, has been too willing to read heteroglossia in over-simplistic terms, on one hand as a purely literary property, and on the other, paradoxically, as something socially one-dimensional, and the process of its passage into literature as unproblematically transparent. This returns us to the point from which we began, namely the pathos of a culture or a literary tradition striving above all to establish its own autonomy. Kelman's literary practice implies that this is best accomplished by 'fend[ing] off the voices and registers of dominant discourse as unworthy dialogic partners', as Donald Wesling has characterised this 'monoglot' strand in modern Scottish fiction generally, arguing in essence that the Bakhtinian idea of heteroglossia is not something the linguistically diverse or 'split' Scottish tradition somehow 'naturally' embodies, but is rather something against which it has come to define itself.
We might usefully extend the scope of this question by suggesting that various instantiations of Theory-with-a-capital-T have tended to be regarded by Scottish criticism as among the most forbidding and even oppressive of such 'dominant discourses'. This characterisation - and partial explanation - of Scottish criticism's frequent resistance to theory is consistent with the fact that the other Bakhtinian category that has been widely used in the Scottish context, carnival, is uniquely adapted to eluding this perception of external, 'dominant' discourses. Where heteroglossia has spoken to Scottish literature's perennial linguistic divisions, carnival has been invoked as a strategy to explain - and to some extent repair - Scotland's perception of itself as culturally marginal.
We have to begin by noting, however, that such distinctions have not always been terribly clearly observed, and that there has been a fairly dismal tendency for Bakhtin's categories - polyphony, double-voiced discourse, dialogism, as well as carnival and heteroglossia - to be applied as some kind of homogeneous, undifferentiated paste. Any and all of these concepts, each of which has different purchase in the context of Bakhtin's work as a whole, has stood in the Scottish context for something like 'differentness', or maybe even, in certain hands, 'resistance' or 'subversiveness'. The substantive differences between the concepts of heteroglossia and carnival, in particular, have been effaced in the name of swift application, facilitated by a broad assumption of their status as progressive or liberating cognates. J.C. Bittenbender's article, cited above in connection with heteroglossia, is a case in point, traversing the ground around heteroglossia as a brief prelude to the real business of the article, which is, as its title confirms, 'Bakhtinian Carnival in the Poetry of Robert Burns'. Burns's heteroglot practice is implied to be utterly consistent with his status as a poet of the carnivalesque, and heteroglossia is equated with carnival as an identical 'political' strategy.
Bittenbender's article also displays a tendency that has marked critical response to carnival in general: while he is assiduous in constructing his picture of the culture of the 'holy fair' in eighteenth-century Scotland from a range of historians as diverse as Callum Brown, Leigh Eric Schmidt and Henry Gray Graham, he never once pauses on the question of the historical provenance of Bakhtin's description of mediaeval carnival. Bakhtin's regard for scholarly propriety has recently been questioned in a number of quarters, and it is clear that, in his migrant and difficult life, which might in some respects be compared to that of a rootless Rabelaisian cleric, his regard for the proper citation and use of sources varied significantly, and from necessity. That life was never more difficult, and sources never more a matter for equivocation, than during the late 1930s and early 1940s when the bulk of his key text on carnival, Rabelais and his World , was written. That the book has been re-assessed, if not quite devalued, as a description of mediaeval carnival practice need not necessarily undermine its theoretical potential, in the Scottish context or any other. Yet Bakhtin's persistent accentuation of the positive, liberating, subversive nature of carnival reversal, and his willingness to ignore the dark obverse of the coin, have serious implications: Bakhtin's 'wishfulness' is consistent with and revealing of a similar impulse among Scottish carnivalizers. He is not interested in the licensed violence against minority elements in the community often associated with carnival in central and eastern Europe; nor does he over-emphasise what is carnival's defining characteristic, namely that it is fleeting, and might in fact be argued to entrench the structures of authority which are temporarily reversed, but which remain in place when the carnival is over. In short, Bakhtin's willingness to allow the evidence to fit the case in hand chimes all too conveniently with the tendency of a culture and/or criticism, striving above all for a sense of its own legitimacy and autonomy, to adapt uncritically - when it does not simply disregard - whatever comes to hand.
The paradox of Bakhtin's Rabelais book is that this, ostensibly the most historical of all Bakhtin's writings, relates more to the Stalinist present than to the mediaeval past. When Bakhtin writes of 'the collective ancestral body of the people', for example, or that carnival was
the victory of laughter over fear [.] over the oppression and guilt related to all that was consecrated and forbidden. It was the defeat of divine and human power, of authoritarian commandments and prohibitions, of death and punishment after death,
he invokes Stalin's systematic slaughter of the class to which Bakhtin had belonged (and perhaps also the apocalyptic conflict that was to come). The Rabelais book is a kind of secular prayer that the 'collective ancestral body of the people' will survive.
When we seek to 'apply' this already historically skewed account back onto periods when a recognisable 'carnival culture' still existed - eighteenth-century Scotland, perhaps - we enter a hall of mirrors and risk authoring a series of absurdities. Bittenbender's article, for example, concludes with the claim that
By recognising these carnivalesque qualities [grotesque imagery, popular festive forms, and other literary manifestations of folk culture as indications of the 'eternal incomplete unfinished nature of being'] in the poetry of Burns, we are able to see his writings as a challenge to the cultural limitations of his times.
Are we? Or does Burns's proximity to these still extant manifestations of 'carnival culture' locate him all the more firmly in the culture of his times? And from which perspective do we construct the 'limitations' of that culture? From Bakhtin's experience of an over-determined form of an almost feudal oppression still manifest in the modern era? Or are we condemned to the fruitless conflation of four historical perspectives, our own inevitably predominating?
Even more worrying is Liam McIlvanney's attempt to rescue one of Burns's bawdy songs 'Why Shouldna Poor Folk Mowe' from the implicitly terrible fate of being classified as 'satire'. McIlvanney argues that Bakhtin's derision of the Duke of Brunswick and Frederick William II is ambivalent, and associates this attitude with Bakhtinian 'carnival folk humour'. Furthermore, Burns's strategy of 'bringing low' the elevated imperial figures of the late eighteenth-century by inviting them all to engage in the ultimate democratic activity, namely sex, allows McIlvanney to bring out the persistence of reference to what Bakhtin calls the 'lower bodily stratum' within the armoury of 'folk humour'. Acts of ingestion and expulsion emphasise the limits of the physical body as it interacts with the world, and are characterised as tropes of renewal. The key trope of renewal, of course, is copulation, which emphasises not only the relationship of the body to the world, but also the social relations between bodies, and even the creation of new bodies. Yet Burns does not invite all the grand personages of eighteenth-century Europe to engage in copulation equally: Brunswick and Frederick are invited, in the modern idiom, to 'go and take a good fuck to themselves'; but King George and his good Queen Charlotte are the object of a quite different invitation, the more positive if still reductively ambivalent 'And lang may they tak a gude mowe'. When Burns turns to Catherine the Great, however, the only female sovereign to be subjected to his 'folk humour', McIlvanney persists in his somewhat homogeneous reading of the impact of the imagery of the lower bodily stratum:
The treatment of the monarchs and nobles [.] is not merely abusive and one-sided. In true carnival fashion, the humour is ambivalent, it renews as it degrades. Burns does not mount a bitter satirical attack on the song's great personages; he laughingly explodes their pretensions by means of the imagery of the lower stratum.
And what does Burns wish upon the unfortunate Catherine? 'May the deil in her a- ram a huge prick o' brass!' Or, in other words, that she be sodomised by the devil using an enormous brass dildo. Is this ambivalent humour, which 'renews as it degrades'? McIlvanney calls it 'comically impossible',
[it] has the flamboyancy of a formalised cursing rather than the gravity of a serious attack. On the one hand, the aim is certainly to degrade and debunk the great folk, to bring them down to earth. Nevertheless, though they lose their epic distance and finish, the notables are reborn as full-blooded social folk.
All of which begs several questions about the provenance of this particular strategy of resistance, and the nature of its appeal to a certain strand of Scottish criticism.
McIlvanney contextualises Burns's lines against the background of the Revolutionary war, but they might also have been placed in the more specific context of eighteenth-century popular discourses around the French revolution, which emerged as a satirical rejoinder to the official literature that characteristically figured Louis XVI as a divine, omnipotent father. The popular songs, poems and quasi-fictional narratives that accompanied the 'bringing low' of Louis and, to an extent, prepared and authorised his later execution, increasingly employed what Antoine de Baecque calls 'pornographic attack', which figured Louis's impotence through accounts of the sexual licentiousness of his wife Marie-Antoinette. Catherine is not, however, merely a secondary target, but a sovereign in her own right, personally associated with state repression, and not identifiable as part of a couple or associated with a male partner (whom, moreover, she is reputed to have killed on her way to the throne). She is therefore the object of a quite different 'pornographic attack', provoked by a male reading of her 'unnaturalness', in which the devil himself assumes the vacant role of her 'natural' partner; the same devil, we might reflect, who will elsewhere chat in the vernacular with Burns's everyman and complain of being outwitted by Jock Hornbrook. It is difficult to see how the figure of Catherine thus loses only her 'epic distance', how she is reborn as a 'full-blooded social' person; on the contrary, Catherine is not the object of a 'formalised cursing', but, alone among the dignitaries lampooned in the poem, of the gravest form of 'pornographic attack'.
Such applications' effacement of gender are a symptom of the broad tendency of secondary uses of Bakhtin to cut themselves loose from the imperatives of even the most rudimentary historicism, a tendency that is all the more pronounced in specific relation to carnival. This is vividly dramatised by the fact that even our tentative attempt to mount a 'historicising' defence of Burns in this context serves only to emphasise the profound ahistoricism of the invocation of carnival in the first place, and its attendant and falsely homogenous characterisations of, to take just a single example, the imagery of the 'lower bodily stratum'. All of this is, once again, consistent with and illustrative of the false homogeneity that has been built around a particular, and flawed, thinker such as Bakhtin.
Many of the dangers posed by such ahistoricism and false homogeneity are avoided, however, in what is the most sophisticated and sustained invocation of carnival in Scottish criticism, Christopher Whyte's two-part 'Bakhtin at Christ's Kirk', which is distinguished throughout by a determination above all to differentiate, with regard equally to Bakhtin and to the specifics of the Scottish tradition he is called to address. Whyte's initial exposition of a broad Bakhtinian theory of carnival is almost immediately related to a specific and recurrent problem in critical response to 'Christis Kirk on the Green', namely the dynamics of its form of address, the precise locus of which is, in a sense, 'tested' against the co-ordinates of that theory. This sense in which the literary material is cause and requirement of the means of its analysis, and not the reverse, is further reinforced as Whyte essays a historical survey of the extent to which carnival elements have survived in later redactions of the poem, most notably Allan Ramsay's, and in later exemplars of the genre or 'tradition' it bequeathed to modern Scottish literature, including poems by John Skinner, Robert Fergusson and Robert Burns. Whyte first utilises Bakhtin's distinction between the character of folk laughter in the medieval period and the denuded and one-dimensional forms it assumes in the seventeenth century in order to 'predict' the 'dilution or disintegration of carnival elements' in Ramsay's versions; it is at this point, however, when the vernacular revival Ramsay did so much to foster begins to flower, that a yet more productive tension opens up between the development of the Scottish tradition and Bakhtin's implied template. In arguing that Ramsay's 'antiquarianism' in relation to 'Christis Kirk' represented an 'anomaly', 'a direction that the tradition was not to take', Whyte implicitly sets the development of the later Scottish tradition up in opposition to Bakhtin's model of the fate of folk laughter in European literature as a whole. Bakhtin, initially called to shed light on a specific problem in relation to 'Christ's Kirk', is now, in a simultaneous critical expansion and reversal, called to cast an interrogative light on the development of the 'Christ's Kirk' tradition and, by implication, on the development of the later Scottish tradition as a whole. What has begun in application of a particular strand of the thinking of an 'outside' critical influence, culled from the ranks of 'international literary theory', ends by exceeding the terms of its own initial surmise, by pursuing a line of inquiry into an aspect of the Scottish tradition that, while it has been enabled by Bakhtin's conception of folk laughter and its absorption into the forms of literature, ceases in its later stages to depend on that concept.
This is a demonstration of both the power and the limitations of the concept of carnival itself, as well as a slightly unexpected explanation of why Whyte is able so deftly to survey a broad range of literary-historical material through the prism of carnival, without falling into the kind of ahistoricism that would altogether undermine his project. Where Bittenbender and McIlvanney have become victims of a kind of historical paradox, their broad historical 'good faith' being undermined by the ahistorical or transhistorical essence of Bakhtin's concept itself, Whyte eludes this paradox - and produces another - by implicitly recognising the specific limitations of carnival from the outset. As Whyte writes of the choices facing John Skinner in his later renovation of the Christ's Kirk tradition, 'The Christmass Bawing':
When dealing with 'Christ's Kirk' and 'Peblis to the Play', the question of the relation of those poems to actual social practice could only be adumbrated. Such investigations pertain to anthropology.
This might stand also as a description of the choices facing the critic, as a statement of the broad critical methodology that underpins Whyte's analysis, and of its implied definition of the uses and limitations of the concept of carnival. Whyte regards carnival, quite properly, as a literary-historical category, and not as a social or anthropological one, which must first prove or justify itself against extraneous historical descriptions or reconstructions of the social practices it evokes. In this there are implied limitations, of course, as carnival is admitted to pertain exclusively to literature and literary history; there are also, however, concomitant strengths, in that the literary critic is not led, in blithe acceptance of Bakhtin's category without regard for the contingent game it plays with history, on to the shifting ground of a kind of quasi-history, which is adequate neither to the literary text, nor to its contextual relations to the social history that constrains it.
The process of Bakhtin's assimilation into the critical discourse of Scottish literature might therefore be described, with the exceptions to which we have alluded, as a series of all-too-brief encounters, which have not reflected particularly well on either party. This is not to say, however, despite the passing of Bakhtin's vogue in recent years and what some have been prepared to characterise as a crisis in critical theory broadly, that Bakhtin's potential value for Scottish literature was over-estimated from the very beginning, or that, by extension, it has since been thoroughly exhausted. The factors that initially drew Scottish criticism to Bakhtin have hardly receded, and the broad questions of linguistic and national self-identification around which they are clustered have, if anything, been thrown into sharper relief by Scotland's invocation in the context of debates around postcoloniality, and by the related if not resultant re-examination of its literary, philosophical and cultural history that marked the turn of the century. I want to conclude, therefore, by outlining three broad areas in which Bakhtin's thought continues to be of the most pressing relevance for Scottish literary and cultural studies.
Cairns Craig, in particular, has insisted that the proper scope of heteroglossic analysis extends far beyond the establishment of the relations between a diversity of 'voices', whether within the context of a single utterance or of modern Scottish fiction in its entirety. Unconcerned with the problem of a counter-intuitive monoglossia we referred to in relation to James Kelman, Craig has argued that Kelman's ability to harness 'two different linguistic consciousnesses [.] in the hybrid structure of a single sentence' is not simply evidence of his artistic control over the flux of heteroglossia; it is also, far more significantly, the basis for a strategy that helps align Scottish writing 'with those "postcolonial" cultures which were producing some of the most theoretically inspiring contemporary writing'. This argument claims a place for Scottish culture among the 'hybrid' cultures of the re-nascent former colonial territories, but also emphasises another and hugely significant element of Scotland's particular - and in fact unique - hybridity: its status, notwithstanding the internal divisions that have occupied us to this point, as a former colonising nation. Craig thus attempts to place Scotland at the very fulcrum of world culture from a post-historical perspective, and in a manner that is even more thoroughly Bakhtinian than he claims: Scotland's status as an at once colonised and colonising nation perfectly parallels Bakhtin's conception of double-voiced discourse, at once represented and representing. What is striking here, in distinction to the difficulties we noted earlier in relation to carnival, is the way in which the ostensibly literary category reveals itself - and hence the literary text - as the basis for an integrated analysis of social and historical phenomena that lie - only ostensibly - beyond it. Bakhtin's sense of deep stylistic analysis characterises a nation's literature as a potential site for an essentially unmediated reading of its culture, dispensing with imperfect notions of how literature 'reflects' social and historical forces, and substituting a sense of how it might, in its substantive and linguistic unity, embody them. As such, it might provide a theoretical basis for something that is conspicuously absent from Scottish literary criticism, and which is required if recent discourses around post-coloniality are to be meaningfully grounded: a history of Scottish literature and colonialism, and one that is not one-dimensionally derivative of the valuable but incomplete work in this area that has been done in the field of history as such, but is able instead to constitute its object as simultaneously literary and historical.
The second broad area in which Bakhtin's thought might prove productive in the Scottish context picks up on a small, but undeveloped thread in his Scottish reception. Both David Morris and Robert Crawford note the presence in Burns's 'To a Louse' of what might be termed a Bakhtinian 'headline': 'O wad some Pow'r the giftie gie us / To see ourselves as others see us'. Both of course note the general significance of this 'universal sentiment' for Bakhtinian and other modern conceptions of self and other, but they also refer, ostensibly tangentially, to its possible source in Adam Smith's The Theory of Moral Sentiments. And here great vistas open up before our eyes: the entire pathos of Bakhtin's work turns on a sense of man's emergence into the period of modernity, the badge of that emergence being linguistically-mediated self-recognition as a socially-constructed being. Only Vivienne Brown has been prepared to make an explicit examination of the central claims of the Scottish Enlightenment through the lens of Bakhtin, focusing most productively on a more extensive reading of Smith's The Theory of Moral Sentiments. Brown acknowledges Smith's debt to Stoic thinking in a manner that is designed also to locate Bakhtin himself in a much longer tradition of dialogical thought, and in so doing effectuates a subtle reversal: Brown does not in the end attempt the application of Bakhtin ex post facto to the 'Scottish tradition', but raises instead the possibility of charting and even testing the veracity of Bakhtin's broad conception of the history of the humanities on Scottish ground. The resultant project might, albeit somewhat provocatively, be entitled 'the dialogic enlightenment', and would begin by comprehensively re-examining the philosophical roots of Smith and other Enlightenment thinkers in the dialogical thought of Antiquity. It would also, however, reach forward to examine the influence of the Enlightenment on three later Scottish philosophers, Andrew Seth, John Macmurray and Alasdair MacIntyre, who Cairns Craig, once again, has characterised as representatives of a kind of 'native' dialogical thought. The outcome, as was the case with the extension of heteroglossic analysis as a basis for the conceptualisation of Scotland's 'duality' as colonising and colonised culture, would be a non-prejudicial, evenly-weighted comparative cultural analysis, in which Bakhtin, in a metaphor to which he himself had recourse, would constitute an element of the critical scaffolding, to be removed once the project had reached a certain self-sustaining stage in its development, rather than a disembodied and abstract 'key' to an essentially alien problem.
The third area in which Bakhtin might remain particularly productive for Scottish criticism has less historical and philosophical scope, but it is no less fundamental in specifically literary terms. It in fact has its roots in a negative inference that might be drawn from Bakhtin, and relates to the particular, not to say idiosyncratic, evolution of genre in the Scottish literary tradition. Bakhtin, as we have seen, ostensibly champions the novel as the pre-eminent genre of modernity, arguing that the novel has been uniquely receptive to those forms of dialogized heteroglossia that echo forth from the diverse social life of language. Even the briefest glance at the history of Scottish literature will tell us - at least until very recently, and long beyond the timescale of Bakhtin's version of the 'rise of the novel' - that this, for us, has been far from the case. For long periods in Scottish literature it has in fact been the verse forms that have served as the carriers for Bakhtin's diversity of speech types, and, as even our brief reference to Burns will confirm, have been compositionally sufficient for their dialogic interanimation. A history of the evolution of genre in the Scottish literary tradition might usefully take Bakhtin's theory as its point of embarkation, but only, to put it at its simplest, in order to challenge it. This is the point at which the attempted 'application' of an element of Bakhtin's thought in the Scottish context might become just as productive - if not more so - for the former as it is for the latter. Bakhtin's treatment of heteroglossia in 'Discourse in the Novel', along with much of his book on Dostoevsky and the much later 'The Problem of Speech Genres', are in fact components of a grandiose and unfinished attempt to re-order our entire perception of literary modes and genres, and their evolution in complex relation to the evolution of language and society. Bakhtin posits, but never fully realises, an entirely new conception of literary genre, which would replace what it might appear almost scandalous to term 'surface' distinctions between novel and verse with deeply determined stylistic profiles that are organically connected to the life of the society that produces them. To return to the pragmatic note sounded at the beginning, we can only speculate as to what exemplification and development of this grand project on the basis of Scottish material might do for the international 'prestige' of Scottish literature.
 Bakhtin, M.M. Slovo v romane. In Voprosy literatury i estetiki. Issledovaniia raznykh let, ed. S. Leibovich, Moscow, 1975, 72 - 233; Discourse in the novel. In The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays by M.M. Bakhtin, ed. Michael Holquist, trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist, Austin, Texas, 1981, 259 - 422. RETURN TO TEXT
 It may seem almost superfluous in this respect to refer to G. Gregory Smith's Scottish Literature: Character and Influence, London, 1919 , which not only gave birth to 'Scottish Literature' as a discrete area for academic study, but in so doing also determined that debates around duality and schism would be one of its most persistent features; see also Wittig, Kurt. The Scottish Tradition in Literature, Edinburgh, 1958. RETURN TO TEXT
 Morris, 1987, 13. The roots of Morris's analysis may lie in Thomas Crawford's disarmingly simple statement that, in 'Tam O'Shanter', '[Burns] speaks with several different voices': Crawford, Thomas. Burns: A Study of the Poems and Songs, Edinburgh and London, 1960, 223. RETURN TO TEXT
 McGuirk, Carol. Burns, Bakhtin, and the opposition of poetic and novelistic discourse: a response to David Morris, The Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation, 32.1 (1991), 58-72 (65).RETURN TO TEXT
 Bakhtin's distinction between novel and verse is partly an over-determined response to the (equally over-determined) insistence of early Russian Formalism on the location of 'literariness' in a distinct 'poetic' language, and gradually gives way, as we shall later see, to a perception of the need for a more fundamental renovation of the entire system of literary genre than the mere displacement of verse forms by the novel. RETURN TO TEXT
 Bakhtin, M.M. Problemy poetiki Dostoevskogo . In Problemy tvorchestva/poetiki Dostoevskogo, Kiev, 1994), 205 - 492; Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics, ed. and trans. Caryl Emerson, Minneapolis and London, 1984, 17; see also Bakhtin, 1981, 279. RETURN TO TEXT
 Muir, Edwin. Scott and Scotland: The Predicament of the Scottish Writer, London, 1936, in particular 27-30. It should perhaps be said in Muir's defence that the consistency of Burns's register in his letters, for example, does tend to suggest that he was susceptible to some form of institutionalised linguistic 'split', which might be examined in terms of social conventions and genre rather than anything as crude as the thought/feeling dichotomy: see Mackay, James A., ed. The Complete Letters of Robert Burns, Ayr, 1987. RETURN TO TEXT
 Crawford argues that Burns utilises 'the voice and manner of an educated Scots eighteenth-century poet' in order to 'bathe the whole scene in the warm light of his irony': Crawford, 1960, 224. RETURN TO TEXT
 We might compare this with the narrator's earlier remonstration, given in a form of free indirect speech, and embodying (and gently mocking) the point of view of Kate by retaining intact her linguistic profile: 'She tauld thee weel thou was a skellum, / A blethering, blustering, drunken blellum'; Burns, 1968, vol. 2, 558. RETURN TO TEXT
 Christopher Whyte rejects both Muir's 'now discarded' dissociationism in general and Bittenbender's proposed reconstruction of a compositional dialogue in particular, but does so at a very high price: Whyte insists that, in 'Tam o'Shanter' if not in 'Holy Willie's Prayer', 'two distinct voices are not perceptible, nor is one aware of two opposing purposes conflicting with one another in the words of the text', a quite remarkable reading, especially when specifically prompted by the chasm of linguistic consciousness that exists between the lines 'Kings may be blest, but Tam was glorious, / O'er a' the ills o' life victorious!' and 'But pleasures are like poppies spread'. This is compounded by the fact that the 'tests' to which he subjects the poem in this respect are drawn from Bakhtin's definition of parody, a definition given in order to emphasise not the nature of parody itself, but rather its suitability, among a series of other 'compositional devices', for the facilitation and foregrounding of 'double-voiced discourse', which is precisely what Burns achieves (and without, crucially, the compositional markers sought elsewhere by Bittenbender). See Whyte, Christopher. Defamiliarising 'Tam o'Shanter', Scottish Literary Journal, 20.1 (1993), 5-18 (15-16); see also Bakhtin, 1984, 185-6. RETURN TO TEXT
 Bakhtin returns to Pushkin for exemplary material most notably in Bakhtin, M.M. The problem of content, material and form in verbal art. In Art and Answerability: Early Philosophical Essays by M.M. Bakhtin, ed. Michael Holquist and Vadim Liapunov, trans. Vadim Liapunov and Kenneth Brostrom, Austin, Texas, 1990, 257 - 325 (296-8), and in Bakhtin, 1981, 322-3, 329. RETURN TO TEXT
 Bakhtin, 1984, 90. Compare Bakhtin's much later comment on his own critical practice: 'I hear voices in everything and dialogic relations between them'; Bakhtin, M.M. K metodologii gumanitarnykh nauk. In Estetika slovesnogo tvorchestva, ed. S.G. Bocharov, Moscow, 1979, 361 - 73; Toward a methodology for the Human Sciences. In Speech Genres and Other Late Essays, ed. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist, trans. Vern W. McGee, Austin, Texas, 1986, 159 - 77 (169). RETURN TO TEXT
 Bakhtin is moved in emphasis of this point to the uncharacteristically bad-tempered castigation of 'the frivolous, mindless and unsystematic mixing of languages - often bordering on simple illiteracy' of 'mediocre prose writers [.] This is not orchestration by means of heteroglossia, but in most cases merely a directly authorial language that is impure and incompletely worked out': Bakhtin, 1981, 366. RETURN TO TEXT
 For a more extended discussion of the novel's refutation of diversity of speech, one that incidentally borrows John M. Kirk's coinage 'schizoglossia' in characterisation of Kelman's work, see Renfrew, Alastair. Them and us? Representation of speech in contemporary Scottish fiction. In Renfrew, Alastair, ed. Exploiting Bakhtin, Glasgow, 1997, 15-28. RETURN TO TEXT
 For a brief critical survey of this tendency, see Humphrey, Chris. Bakhtin and the study of popular culture: re-thinking carnival as a historical and analytical concept. In Brandist, Craig and Galin Tihanov, eds, Materializing Bakhtin: The Bakhtin Circle and Social Theory, Basingstoke and London, 2000, 164-72. RETURN TO TEXT
 See in particular Matejka, Ladislav. Deconstructing Bakhtin. In Mihailescu, C.A and W. Hamarneh, eds, Fiction Updated: Theories of Fictionality, Narratology, and Poetics, Toronto, 1996, 257-66. RETURN TO TEXT
 Bakhtin, M.M. Tvorchestvo Fransua Rable i narodnaia kul'tura srednevekov'ia i Renessansa , Moscow, 1990 ; Rabelais and His World, trans. Hélène Iswolsky, Cambridge, Mass. & London, 1968. RETURN TO TEXT
 See Ryklin, Mikhail. Bodies of terror: theses towards a logic of violence, New Literary History, 24.1 (1993), 51-74; see also, in the specifically Scottish context, Watson, Roderick. Speaking in tongues: reflections after Bakhtin on the Scots literary tradition and contemporary writing. In Renfrew, 1997, 1-14. RETURN TO TEXT
 de Baecque, Antoine. The Body Politic: Corporeal Metaphor in Revolutionary France, 1770-1800, trans. Charlotte Mundell, Stanford, 1997, 29-75 (50); see also Darnton, Robert. The Forbidden Best-Sellers of Pre-Revolutionary France, London, 1996, which strongly equates obscene and pornographic literature with political resistance and subversion; and deJean, Joan. The Reinvention of Obscenity: Sex, Lies, and Tabloids in Early Modern France, Chicago and London, 2002, which offers a corrective view based on the idea that pornography, in its gendered one-dimensionality, works for the normalisation and entrenchment of (male) authority. RETURN TO TEXT
 Whyte, Christopher. Bakhtin at Christ's Kirk: Carnival and the Scottish Renaissance, Studies in Scottish Literature, 28 (1993), 178-203; Whyte, Christopher. Bakhtin at Christ's Kirk, II: Carnival and the Vernacular Revival, Studies in Scottish Literature, 29 (1996), 134-57. RETURN TO TEXT
 See also in this respect the volume from which we earlier cited L.M. Findlay's pun on Foucault, Alexander and Hewitt's Scott in Carnival, a collection of essays from the third international Scott conference in Edinburgh in 1991, at which participants were invited to consider new critical approaches to Scott: 'around half of them responded by invoking Mikhail Bakhtin to a greater or lesser extent', the editors' tell us in their preface, to their own very palpable surprise (Alexander and Hewitt, 1993, vii). The resultant volume is both productively and sometimes frustratingly uneven, but its title is also extremely deceptive; of the volume's 49 essays, only two are in fact more than superficially concerned with Bakhtin, and neither depends centrally on the concept of carnival: see Diedrick, James. Dialogical history in Ivanhoe , 280-93, and Worth, Christopher. Scott, story-telling and subversion: dialogism in Woodstock , 380-92, both in Alexander and Hewitt, 1993. RETURN TO TEXT
 Craig, Cairns. Scotland and hybridity. In Carruthers, Gerard, et al, eds, Beyond Scotland: New Contexts for Twentieth-Century Scottish Literature, Amsterdam and New York, 2004, 229-53 (235). RETURN TO TEXT
 We must once again be aware, however, that such a post-historical characterisation of Scottish culture is partially underpinned by immediate pragmatic motivations; it is in fact, as Craig freely acknowledges, a direct response to recent constructions of Irish literature and culture as somehow 'originally' postcolonial and at the same time the pre-eminent exemplar of Bakhtinian hybridity. It is important not to lose sight, at the very least, of the extent to which contemporary criticism - and academic criticism in particular - is driven by the imperatives of what can loosely be termed a 'market', in which variously packaged critical goods compete for circulation. The principal point of reference here is Kiberd, Declan. Inventing Ireland, London, 1995. RETURN TO TEXT
 See for example Kidd, Colin. British Identities before Nationalism: Ethnicity and Nationhood in the Atlantic World, Cambridge, 1999; Fry, Michael. The Scottish Empire, East Linton, 2001. [Douglas S. Mack's Scottish Fiction and the British Empire, Edinburgh 2006, which appeared between this article's submission and appearance, is a history of Scottish literature and colonialism which indeed 'constitute[s] its object as simultaneously literary and historical' -- Ed.] RETURN TO TEXT
 Brown, Vivienne. The dialogic experience of conscience: Adam Smith and the voices of Stoicism, Eighteenth-Century Studies, 26.2 (1992-93), 233-60; Brown, Vivienne. Dialogism, the gaze, and the emergence of economic discourse, New Literary History, 28.4 (1997), 697-710. In the second of these Brown notes Tzvetan Todorov's invocation of Smith in pursuit of the theorization of the role of 'the internalised gaze of others' in the construction of conscience: see Todorov, Tzvetan. Living alone together, New Literary History, 27.1 (1996), 1-14. RETURN TO TEXT
 Bakhtin, M.M. Problema rechevykh zhanrov. In Sobranie sochinenii, ed. S.G. Bocharov and L.A. Gogotishvili, Moscow, 1996, vol. 5, 159-206; The problem of speech genres. In Bakhtin, 1986, 60 - 102. RETURN TO TEXT