From the beginning of the article:
In the second half of the 1920s, Michail M. Bakhtin (1895–1975) and his colleagues Pavel Medvedev (1891–1938) and Valentin Volosinov (1895–1936), the so-called Bakhtin-Circle, laid out the foundations of a textual theory concerning the relation between author, society, language, and literary genre. The work of the Bakhtin-Circle has had a huge but belated impact on a number of contemporary critical schools, from New Historicist Renaissance studies to contemporary ‘Cultural Studies’ of popular culture, and especially on the historiography and theory of the novel. In this article, I shall introduce the generic theory of Bakhtin, combining it with his theory of medieval culture and carnivalization in order to propose a Bakhtinian reading of Miguel de Cervantes’s Don Quijote. More precisely, I shall sketch the Bakhtinian conceptualization of the relation between two different cultural sign systems: the popular culture of the Middle Ages and the high literary culture of the early seventeenth century. After a few remarks on the basic ideas of the theory of literature of the Bakhtin-Circle, I shall turn to Bakhtin’s theories of cultural history and his ideas on carnival. This will be followed by an outline of the genre theory of Bakhtin, which will enable me to discuss the question of carnivalization in Don Quijote. In my interpretation of Cervantes’s novel, I shall focus on characterization, chronotope (time-space-relations), and poetics.