As discussed in the previous chapter, what is indexed (pointed toward) in the utterance identifies what is noticed, thought about, acted upon at the moment. What is indexed is the intersubjective content of the interaction, insofar as each participant is fully attentive, and accepting the range of attributions and interpretations that might be made as to what the words refer to or index. The things indexed are the social facts represented, relied on, reinforced, created, or reasoned about in the course of the utterance. Those things indexed are also interpreted, reacted to, evaluated, taken a stance towards, or integrated with other things on the recipient’s mind in the course of reading. The material indexed and the connections made among indexed items are usually considered the content or substantive meaning of the text, and provide the usual answer to the question of what did the text say. But another way of asking that same question is to ask what is the world assembled or represented in the text, and what happens in that world. From a speech act point of view this asks us about what is contained in the locutionary act. But if we remember that the locutionary act is itself an act of representation with its own felicity conditions, particularly in Austin’s view, we must also ask what is successfully or felicitously established as a social fact within the textual space. Depending on the communal or disciplinary expectations and epistemological procedures, these social facts may also be held accountable to organized experiences of the material world, and thus gain the status of scientific facts, legal facts, historical facts, and so on—reportable and consequential in each of those domains.
Of course, each individual reader will bring to bear an idiosyncratic collection of thoughts, associations, and experiences that may lead to seeing the signs in the text indexing somewhat different ideas, experiences, or objects than the writer had in mind. Readers thereby construct different meanings from the text or evaluate the meaning differently, but the individualistic readings they develop are socially consequential only if they are brought back into a social dialogue that negotiates a communal meaning or at least creates a focused contention over meaning. As discussed at the end of the last chapter and we will explore more deeply later in this chapter, professions, disciplines, belief communities, and other epistemic social groupings serve to align participants to the same set of beliefs, associations, experiences, texts, and other materials that form a relevant context for understanding and evaluating each new text. Participants can then be held accountable to communally shared understanding of texts they read and write.
Locutionary Acts, Ideational Functions, Chronotopes
Looking at the represented meaning of the text through the locutionary acts creating social facts indexed in the text (which are then brought together through syntactic or reasoning processes within the text) bears similarities to two other projects of considering meaning represented in texts: Halliday’s examination of the metafunctions of language and M. Bakhtin’s concept of the chronotope.
Halliday’s Systemic Functional Linguistics (Halliday & Matthiesen, 2004; see also Halliday & Hasan, 1976; and Halliday & Martin, 1993) offers an account of how language functions to express meanings through systemic choices available to the user. The more deeply we understand the meaning potentials of systems of language, the more precisely we are able to express meanings. Halliday identifies three large dimensions on which we create meaning—which he calls metafunctions: the ideational metafunction, the interpersonal metafunction, and the textual metafunction. As suggested by the names, the ideational metafunction refers to the means by which ideas or contents are transmitted, and thereby the way in which our experience of the world is represented and construed in the text; the interpersonal metafunction mediates the social relationship between speaker/writer and listener/reader; and the textual metafunction indicates how a text is organized and serves communicative purposes. The ideational metafunction is closest to what I suggest by the text indexing experiences of the world and the textual metafunction is closest to how these indexed items are reasoned about. As a linguist, Halliday is most interested in the form this indication takes as it becomes represented in the text and then how syntactically these representations become organized into larger systems of cohesive reasoning—keeping in mind that the explicit linguistic markers of cohesion are distinct from the semantic psychological phenomena of coherence.
Bakhtin makes a specific association between genres and particular kinds of contents through his concept of the chronotope, or time-space. Within the typical time-space of each genre there appear typical settings, objects, and characters; each of these then undergo particular actions or events in the course of the text (Bakhtin, 1981). So just as fairy tales occur in kingdoms long ago and far away, where princes overcome obstacles of dragons and evil sorcerers to gain the hand of princesses, so do national economic policy reports include trends in jobs, Gross Domestic Product, national indebtedness, and interest rates, as well as projections of future growth and inflation, so as to justify policy decisions, such as adjustments of bank rates. Psychiatric reports prepared as part of sentencing of criminal defendants contain different chronotopes of information, looking into the time-space of the defendant’s life, psyche, and prognoses under different incarceration conditions. We would be very surprised to find the information from the criminal psychiatric report in the economic policy document, or vice versa. Even closely related documents might differ greatly on their chronotopes based on the purpose, as the psychiatric sentencing document would contain different information from a psychiatric journal article on the pharmacological treatment of certain forms of violent behavior. Thus once we are attuned to a genre we are attuned to expect and accept indexes of different aspects of experience, to be represented and construed in certain ways, appropriate to the activity systems associated with those genres. The introduction of atypical contents into the genre requires extra work both to justify the contents’ place and to translate those indexed contents into terms appropriate for the genre.
Genred Ontologies and the Work of Expanding the Worldview of the Genre
Following Bakhtin we may note that each genre contains its typical landscapes, actors and events, which we can consider the genre’s ontology. Each text also has its more specific ontology: that is, the objects that come under its purview. Thus in a newspaper editorial commenting on the actions of a chemical company, the chemicals that are part of the story (that have been determined to have harmful side effects, for example) may be referred to by common names or some abbreviation, but there would not likely be detailed chemical nomenclature nor analysis of the processes of synthesis. Chemical formulae and reasoning through a series of chemical processes would enter more typically into an article in a chemistry journal. If for some news-related reason the news story needed to discuss chemical processes (such as a discussion of how an apparently benign process has lethal consequences), the story would need to prepare and motivate readers for this excursion (Latour, 1987 gives a revealing analysis of rhetoric of detours) and then would need to ensure the specialized representation would be intelligible to them.
Fleck, similarly, in his 1935 groundbreaking Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact, analyzes the representational styles that constitute the thought styles of thought collectives. These representational styles are the means by which facts take on textual presence. He finds ideology, theoretical commitments, and evaluative stances in the various representational styles of the symptoms and underlying mechanisms of what we now call syphilis (Fleck, 1979). Indeed some objects are constituted only as they take on the form dictated by the genre and the text. The U.S. tax form, for example contains many objects that though they have names made of familiar words are only specifically constituted within the forms and the attendant regulation-governed operations—such as “net reportable income,” or “allowable deductions” (Bazerman, 2000b).
Conceptually-based objects that we talk about as real and tangible are only the construct of tangible operations. For example, while we can concretely observe money and goods exchanged between persons, the concept of an economy requires the aggregating of many transactions within a specified domain and reported to audiences ready to comprehend the concept. Even at the time of Adam Smith the modern concept of an economy was not available, and the closest term he could come up with was the wealth of nations. For most middle-class citizens the idea of the economy only became a familiar object of attention when it started gaining regular reporting in the newspapers, as something bearing on the conditions of everyday life (Smart, 2008). Indeed countries even into the twentieth century that lacked the textual means to collect, aggregate, and report on the economy only had individuals and families of wealth engaging in particular transactions and relationships. In order to become international economic players they had to gather those transactions and holdings into a picture of an economy, by establishing a ministry of the economy and producing economic reports, where the state of the economy could be found (De los Santos, 2007).
Thus we can associate each genre as a site for particular kinds of knowledge that we can expect to find there. We know where to look if we need a phone number, or government statistics on school completion rates, or latest medical studies—and if we don’t, search engines will direct us to the kinds of webpages that contain what we are looking for, and we can use our genre knowledge to rapidly evaluate whether the site contains the kind of knowledge we want in the depth, reliability, and perspective we want. Further, we know where not to look for things or where we would be surprised to find information out of its genre place. One way, in fact, to trace the history and social distribution of knowledge is to trace the histories of genres in which knowledge is produced, reported, and collected (Bazerman & Rogers, 2008 a & b).
Epistemology, Accountability, and Trust
The chronotope or ontology of each genre and its appropriate forms of representation also imply an epistemology—a way of knowing. This way of knowing is associated with methods of observing and recording things, experiences, phenomena or the like, thereby indexing them in the textual world of the genres of a social world. Epistemological issues accompany even everyday description of ordinary events in our life. If we tell a story about what happened to us, unless we somehow mark it as a fiction or a joke, it is assumed that we experienced the events as we reported them—we tell what we saw and heard, from our perspective, drawing on our memories. Often we may signal as well the timing of the events as recent or long ago, commenting on the freshness of our memory, and identifying what we directly saw or found out only by hearsay. Listeners will interpret what we have said on that epistemic basis, giving it the authority of personal experience. While exaggerations are often accepted as part of emotional heightening, readers may detect these and factor it into the evaluation. If there is further indication of fictionalizing, the readers also begin to take the report as less reliable (with grains of salt, as we say informally). Even intimate reports of emotions are expected to come from recognition of actually experienced sentiments. Suspicion of violation of that epistemological procedure by reporting emotions never experienced, will likely have consequences for trust and evaluation of character. Listeners may, furthermore, recognize the possibility of different accounts from other perspectives, and they may factor in what they might know about our emotional set, evaluative biases, interests, or other personal elements that might define the particularity of our perspective.
Other kinds of reports also have their implied epistemologies. Accounting and business reports have their standards and practices of data gathering, authentication, and reporting—historically developed and often regulated by commercial law as well as professional licensing bodies. In the same vein, journalism over the past hundred and fifty years has developed professional standards for reporting, which are in essence epistemological guidelines for gathering, authenticating, and inscribing information.
Each epistemology implies a theory of the world and a related theory about observing and knowing the world. We have folk theories about how people experience emotions and how those emotions are triggered by events. Accounting principles are based on theories of accounting and how they keep track of business dealings, making them accountable and ordered through reporting practices; these in turn are built on theories of how accounting improves business practices and the economy. Legal rules of evidence also have epistemologies and practices that accept certain kinds of testimony and evidentiary documents as legitimate and legally meaningful and others as not.
Scientific Epistemologies, Methods, and Visible Phenomena
Over the last several centuries epistemological and methodological issues have been at the forefront in the sciences, as science has developed methods of observation and verification upon which to warrant claims and thereby to formulate knowledge through empirically-grounded argument. The emergence of modern forms of scientific argument has gone hand in hand with the emergence of definitions and standards of what counts as legitimate evidence and legitimate procedures of gathering that evidence. As a consequence, methodology has become a standard explicit feature of experimental reports, both to legitimate the evidence and to make it interpretable in relation to its procedures (Bazerman 1988, 1991). Some disciplines, such as experimental psychology, have explicitly regulated epistemologies and methodologies through the standards of reporting in their publication manual (Bazerman, 1987a). In all disciplines, articles are accountable for establishing the status of evidence and the methods used to produce it, including the theoretical assumptions behind the methodological choices. One of the most effective ways to undermine an experimental or observational report (and thereby undo it as a representational speech act) is to argue that there were faulty assumptions behind the methodological procedures or concrete errors in the material carrying out of the method, so that the data produced does not reliably represent the underlying state of affairs one is investigating. The most damaging criticism is to demonstrate the results were entirely an artifact of faulty method and there was no underlying phenomena of note thereby observed: nothing to be seen, nothing to be reported.
Further, each field has developed its particular methods and epistemologies (with corresponding genres of reporting) deemed appropriate to its objects of investigation (or ontologies). These methods and epistemologies in dialogue with the empirical experience of investigations produce the data reported and analyzed in the field’s articles—thereby constituting the objects that come to be known and pondered by the field in its seminars, congresses, journals, and (eventually) textbooks. Even within biology, the methods, epistemologies, evidence, theories, and textbooks of botany differ from those of zoology; within botany differences occur among taxonomic botany, evolutionary botany, and genetic botany, although they at times have come to communicate with each other and rely on each other. But every cross-specialty communication requires some adjustment and negotiation about what constitutes knowledge, how it is to be produced, how it is to be represented, and what it means (see for example Bazerman & de los Santos, 2005).
We can see this explicit concern with methodology and standards of evidence production as the realistic and practical consequence of the Baconian distrust of language and the early Royal Society injunction to trust things, not words (Dear, 1985). Yet in order to enter scientific discussion things still must be represented in words, mathematics, or other signs. Epistemology, methodology, standards of evidence production, along with the instruments used to produce, measure, and record phenomena (what Latour & Woolgar, 1979, call inscription devices) negotiate the transformation from experience into inscription. Although Wilkinson and other seventeenth century enthusiasts may have hoped to expunge language of any uncertainty and thus only report true things (parodied by Swift in Book Three of Gulliver’s Travels)—yet language and representation could not be done away with. One always needed to argue for the existence of phenomena and their interpretation. Even what could be seen by a telescope (Moss, 1993) or microscope (Ruestow, 1996) needed theoretical argument to legitimate the observations as data and needed theories of the workings of the instruments to interpret their results, tell true objects from evanescent artifacts, and refine methods. Advances in theories have been tied to advances in instruments, and advances in instruments have been tied to arguments warranting them and their validity as evidence producers. Further, the form of evidence each produces then enters into the expected and legitimate forms of representation in articles to then be considered. Even the relevance of mathematics within biological argument required explicit argument (Wynn, 2012).
Such arguments led to ever increasing standards for observation, to make phenomena visible and confirmable. Fleck characterized the ongoing search for more refined, more warrantable, more precise ways of seeing new dimensions of phenomena and making them reportable as an essential part of the culture of science. He called this the active pursuit of passive constraint—actively finding ways to be constrained by empirical experience in what one could say (Fleck, 1979, p. 95). Sciences are particularly persistent in their search for ways to produce more evidence of a more sophisticated type to test and advance reasoning and beliefs.
Sciences have developed regular practices of interrogating evidence, and confirming it against multiple experiences arising from multiple purposes—of which the well-known replication of experiments is only part. Sometimes high motivation, interests, and stakes spur direct replication attempts, especially when there is an astounding discovery claim, such as the announcement of cold fusion (Taubes, 1993). In the cold fusion case (as with N-rays a century before, Ashmore, 1993) other scientists could not replicate the results, and the phenomenon vanished from the literature, only to become an episode in the history of science (although now, more than two decades later a few scientists continue to search for confirming data). Most findings, however, are more ordinary and less unexpected. Many are of such detail and limited interest that no one questions them, and perhaps few even notice the article and fewer use it to any purpose. In a sense too these articles vanish from the canon of knowledge—except that their very ordinariness and consistency with expectations come to reconfirm all the previous findings, assumptions, and theoretical claims on which they are based. In that sense, the most ordinary and humdrum reports are indirect replications of much collected knowledge of the field.
At times, though, conditions cannot be replicated, or require craft knowledge for replication (Collins, 1985; Delamont & Atkinson, 2001; Gilbert & Mulkay, 1984) or few have the incentive, leisure, or resources to devote to replication. Yet when researchers carry out further investigations they must select and rely on the phenomena and evidence of others reported in the literature. When anomalies turn up in their results, they are then led back to examine earlier results that they relied on. The mention and use of these earlier findings as useful and reliable keep them alive in the intertext of the field and thus their representations stand as successful speech acts. Through continuing usefulness results enter into the canon of knowledge in a process of rolling codification (Bazerman, 1991).
Pointing at Other Texts: Intertextuality
This reliance on previous texts is part of the intertextuality that pervades the literate world. All utterances occur in the context of previous utterances, providing the resources of a common language, saturated by prior uses and beliefs. Further, new utterances take a stance towards prior utterances, respond to them, refer to them, and even incorporate them, as Volosinov noted (1973) and Bakhtin elaborated (1984a, 1986). As writing typically creates an enduring archive of prior documents which can be referred to, the relationships of utterances potentially become more complex, explicit, and robust—supporting systematic reliance of texts on each other, particularly in organized domains such as scriptural religions, law, academic disciplines, or corporate and governmental bureaucracies.
Among the objects brought into a text are other texts. A newspaper in reporting an unfolding scandal may refer to previous revelations reported in previous days’ issues as well as quotations made by accusers, accused, and witnesses. The story may also refer to revelations reported in other publications and confirmed by still others. Then an editorial may reprise the aggregated facts from the various news stories to comment on the events and evaluate the roles of the various participants. Particularly embarrassing or self-condemning statements printed in other stories may also be reprised.
Each domain has its particular universe of genres and prior texts that are chronotopically relevant. Thus law cases typically refer to constitutions, statutes, prior cases, and court judgments considered relevant precedent, along with the various filings and briefs presented in the particular case. Within the relevant domain, the textual references may additionally be represented variously according to genre, as Devitt (1991) found out with respect to the genre set of tax accountants. While all the documents prepared by tax accountants rely on the tax code, the code gets quoted, mentioned, or implied in different ways, according to the kind of document, its audiences, and purposes.
Within sciences the creation of communal knowledge through the aggregation and building on work of the relevant disciplinary colleagues is associated with explicit and patterned practices for mentioning the relevant prior work to set the stage for each new piece of work (Bazerman, 1991; Swales 1990, 2004), as well as genres directed toward collecting, aggregating, and codifying knowledge both for insiders (Myers, 1991), and neophytes or outsiders (such as textbooks). Each discipline and journal also adopts explicit means of representing other texts in the form of citation.
The Intertext as a Resource and a Contended Topic
Intertextuality does more than become an indirect way to import the information reported elsewhere. Intertextuality can become a site of discussion, a domain of action, and a set of objects in itself. Sequences of documents may form the domain of a policy debate, where a cluster of related documents contend for which statement may become authorized as policy at the end of the discussion. These documents may be clearly structured as through the various filings, briefs, previous court transcripts, and rulings, defined by the rules of the court in an appellant court case (which in the US are carried out entirely by review of the file). At the end a judicial ruling sorts all the relationship and standing of all the documents in all future actions, subject to further appeals.
Political debates over issues of the moment are more loosely structured, and often lack the finality of a legal judgment so that disputes and differences are ongoing, always ready to be reprised, even after a quiescent period. But actors make claims and arguments, sometimes explicitly referring to and contending with, reevaluating or even mocking earlier statements, through what Bakhtin calls double-voicing (1984b) with the aim of changing the public’s view of prior statements, and influencing what views should be left standing as effective persuasive acts. Sometimes the contentions of prior documents are recounted as personalized dramas of power, with the standing of statements going up or down depending on how punches are landed, and how they are reported.
Even claims within sciences can be seen from this view, as people propose claims that they believe should be considered for enduring presence in the disciplinary ontology or that will restructure or modify the epistemology or theory. Articles present evidence and interpretation, show value for a claim’s continuing use, or advance alternative claims. In the end, some claims and concepts initially indicated by citation to articles (Small, 1978) have robust continuing presence in the ongoing investigations of a field, revealed in their citation rates (De Bellis, 2009). Ultimately, however, explicit citation may vanish by the implicit incorporation into the trusted knowledge accepted by all in the field, in a process sociologists of science have called obliteration by incorporation (Cozzens, 1985; Merton, 1973).
For those with an insider’s understanding, any intertextual domain can reveal itself as a social drama, as proposals for a census or an accounting procedure may reflect the interests of different groups who imagine they would benefit from one method or another. Those in the know can track the changing fate of interests as the status of proposals rise and fall and some gain long-term incorporation into the accepted knowledge and thinking of a field. Through such contentions texts enter into the chronotope of a field, becoming part of the accepted and expected landscape of a particular genre embedded within the larger system of genres that comprise an activity system. Any variation from the chronotope, introducing unexpected intertextual landscapes, attracts notice and may require additional justifying or reconciling rhetorical work.
Intertextuality and Socially-Formed Consciousness
Intertextuality occurs at the level of text, as one text relies explicitly or implicitly on another, but it has large sociological and psychological implications. Intertextuality provides mechanisms for forming communal beliefs and individual consciousnesses, even while fostering the possibility of focused division among individuals based on their selection and evaluation of texts and the way they incorporate those texts into consciousnesses and actions.
A history of the theoretical elaboration of the concept of intertextuality makes evident the sociological and psychological importance of intertextuality among people who share universes of texts and activities. The term intertextuality, or any Russian equivalent, does not appear in the works of either Bakhtin or Volosinov. The term was first coined by Kristeva (1980) in a work of literary theory. Drawing on Volosinov and Bakhtin she suggests that any text is a mosaic of quotations. She uses the concept of the textual mosaic to argue against the radical originality of any text and to locate common cultural experience in the sharing of text rather than any shared intersubjective state, for we always take up individual subject positions. Orientation to common utterances, she argues, creates the ongoing culture and evokes common objects of desire. Intertextuality, for Kristeva, is a mechanism whereby we write ourselves into the social text, and thereby the social text writes us.
The origins of the concept in Bakhtin and Volosinov have different motives and forces than used by Kristeva. Volosinov (1929/1973) notes that every utterance draws on the history of language use, is responsive to prior utterances, and carries forward that history. In the interplay with past utterances, each new utterance takes on a stance toward previous utterances. Volosinov, furthermore, begins a technical analysis of how texts position themselves to each other through linguistic systems of direct and indirect quotations. Since Volosinov sees individual consciousness arising out of our particular experiences of language utterance, our consciousnesses are deeply dialogic (or as we would now say intertextual), just as our utterances are. Therefore the mechanisms of textual relations are also part of the mechanisms of the formation of consciousness (pp.12-13). Volosinov’s comments on the internal formation of consciousness through dialogic experience of language are close to issues raised by Vygotsky’s analysis of the internalization, as Vygotsky explains in a 1931 essay on the internalization of higher mental functions:
An interpersonal process is transformed into an intrapersonal one. Every function in the child’s cultural development appears twice: first on the social level, and later, on the individual level; first between people (interpsychological), and then inside the child (intrapsychological). (Vygotsky, 1978, p. 57)
Volosinov in his 1927 book Freudianism (1987) already was concerned with the issue of inner speech. In this context (p. 21) he cites Vygotsky’s 1925 paper on consciousness as a core problem of psychology, where Vygotsky begins his investigation into the way language mediates consciousness and transforms reflexes, thus making available for consciousness and thought a form of cultural transmission of the historical experience of humankind, as we have examined in Chapter 2 of this volume. These ideas, however, were only sketchily gestured at in the 1925 paper. While Volosinov’s 1927 citation provides direct evidence of Volosinov’s awareness of Vygotsky, it is also reasonable to assume that Vygotsky was aware of Volosinov—given Vygotsky’s extensive reading, the close world of Soviet science at the time, and the consonance of their interests in developing Marxist historical theories of the formation of language, the mind, and consciousness.
Vygotsky’s ultimate formulation of an internal plane of consciousness resulting from the internalization of language experience would provide a more robust model of socially-formed individual consciousness and agency than Volosinov’s formulation of inner speech and consciousness. Vygotsky, as a psychologist with developmental interests, was looking at how the outside (the interpersonal) got inside (the intrapersonal) in order to shape individual thought and action. He thus elaborated mechanisms by which internalized thought operated within the functional system of the self. The internal plane of consciousness, formed when language experience integrates with non-linguistic experience, incorporates one’s earliest social and linguistic relations and reformulates one’s prelinguistic and non-social experience and perception.
If Vygotsky shows more fully how society gets into the self, Volosinov as a socially-oriented linguist points outward into how the self gets into society. Volosinov’s formulation of inner speech arising out of socially embedded utterance reaches further outward in planting individual consciousness within a dynamic and complex social field. He points to the linguistic mechanisms by which we become intertwined with others in social dialogue and by which we necessarily become reliant on others’ words in talking with and interacting among people. Because his work as a linguistic theorist and researcher did not extend much beyond his 1929 book, he never developed further his investigation of the socio-linguistic mechanisms of the embedding of the self in social relations and utterances. His work, nonetheless, has set important terms for contemporary sociolinguistics and anthropological linguistics. The strong complementarity between Vygotsky’s inward mechanisms of the socially-formed language-saturated consciousness and Volosinov’s outward mechanisms of consciousness-forming socio-linguistic utterances provide a meeting point between psychology and social studies of language and interaction.
The dialogic formation of consciousness is a theme pursued by Bakhtin (1981), in particular concerning the representation of novelists’ consciousness expressed through the utterances of the novel’s characters and narrators. In Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics (1984a), a reworking of a 1929 book on Dostoevsky, and The Dialogic Imagination (1981), representing work in the 1930s and 40s, he associates the form of the novel with a form of consciousness. He praises novels that recognize the variety of utterances incorporated and thus adopt a stance of multivocality, dialogism, or polyphony rather than authoritative univocality, monologism, or monophony, which obscures the complexity of human language, consciousness, and relation. Bakhtin’s interest is in valuing appreciation of the existence of others, in the neo-Kantian tradition familiar to us in such moral thinkers as Martin Buber (1937) and Carl Rogers (1961). Bakhtin’s moral stance starts with a morally accountable, autonomous self that must take responsibility for individual actions, as he articulates in his early works published in Art and Answerability (1990) and Toward a Philosophy of the Act (1993). Such an individual moral self implies a very different form of consciousness than that from internalization of socially embedded speech presented by Volosinov and Vygotsky. For Bakhtin dialogism is a moral imperative as well as a fact of social development, that we draw on the pre-existing world of utterances to provide the resources for us to form our own utterance.
Intertextuality and Individuation
Yet while Bakhtin explores forms of consciousness that tie one viewpoint with another, he also identifies mechanisms by which a writer distinguishes his or her voice from that conveyed in the other voices incorporated into a complex consciousness. Bakhtin, in works such as The Dialogic Imagination (1981) and Rabelais and his World (1984b), considers stance, attitude, and evaluation one utterance makes toward others, such as through double-voicing or carnivalesque. He particularly considers parodic or otherwise critical heteroglossia as forms of resisting or commenting on authority, power, and dominant classes. His treatment of double-voicing highlights the complex attitudes we have towards each other’s words as we recognize and reevaluate the character of each other’s voice. Such complexity of evaluative attitude can serve to exclude or depreciate the other. To keep those who are different from us at a distance, we might parody a foreign accent or non-dominant dialect or we might mockingly repeat words we dismiss as absurd. Bakhtin, however, attempts to maintain a democratic, neo-Kantian appreciation of the other by limiting the targets of what we would now call attitude. The examples of carnivalesque or linguistic mockery that he examines typically aim to deflate oppressively powerful ruling forces rather than to stigmatize the powerless.
Bakhtin provides conceptual tools for understanding how authors engage or repress complexity of perspectives and establish attitude towards the perspectives of the characters they represent. He uses those tools to analyze in detail how the interplay of voices and perspectives is managed in different texts with particular ideological implications. In a number of works he presents histories of different forms of consciousness associated with differing literary forms and the political struggles embodied in the replacement of one literary form by another. Later literary critics such as Kristeva, Barthes, and Riffaterre put aside analysis of the authorial handling of multiple voices and the historically shifting forms of fiction and literary consciousness to engage broad, ahistorical questions of the status of the author, originality, and interpretation. Kristeva (1980) coined the term intertextuality to dissolve the autonomous integrity of both author and reader into the ocean of shared cultural experiences of common texts. Barthes (1977) took the implications of intertextuality a step beyond Kristeva’s dissolution of authorship to destabilize the text itself, since the text rests on the evocation of so many other texts. Riffatere (1984) sought to establish a basis for textual meaning and interpretation within the linguistic ambience, or intertexts, within which a text is read. Genette, however, has returned to a concrete analysis of how intertextuality works within specific texts. In several publications he has mapped out orderly sets of possible relations among texts, what he calls transtextuality (the making of meaning in an ambient world of texts), intertextuality (explicit quotation or allusion), paratextuality (the relation to directly surrounding texts, such as prefaces, interviews, publicity, reviews), metatextuality (a commentary relation), hypertextuality (the play of one text off of familiarity with another), and architextuality (the generic expectations in relation to other similar texts) (Genette, 1992, 1997a, 1997b).
Volosinov recognized that, as linguistic creatures, humans are inevitably caught up in the social drama of unfolding webs of utterances, to which we add only our next turn; Bakhtin then drew attention to the stance we take towards prior utterances. How we position ourselves against prior texts sets the terms for what we are able to do in the next step of the dialog. Volosinov’s and Bakhtin’s understanding of language as historically situated utterance opens up many issues of the way writing is situated within, deploys, and re-represents the flow of prior texts, but it is up to composition and rhetoric to articulate the complex skills and knowledge by which we manage to articulate our position and contribution to that intertextual space. If we are to understand how we are acted upon, how we can re-act, and how we can act freshly in this complex literate world of ours, where major institutions and spheres of activity are saturated by texts, we need to move toward a richer and more participatory understanding of intertextuality.
Intertextuality is ultimately about agency within the complex, historically evolved, and continuingly mutating landscape of texts. Even while a marine biologist must embed his or her contributions in the collected knowledge, methods, theories, projects, and motives of the field, he or she must offer a novel contribution which changes the intellectual landscape and reconfigures knowledge. The new textual landmark creates a new point from which to view a prior work in the field—a new perspective, a new evaluation, no matter how small or great in novelty. Likewise, a lawyer’s brief must be embedded in and speak to the relevant archive of the law and the courts as well as the documents, evidence, and testimony of the case at hand; yet each new statement must somehow add to the client’s case, with the intent of influencing the evaluation of all that came before in order to affect the final disposition of the case. Each contribution to a field of science or each successful intervention in a legal case changes the knowledge, precedent, beliefs, and ideas that are available for use and may be deemed relevant to be attended to by future participants, thereby changing the indexable resources and the playing field of future action.
Reasoning and Theory
Intertextual references do more than indicate objects and statements from elsewhere. The various indexed ontologies and intertexts are brought together, placed in relation to each other, and organized to create a bigger picture or tell a story or make claim. Each text carries out some reasoning about its contents, even if just to list items in proximity and sequence. Further the patterns of representation, reasoning, ideas, or cluster of associations of each text stand in relation to larger structures of thought and belief that circulate in the domain the text is part of —what we might call theory or ideology.
The elements typical to a genre are not just brought into a space, but are put into relations and then interactions typical of the space. A news story brings together sets of characters familiar to readers because of their prominence in business, government, entertainment, or other domain or because they have been caught up in events considered newsworthy. But then the news story identifies particular relations among the characters: one has talked to another or made a deal or has been accused by someone else. We also expect to be told of journalistic attempts to get comments and responses by related parties. The reported events additionally are played out against larger frameworks of action—such as piece of legislation being negotiated over a period of time, or a history of suspected corruption, or a series of government reports about a series of problems, or the drama of the rise and fall of celebrities—all of these are the themes of numerous previous stories.
The genres of academic disciplines equally tell stories of the advance of knowledge hoping to enlist readers into their view of events and accept the appearance of the new claim or theory that is the point of the article. These stories often begin by selecting from the generic chronotope of the disciplinary ontology of objects and problems and creating a selective intertext of what has been previously known—to set up the terms of an heroic adventure as Latour (1987) calls it or establish a niche for a claim as Swales (1990) calls it. To fulfill the heroic challenge or fill the niche, the researcher is presented as doing something new—framing a theory, carrying out an experiment, observing an event, performing an analysis—which carries the adventure forward and attempts to change the disciplinary landscape of knowledge. Of course there are many genres within each specialty with constant variations, but each attempts to move the disciplinary discussion forward by adding new items to the ontology or by rearranging perspectives and relations among prior statements.
In all disciplinary, professional, public, and other domains, larger activities of the field are carried out by more detailed arrangements within each text, walking readers down a path from one item to another with connectives to form logical or other persuasive relations. As the story unfolds, the sequence of events and the relations the article puts them into evoke judgments from the readers. When one government official is reported as being charged with payoffs, another is quoted as asking “who else has been picked up?” the readers’ views of both parties and the events reported are confirmed or transformed. As details about the scope of an earthquake and the extent of the devastation are described in a story, readers come to evaluate the size of the tragedy. Then when told of the actions or inaction of various relief and government agencies the readers evaluate the adequacy of the response and are reassured or enraged. When told the stories of individual pain and endurance, the readers then view the events through different emotional coloring.
The writer tries to guide the readers’ judgments by evoking values and evaluations at appropriate points, directing attention to certain kinds of evidence and phenomena, framing the story within particular ideas, reminding readers of earlier stories and events. The writer may also attempt to head off objections or alternative positions readers might hold, to answer possible questions about methods, to show distinctions between this and other cases, to remind readers of the importance of a distinction or to keep the readers from dismissing some part as tedious or trivial. In short, the writer attempts to keep ahold of the readers’ modes of reasoning, calling to attention all needed to maintain and advance the argument and to exclude what might distract the readers from staying within the desired path of calculation. In classical rhetoric, this concern for sequence of thought would fall under the canon of arrangement, which at times was understood as setting out a psychological path to move people’s minds and hearts, or as Bacon (1605) puts it in the Advancement of Learning, “The duty and office of rhetoric is to apply reason to imagination for the better moving of the will.”
Trust and Prior Belief
Because the writer seeks to have readers give their minds over to the path of reasoning the writer sets out, establishing and maintaining the readers’ trust is essential. Activating the readers’ minds, filling them with the contents suggested, avoiding contents that would weaken engagement with the projected meaning, and following the path guided by the writer requires the readers to believe in the good will, honesty, and intentions of the writer. Otherwise the text can evoke a resistant reading, creating a counter-meaning against the text rather than recreating the meaning offered within the text. The moment readers find something wrong or objectionable or suspicious, they start to distance their minds from the text; mental construction of meaning becomes conflicted or even oppositional. The larger the causes for skepticism, the more readers’ minds veer from the place the writer wishes. On the other hand, as long as the writer is able to bring readers along a shared path they enjoy a sense of consubstantiality as Kenneth Burke (1950) called it, drawing on the language of religious communion. With readers sensing a shared substance with the writers, readers identify with the meaning, projects, and even subjectivity of the writer. The reader attaches his or her own motives, associations, and meanings to the words of the writer, who is felt to be a kindred spirit. Other satisfactory relations of more limited trust are also available; for example, readers remain cooperative or at least compliant with bureaucratic communications as long as they sense that the bureaucracy is acting properly and believe that compliance serves their interests.
Using the generally accepted theory of a shared domain elicits trust of readers holding those same theories and decreases the work of establishing a common basis for reasoning. If the overwhelming majority of newspaper-reading citizens hold the view that wars are to be understood as personal contests between leaders and the value of their cause can be measured by the morality of the leader, then such beliefs can be invoked in the reporting of government justifications for attacks and of the deeds of leaders as virtuous or immoral. Every time this theory of war is invoked, explicitly or implicitly, it becomes more firmly entrenched as a warrantable form of reasoning in the genres invoking them. If, however, people see war in terms of the costs to citizens, accounts of the conflict to be trustworthy and credible must focus more on the lives of people caught up in the events and their attitudes toward the conflict. If readers hold the view that war is a strategic intervention in long-term geopolitics, then texts must tell an entirely different kind of story to be perceived as relevant and credible (and not just an untrustworthy account of either jingoistic war-mongers or bleeding hearts, as such readers might stigmatize accounts from other perspectives).
This relation between theory and what is perceived as a trustworthy account is equally the case in the sciences as it is in the public sphere—although processes that establish trustworthiness may differ significantly. As a scientific theory becomes established and warranted, with decreasing questioning and challenge, it becomes an unquestioned resource for reasoning in the field. In the first half of the twentieth century, for example, quantum theory became accepted and embedded in small particle physics, so that it became ever more implicitly built into the structure of reasoning and arrangement of the article, and thus part of the generic expectation (Bazerman, 1984a). The process of its becoming accepted and regularly invoked was tied up with evidence, accountability, and an emerging intertextual web of confirming studies, so that the theory became a trusted and reliable resource for the field. A part of such a story is how the physicist Arthur H. Compton argued over a series of articles that particular new forms of evidence about observed phenomena were best explained by quantum theory, supporting a larger movement in subatomic physics from classical to quantum theory (Bazerman, 1984b). As questions were stilled, researchers found quantum theory a useful resource to be regularly invoked in ways that would not raise questions about their own work, but rather would support their credibility. The theory that was once considered speculative and suspect became taken for granted, invoked with regularity, and with decreasing amounts of work needed to warrant it. A paper that did not then rely on the theory, overlooking what any insider would see as obvious quantum effects, would then become suspect and less trustworthy.
Aristotle (1991) called such beliefs held by a community that are usable without explicit reasoning as enthymemes. Audiences are especially attached to messages that invoke enthymemes they hold, because the enthymemes tap unarticulated beliefs and match their own judgments. Using the implied reasoning of the enthymemes, they come to conclusions that match the rhetor’s without coercion or urging. They sense that the rhetor thinks like them and is therefore even more to be trusted. This goes as much for racist diatribes against immigrants as for hortatory sermons inspiring virtuous actions as well as for scientific reasoning relying on shared knowledge of the field. The degree that these assumptions when questioned can be made explicit and re-examined on the base of evidence and reason within the terms of the domain, however, varies from domain to domain. As with most of the textual phenomena discussed here, enthymemes are genre and field specific. The same audience that would accept the racist anti-immigrant rant, when reading recipes or restaurant reviews might entertain entirely different theories about the works and cultures of these same populations that they excoriate in political contexts. While research articles in particle physics would take quantum theory as a presupposition and prerequisite for trustworthiness, research articles in psychology would not invoke that theory, and its relevance to the reasoning of an article would take lots of explicit justification not to be viewed as crackpot.
Certain genres and domains of communicative practice explicitly attempt to make visible and call into question presuppositions of other genres and domains, so as to bring them to the surface for inspection, re-evaluation, criticism, change, mockery, or humor. If such questioning is successful, the reasoning in the questioned field can change, with different statements trusted and different assumptions evoked in shared thought. Ideological critical analysis attempts to surface unspoken assumptions of cultures, often to reveal inequities or power relations embedded in cultural practices, and thereby to make these practices less palatable or trustworthy. Comedians, in mocking the statements of others that are trusted by some audiences, point toward contradictions of assumptions or outrageous implications of cultural assumptions. A public figure successfully mocked by comedians, whether with political intent or not, has to contend with the changed public view and must work to rebuild lost trust. Public campaigns to change views on such policy issues as health, drugs, energy, environment, or diversity also aim to change the underlying structure of assumptions about which statements are to be taken as trustworthy and untrustworthy as people reason about their life choices. But those who wish to question assumptions in any domain, for whatever reason, must themselves earn trust among those whose presuppositions and reasoning they wish to change. Cultural critics can be dismissed as uninformed malcontents; comedians who transgress too far can be viewed as nasty rather than funny; and public campaigns to change belief can themselves be the object of mockery and disbelief.
The Insubstantial Pageants of Meaning
Language is realized in the form of individual concrete utterances (oral and written) by participants in the various areas of human activity. These utterances reflect the specific conditions and goals of each such area not only through their content (thematic) and linguistic style, that is the selection of lexical, phraseological, and grammatical resources of the language, but above all through their compositional structure. All three of these aspects—thematic content, style, and compositional structure—are inseparably linked to the whole of the utterance and are equally determined by the specific nature of the particular sphere of communication. Each separate utterance is individual, of course, but each sphere in which language is used develops its own relatively stable types of these utterances. These we may call speech genres. The wealth and diversity of speech genres are boundless because the various possibilities of human activity are inexhaustible, and because each sphere of activity contains an entire repertoire of speech genres that differentiate and grow as the particular sphere develops and becomes more complex. Special emphasis should be placed on the extreme heterogeneity of speech genres (oral and written). (Bakhtin, 1986, p. 60)
The practice-based approach to genre we present here has synthesized multiple lines of influence: 1) developmental theories of self and consciousness arising in social interaction saturated with language in order for social creatures to seek life needs and satisfactions; 2) phenomenological sociology, which finds the emergent order of everyday social activity resting on processes of typification and recognizability; 3) pragmatic theories of self and society, seeing self, society, institutions, language, and meaning constantly being transformed to meet human needs; 4) structurational sociology, which sees larger structuring of events and relations emerging interactionally from the local actions and attributions of participants; 5) anthropological and psychological studies of discourse practices as situated, distributed, and mediated; 6) speech act theory, which sees utterances going beyond conveying meaning to making things happen in the social world; 7) theories of discourse as dialogic, situated, and heteroglossic; and 8) a rhetoric oriented to content, purpose, and situation as well as form and style.
This synthesis leaves us with a view of text content and meaning as transient and unstable, a construct of readers in dialog with the signs inscribed within the text. The construction of meaning, however, is not randomly idiosyncratic, but rather relies on participants’ positioning within activity systems, social groupings, larger cultures, personal histories, and immediate motives. Texts point towards various objects in the world and collections of prior discourse, and invoke procedures of construal and communal understanding, so as to agree on what is being pointed to—or at least well enough for participants to continue communicating without a breach of trust.
Further, texts attempt to enlist participants into communities of shared knowledge, thinking and activity—so that the text becomes an object of co-orientation and shared knowledge. Texts become vehicles for forging intersubjectivity, even as there is a projective variation in the meaning each reader attributes to the text and to what is being indexed by the words in the text. The degree that texts are able to evoke the degree of co-orientation and coordination of meaning and action that they do in particular spheres is remarkable since the coordination of meaning rests on the transient phantasms of people’s minds—the passing dramas played out on the neural projections of individuals’ brains. But of course, each text is surrounded by complex social, historical, and cultural apparatuses that bring people together in common projects and experiences, that have made them familiar with what is pointed to in each text, and have facilitated shared attitudes towards those things indexed.
If sharing of meaning is a function of social, cultural, and historical propinquity, then the sharing of meaning becomes more difficult the further the reader and writer are separated by domain, period, region, project, or viewpoint. Writing any but the simplest and most familiar meanings to one’s closest peers is difficult. The further apart the writer and reader and the more complex and unanticipated the message, the more gets lost to the accommodation of meaning between worlds. Texts that are clear, strong, travel, and carry more than the most conventional meanings deserve admiration.