1. Free Indirect Speech


Philological and linguistic studies on the forms of reported speech, in particular free indirect speech, play a central role in the problem of the relationship between one’s own vision and someone else’s vision, whether a question of the ordinary utterance, the literary text, or the novel.


Pier Paolo Pasolini dedicates a whole essay in Empirismo eretico (1972, pp. 81–103) to free indirect speech and returns to the problem on several occasions in his reflections on “how to make films”. He takes free indirect speech as a model to create what he calls “free-indirect subjective” (“soggettiva libera indiretta”), where different visions encounter each other and interact. In his studies, Pasolini refers to Giulio Herczeg, author of Alcune costruzioni assolute in italiano (1948), Saggi linguistici e stilistici (1972), Dizionario italiano ungherese, and in particular to Herczeg’s analyses in Lo stile indiretto libero in italiano (1963).


Herczeg’s book has recourse in particular to studies by the Austrian philologist and critic Leo Spitzer. Under the influence of the philologist Karl Vossler and Benedetto Croce, Spitzer had created a sort of synthesis between linguistics and literary criticism. Herczeg also makes use of Nicola Vita’s work on erlebte Rede; Vittorio Lugli’s reflections on free indirect speech in Flaubert and Verga; Charles Bally’s “pioneer” studies on free indirect speech (publishing an article in 1912 in the journal Germanische-romanische Monatsschrift, IV, and another, “Figures de pensée et formes linguistiques”, in 1914, in issue VI of the same journal, in reply to Theodor Kalepky). Another book taken into consideration by Herczeg is Le style indirect libre, 1926, by Marguerite Lips, Bally’s alumna. He also referred to considerations made by the German linguist cited above, Theodor Kalepky – who had already criticized Bally’s interpretation of free indirect discourse in early 1913. Another reference is Eugen Lerch who, in 1914, with Gertraud Lerch (both followers of Vossler) also contributed to the discussion on free indirect discourse. E. Lerch describes the latter as “speech as fact” (Rede als Tatsache) to indicate that in free indirect discourse the author himself communicates the word of the other as though it were a fact.


The interplay between one’s own word and someone else’s word, therefore free indirect discourse where such interaction is most evident, is the central theme in Part III of Marxism and the Philosophy of Language, by Valentin N. Vološinov (I ed. 1929, II ed. 1930; Eng. trans. 1973; It. trans. 1976). Marxism and the Philosophy of Language is a decidedly Bakhtinian text and – with another monograph by Vološinov, Freudianism. A Critical Sketch (1927), as well as other essays published between 1926 and 1930 – may be considered as an expression of the Bakhtin Circle.


In what follows we shall refer to the third part of Marxism and the Philosophy of Language, “Toward a History of Forms of Utterance in Language Constructions”, now available in Italian translation as an independent volume titled, Parola propria e parola altrui nella sintassi dell’enunciazione (One’s own word and the other’s word in utterance syntax) (Bakhtin & Vološinov 2010).


Vološinov took an interest in the Bakhtin Circle in 1919. Subsequently, he worked towards his doctorate at the Institute of Oriental and Occidental Languages and Literature (ILJaZV), in Leningrad, where he studied with Lev Jakubinskij and Vasilij Desnickij. He presented his research project for the years 1927-28, supervised by Desnickij and N. Jalole, and as the topic of his research indicated the relation between one’s own word and the word of the other.


Anyone familiar with the section titled “Discourse in Dostoevsky” in Bakhtin’s monograph Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics (whether the first 1929, or second 1963 edition), or with Estetika slovesnogo tvorcestva, 1979 (It. trans. L’autore e l’eroe, 1988) will immediately recognize this theme as “Bakhtinian”. The research project presented by Vološinov is titled “Transmission of the word of the other”, and essentially corresponds to Part III in Marxism and the Philosophy of Language.


Interference between one’s own word and someone else’s word increases significantly in free indirect speech, creating the phenomenon of dialogism internal to the word, internal to the same utterance. Internal dialogism was a central interest among members of the Bakhtin Circle and is what Bakhtin had in mind when he spoke of “dialogue”. “Dialogue” – notwithstanding widespread misunderstandings concerning Bakhtin’s interpretation of the term – means something completely different, therefore, from what is commonly understood. Indeed, in Bakhtin’s sense its meaning is inversely proportional to the common understanding: in fact, the more dialogue is limited to external dialogue among rejoinders, formal dialogue, like dialogue among characters in dramatic genres, and the less is there dialogue in the Bakhtinian sense, that is, in the sense of dialogue internal to the same utterance.


Vološinov refers to free indirect discourse, which he indicates with the expression  “nesobstvennaja prjamaja reč”, “improperly direct discourse”, which is the name introduced by Gertraud Lerch (“uneigentliche direckte Rede”) for what today is generally known as free indirect discourse. The expression quasi-direct discourse appears in the 1973 English translation of Marxism and the Philosophy of Language. Instead, the expression discours indirecte libre appears in the 2010 French edition, which is analogous to the expression, discorso indiretto libero, used in the 2010 Italian translation cited above. Vološinov’s analysis begins from an essay published in 1887 (in Zeitschrift für Romanische Philologie, XI) by the Swiss philologist, Adolf Tobler, rejecting the latter’s interpretation of free indirect discourse as “eigentümliche Michung direkter und indirekter Rede”, “orginal mixture of direct and indirect discourse”.


Instead, Vološinov places particular importance on the thesis maintained by Theodor Kalepky (Zeitschrift für Romanische Philologie, XIII, 1899) who recognized free indirect discourse as a third, absolutely independent, form of reported discourse, defining it as “verschleierte Rede” (“veiled discourse”).


Vološinov then goes on to discuss the position held by Charles Bally and by the “Vosslerians”: Eugen Lerch who, as observed above, characterizes free indirect discourse in his discussion with Bally as “Rede als Tatsache”, “speech as [narrated] fact”; Etienne Lorck, author of the little volume Die “Erlebte Rede” (1921), who defines free indirect discourse as “experienced discourse” (erlebte Rede), in contradistinction to direct discourse, defined as “repeated discourse” (gesprochene Rede), and indirect discourse which is “communicated discourse” (berichtete Rede); finally, Gertraud Lerch who assigns an important role to empathy (Einfülung) in her explanation of free indirect discourse, indicated as “uneigentliche direkte Rede” (semi-direct discourse).


2. Utterance Syntax and Free Indirect Discourse


In Part III of Marxism and the Philosophy of Language, the interest in free indirect discourse is not so much of a stylistic order, nor a question of poetics, as in Bakhtin’s Dostoevsky. The second edition (1963) was entitled Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics (It. trans. Dostoevskij. Poetica e stilistica, 1968), rather than as the 1929 edition, Problems of Dostoevsky’s Artwork (It. trans. Problemi dell’opera di Dostoevskij, 1997).


The problem of the relation between one’s own word and the word of the other is mainly a problem of the linguistic order and is fundamental for a linguistics of the utterance. Both Bakhtin’s book of 1929 as well as Volosinov’s, published that same year, converge on this point, even using the same terminology and argumentations.


Unlike the sentence, the dead cell of language, which is generally the object of study by linguistics, whether taxonomical or generative transformational linguistics, the word, even when a question of the basic unit, the utterance, the live cell of speech, is always involved with the word of others, because the word implies listening, is realized in listening, the word responds and calls for a response.


On the level of sense, the basic unit is the utterance, because only an utterance can elicit responsive understanding. The utterance is contextualized, belongs to someone and is addressed to someone, it is endowed with implied meaning, is accentuated, and is finalized to expressing something. All this is absent in the sentence whose meaning or possible meanings can only be understood by imagining it as a possible utterance, investing it with all the above-mentioned characteristics of the utterance, that is, by conferring a possible sense upon it.


The question of reported discourse is mainly a question of syntax, precisely the syntax of the utterance, given that the utterance lives in the encounter among words. Syntax of the sentence is one thing, syntax of the utterance is completely different. The utterance necessarily involves encounter of the word with the word of the other, even more so, obviously, when a question of reported discourse.


To consider the relation between the reported word and the reporting word from a linguistic point of view instead of, or not only, from the stylistic, means to consider how particular reception and transmission modalities of the discourse of others are sedimented in language, and how this process varies from one language to another and according to the historical era.


It could be claimed that here the problem of listening becomes the problem of listening by language (lingua, that is, historical natural language). In other words, it is a question of examining the attitude a given language takes toward the word of the other and, therefore, of considering the instruments it provides on a syntactic level to receive and transmit the word of the other.


To report someone else’s word means that the word must necessarily activate connections and combine with the word of others: this necessarily involves problems of syntax. In fact, encounter between one’s own word and someone else’s word, the interaction among words, is especially obvious in syntax. And how reception and transmission of someone else’s word is oriented, the capacity for listening, the constitutive dialogism of the utterance all emerges most clearly in the syntax of reported discourse – direct, indirect and free indirect.


However, as stated, it is above all in free indirect discourse that interference between one’s own word and the word of the other becomes significant, giving rise to dialogism internal to the word. Internal dialogism is the main focus of the Bakhtin circle and is what Bakhtin understands by “dialogue”. Therefore, this term assumes a completely different, even opposite, meaning from common understanding. It is worth repeating that external dialogue among rejoinders is one thing, that is, dialogue as a literary genre, like dialogue of dramatic dialogues, while dialogue in the Bakhtinian sense, that is, dialogue internal to the same utterance, is another.


The Russian language, the language of Bakhtin and Vološinov, is not endowed with consecutio temporis, so that, as they both observe, indirect discourse does not have its own distinctive character. This favours, more than in other languages, interaction and interpenetration between the reporting word and the reported word, as well as the transition from indirect discourse (in reality from direct discourse and its variants, given that there is hardly any difference with respect to indirect discourse) to free indirect discourse.


But precisely because of this, free indirect discourse, the third autonomous form of reported discourse, should not be confused with some of the variants of direct and indirect discourse. An important contribution in the third part of Marxism and the Philosophy of Language consists in characterizing the specificity of free indirect discourse as the third type of reported discourse. The difference is evidenced with respect to the variants of direct and indirect discourse, with which it can be and in fact is confused. However, as demonstrated by Vološinov through a series of concrete examples, those very forms of indirect discourse which are easily confused with free indirect discourse because of the lack of specific syntax, as occurs in the Russian language, provides the ground for the birth and development of free indirect discourse.


Interference between the reporting word and the reported word – each with a different sense but connected in the same syntactical structure –, involves a certain deformation of the normal syntactical physiognomy of indirect discourse, especially in languages that respect the principle of consecutio temporis. In this case, the same utterance “must serve two masters”, in other words, it belongs simultaneously to the reported word and the reporting word.


Denominations of this type of reported discourse, such as improper direct discourse or semi-direct discourse or free indirect discourse reflect the itinerary, therefore the origin through which it was formed in the different languages – German, Russian, French (these are the languages considered by Vološinov and Bachtin), Italian…


À propos free indirect discourse Vološinov speaks of “inter-referential fusion” of two discourses whose intonation is oriented in different directions. He believes that this form of reported discourse is particularly important in the study of utterance syntax, and even dedicates a whole chapter to it, the third and last, discussing different interpretations, in particular that proposed by Charles Bally and Vossler’s school – Theodor Kalepky and Eugen Lorck and Gertraud Lerch.


But, as anticipated, in the first place, Vološinov makes a point of differentiating certain variants of direct and indirect discourse from free indirect discourse. These variants are easily confused with free indirect discourse causing it to lose its specificity as a third form of discourse in itself, a third linguistic form of reported discourse. These variants include “substituted direct discourse” which consists in speaking in someone else’s place, as in the famous example of the “addio di Lucia al suo paese”, in the Promessi sposi by Alessandro Manzoni. This variant comes very close to free indirect discourse, with the difference that in substituted direct discourse one’s own word and the word of the other do not interfere with each other. This is because the reporting word coincides with what someone else could have or should have said. Consequently, the grammatical and stylistic signs that characterize free indirect discourse, that are generated by the interplay between reported and reporting discourse, are also lacking.


Vološinov’s examples are taken from Puškin; he evidences that characterization of the character’s “substituted discourse” simply occurs on a semantical level and concerns the meaning of words. However, there is no interference between discourses that are differently oriented, nor are there traces of resistance and retroaction from someone else’s word in the author’s reporting discourse. But precisely through Puškin, it can be observed how substituted discourse can give rise to the free indirect form, and how at a certain point in the evolution of the Russian language, it contributed to the assertion of free indirect discourse as a form in itself.


According to Vološinov, free indirect discourse is not a “simple mechanical mixture” or “arithmetical sum” of two forms, but a “completely new, positive tendency in active reception of someone else’s utterance, a special orientation in the dynamics of the interrelation between the author’s word and someone else’s word” (Volosinov 1973, p. 142, modified following the Italian translation in Bachtin & Vološinov 2010, p. 142).


Nor is it merely a stylistic expedient invented by an author to report someone else’s word. Here we find considerations quite similar to Ludwig Wittgenstein’s on the subjective, private possibility of inventing what a language (lingua, historical natural language), public ordinary language (linguaggio) has not foreseen. It is not possible to explain, as instead Adolf Tobler proposes, the invention of a new linguistic form on the basis of the speaker’s reasoning. On such a basis what can be explained:

is merely the use in one or another concrete instance of an already available form, but under no circumstances will it do to explain the composing of a new form in language. The individual motives and intentions of a speaker can take meaningful effect only within limits imposed by current grammatical possibilities on the one hand, and within the limits of the conditions of socioverbal intercourse that predominate in his group on the other. These possibilities and these conditions are given quantities – they are what circumscribe the speaker’s linguistic purview. It is beyond the speaker’s individual power to force that purview open (Eng. trans. Vološinov 1973, p. 143; It. trans. Bakhtin & Vološinov 2010, p. 143).
Given historical-social conditions are necessary, involving a certain way of perceiving and, therefore, of reporting the word of the other, for the assertion of free indirect discourse as a form foreseen by language and traceable, therefore, in the work of a given author. This is the case of La Fontaine and according to Werner Günter (see Giulio Herczeg, Lo stile indiretto libero in italiano, 1963) free indirect discourse can already be traced in Ariosto (Günter claims to have found approximately 60 examples of free indirect discourse in Orlando furioso), and in Dante, as Pasolini (1972) shows in his analysis of the Paolo and Francesca episode in the Divine Comedy. As Vološinov claims:


No matter what the intentions the speaker means to carry out, no matter what errors he may commit, no matter how he analyzes forms or mixes them or combines them, he will not create a new pattern in language and he will not create a new tendency in socioverbal intercourse. His subjective intentions will bear creative character only to the extent that there is something in them that coincides with tendencies in the socioverbal intercourse of speakers that are in the process of formation, of generation; and these tendencies are dependent upon socioeconomic factors (Eng. trans. Vološinov 1973, p. 143; It. trans. Bachtin e Vološinov 2010, p. 144).


Particular social conditions cause certain orientations toward someone else’s word to dominate over others. These become “grammatical” in a given language, rise to the status of syntactical models and determine how the speakers of that language will perceive and transmit the word of the other. In other words, whether these crystallized forms last, how these models influence speaker behaviour also depends on historical-social factors. A change in the historical-social conditions that formed these models, is immediately reflected in them, transforming them: at the very least their regulatory and inhibitive function is weakened, widening the range in variations relative to a given model. In free indirect discourse, factors conditioning the possibility of dialogic interference between two voices in the same word include: crisis in dominant ideology, the collapse of unidimensional culture to the advantage of a pluralistic vision of reality, transformation of a given social system and its contradictions which emerge ever more insistently.


A language (lingua, historical-natural language) can influence the dynamics in the relation between the reported word and the reporting word. For example, it can facilitate portrayal of someone else’s word by making sure it is clearly distinguished from the reporting word and is characterized stylistically; or it can account for the content of discourse more than for its peculiar formal characteristics. The syntactical rules of a language implemented by the reporting word can require that this word be a univocal objectifying word, a mere instrument of representation, an external, absolute point of view; or they can favour the possibility of making the two voices resound differently, the voice of the other, of the reported word. and the author’s voice, the voice of the reporting word. Relativization of the word of the other and of reporting discourse implies availability, on the level of historical-natural language, of syntactic forms able to soften the borders between authorial context and the reported word, or even cancel the distinction between a represented word and a representing word that is not in turn represented. From this point of view, the role carried out by free indirect discourse model is truly noteworthy.


In fact, as Pasolini claims, free indirect discourse is generally “the sign of an ideology”, “it implies a sociological consciousness in the author, whether this is clear or not” (Pasolini 1972, 88): free indirect discorse is a sign of given socio-ideological conditions, it is the expression of confrontation among different languages, styles, and ideologies, it relativizes points of view, desecrates the monological word. What Pasolini observes à propos free indirect speech in Dante and in Ariosto is particularly significant in light of the role assigned to it by Bakhtin in the dialectics between monologism and polylogism:

Che nell’Ariosto ci sia il discorso libero indiretto è un fatto così storicamente significativo e imponente, che non ci si può limitare a constatarlo, come una curiosità o un titolo di merito rispetto a La Fontaine. Si vede che c’è stato un momento nella società italiana con delle caratteristiche che poi si sono ripetute in modo più o meno vasto e stabile un secolo e mezzo dopo in Francia, ecc. ecc. […] La lingua dell’Ariosto è inscindibile: le sfumature non hanno soluzione di continuità, e formano una continuità tra la lingua feudale e la lingua borghese, tra la lingua delle armi e la lingua del commercio e delle banche. […] Il discorso che l’Ariosto rivive è quello di se stesso borghese. […] Il gioco è fra linguaggio alto e linguaggio medio: una sfumatura infinita, dove la coscienza sociologica non è che un’ombra, potente, che ombreggia del resto e dà rilievo a tutto il meraviglioso gioco dell’ironia ariostesca. […] Neppure casuale è l’uso del libero indiretto in Dante. La sua presenza nella Divina commedia è espressione delle particolari contraddizioni linguistico-ideologiche proprie delle società comunale (Pasolini 1972, pp. 84–85).


Vološinov expresses himself in similar terms when he observes that in order to achieve free indirect discourse – acompletely different form of perception and transmission of the word of the other –, some displacement would be necessary, a shift in socio-verbal communication and with regard to mutual orientation of the utterances. Only once this form has gradually developed and become part of the field of linguistic possibilities can the expressive intentions of individual speakers be determined, find motivation and fertile fulfilment within its boundaries (see Vološinov 1929, Eng. trans. 1973, p. 143; It. trans. Bakhtin & Vološinov 2010, p. 144).


Vološinov, as mentioned above, considers free indirect discourse as a third and absolutely independent form of reported discourse, and from this point of view is in accord with Kalepky who made the same claim. He defines free indirect discourse as hidden or veiled discourse (verschleierte Rede), observing that on the face of it the person who speaks converges with the author, but from the point of view of the real sense of the overall context, the person who speaks is, instead, the author. However, in contrast to Kalepky Vološinov observes that the specific character of this form consists in the fact that the hero and the author speak as much as each other and that the accents of differently oriented voices resound within the limits of a single and identical linguistic construction. This is what distinguishes free indirect discourse from that variant of direct discourse indicated by Vološinov as “masked discourse of the other” where the word of the other is hidden, precisely, in the word that reports it. And even if, in this case as well grammatical and stylistic phenomena that are particularly original can be produced, it is always one of the many variants of the direct form of reporting the “word of the other”. However, free indirect discourse is a special type of discourse, with an uncovered face, though double-faced, like Giano (see Volosinov 1973, p. 144).


A’ propos interpretation of free indirect discourse, an important position (classical, we might say, alongside Vossler and his school) is Bally’s. The latter believes that free indirect discourse, what he calls “style indirect libre”, is a new recent variant of indirect discourse, which developed according to the following transformation due to the general tendency to prefer paratactic coordination among clauses to hypotactic subordination: “il disait qu’il était malade > il disait: il était malade > il était malade (disait-il)”. Furthermore, this variant of indirect discourse, according to Bally, is a form in motion moving toward direct discourse.


Vološinov criticizes Bally for focusing his attention on relations among sentences and clauses, thereby ignoring the phenomenon of encounter among words, among utterances and voices. Instead, Bally’s analysis is based on the abstraction “language” (langue, historico-natural language) and reduces the question to a relation among the forms of discourse foreseen by historico-natural language.


Bally works on linguistic abstractions when he states that free indirect discourse is no more than a variant of indirect discourse moving toward direct discourse as its furthest extreme, formed simply by dropping the conjunction “that” and the verb that introduces it. Nothing can form and flourish – and this is the position held by Vološinov and Bakhtin – where there are only linguistic forms. “Life begins only at the point where utterance crosses utterance, i.e., where verbal interaction begins” (Ibid., p. 145), where there is a word on the word and a word in the word. In free indirect discourse dropping the conjunction “that” does not unite two abstract forms, it is not a question of one abstract form directing itself towards another abstract form. Instead, two utterances move towards each other, mutually perceive each other, and no longer being in a relation of mutual indifference, but rather of unindifference, reciprocal participation, they modify each other. “The dropping of the conjunction que brings together, not two abstract forms but two utterances in all their ideational fullness. The dike ruptures, as it were, and authorial intonations freely stream into the reported speech” (Ibid., p. 146).


As anticipated, language with its rules certainly influences perception and transmission of the word of the other. And, indeed, if what in Italian is called “indiretto libero” and in French “indirect libre”, and instead in German is indicated as “improperly direct speech” (uneigentliche direkte Rede ) and in Russian, as used by Bachtin, “nesobstvennaja prjamaja reč”, with the same reference to direct discourse, this is because in conformity with the grammatical structures of each of these languages, it begins developing in each language, elicited by given historical-social conditions, using the model that appears the most flexible: free indirect in French and Italian; and direct discourse in German and Russian.


As regards free indirect discourse in Italian, we will simply refer to the book already mentioned by Herczeg, Lo stile indiretto libero in italiano (1963), to Leo Spitzer’s essay, “L’originalità della narrazione nei Malavoglia”, in his volume Studi italiani. Vita e pensiero, 1976, and to the above-mentioned essay by Pasolini (1972). Free indirect discourse is often confused with variants of direct and indirect discourse in Italian as well. Vološinov’s text makes a noteworthy contribution towards distinguishing among them with its precise and articulated analyses of the models and variants of reported discourse


3. Distance and Participation as conditions for the artwork


When a question of the text, as Bakhtin shows in his essay of 1961, “The Problem of the Text in Linguistics, Philosophy, and the Human Sciences: An Experiment in Philosophical Analysis” (in Bakhtin 1979, Eng. trans. 1986: 103–131; It. trans. 1988: 191), his studies develop along boundaries, frontiers, at the point of encounter and intersection among such spheres as linguistics, philology, theory of literature and literary criticism, and other special disciplines belonging to the human sciences.


Reference to the text in its double modality and as the point of encounter between verbal and nonverbal signs sheds more light on the question of reported discourse and its variant free indirect discourse. This approach also affords insights of a methodological order not limited to the field of linguistics, and the possibility of experimentations in the artistic sphere not limited to narrative genres alone.


Pier Paolo Pasolini gave special attention to free indirect discourse. However, he did not limit his attention to literary writing. He also considered the implications for film writing and concretely experimented them. According to Pasolini, à propos what he calls “poetry film” the essential characteristic of the photographic image in contemporary cinema is that it is neither objective (a vision external to the character), corresponding to indirect discourse, nor subjective (the character’s vision), corresponding to direct discourse, but semi-objective and semi-subjective. Like free indirect discourse, the photographic image in motion-pictures presents together two points of view that do not merge into each other, but that interact dialogically and are dissymmetrical. Pasolini calls this doubling “free indirect subjective discourse” (“soggettiva libera indiretta”).


Deleuze develops the idea of free indirect discourse as an essential form of the new novel and new cinema. He evaluates the role of “free indirect subjective discourse” in Pasolini’s own film production and evidences the effect of contamination it produces between trivial and noble, low and high, profane and sacred, everyday life and myth.


But why is encounter between one’s own point of view and someone else’s so important in the artistic sphere?


In For A Philosophy of the Act (1920-24), reflecting on literature and art in general, Bakhtin observes that


The world that is correlated with me is fundamentally and essentially incapable of becoming part of an aesthetic architectonics. […] to contemplate aesthetically means to refer an object to the valuative plane of the other. (Bakhtin 1920–24. Eng. trans. pp. 74–5)


These statements by Bakhtin are developed and specified in a text that comes immediately after, “Author and Hero in Aesthetic Activity”, which opens the 1979 collection of his writings (and is used as the title of the whole collection in the 1988 Italian translation, L’autore e l’eroe, whereas the English translation is titled, Art and Answerability, 1990):


My own axiological relationship to myself is completely unproductive aesthetically: for myself, I am aesthetically unreal. […]. The organizing power in all aesthetic forms is the axiological category of the other, the relationship to the other, enriched by an axiological “excess” of seeing for the purpose of achieving a transgredient consummation. (Bakhtin “Author and Hero in Aesthetic Activity”, 1920-24, in Bakhtin 1979, Eng., pp. 188–189)


The implication is that for aesthetic value in any artistic production it will be necessary to depict the point of view of the other. For literature this means that reported discourse is inevitable, and also involves autobiographic and lyrical genres.


A unitary reaction to the hero’s world in its totality is essential to the artwork. This unitary reaction is distinct from cognitive and practical reactions, but not indifferent to them. The author’w unitary reaction must collect all the single cognitive and emotional-volitional reactions and unite them in an architectonic totality. In order to acquire artistic value, the author’s unitary action must communicate all the resistance of reality, of life, of which the hero is an expression. This is the resistance of the objective with respect to its depiction, objectification. The author’s unitary action must convey the otherness of the hero, with his or her artistic values. Therefore, the starting point of the author’s reaction must be extralocalized with respect to the hero, extralocalized in space, time, sense, even more so if the hero is autobiographical. Without the processes of extralocalization, in the case of autobiography confessional tones prevail and the text looses in artistic value.


Bakhtin shows how Dostoevsky’s “polyphonic novel” does not describe the character as an I, a subject, would describe an object, but rather as “another” centre around which that character organizes its world:

Not without reason does Dostoevsky force Makar Devushkin to read Gogol’s “Overcoat” and to take it as a story about himself […]

Devushkin had glimpsed himself in the image of the hero of “The Overcoat,” which is to say, as something totally quantified, measured, and defined to the last detail: all of you is here, there is nothing more in you, and nothing more to be said about you. He felt himself to be hopelessly predetermined and finished off, as if he were already quite dead, yet at the same time he sensed the falseness of such an approach. […]


The serious and deeper meaning of this revolt might be expressed this way: a living human being cannot be turned into the voiceless object of some secondhand, finalizing cognitive process. In a human being there is always something that only he himself can reveal; in a free act of self-consciousness and discourse; something that does not submit to an externalizing secondhand definition. […]


The genuine life of the personality is made available only through a dialogic penetration of that personality, during which it freely and reciprocally reveals itself. (Bakhtin 1963, Eng. trans.: 49-59)


Dialogue understood not in the formal sense, but rather in the substantial sense, which is also the artistically essential sense, does not only subsist where different points of views and identities come together. On the contrary, dialogue is achieved in the very situation of resistance to synthesis, which includes the delusory synthesis of one’s own identity. The latter, in fact, is dialogically fragmented insofar as it is inevitably involved in otherness, just as the “grotesque body” depicted by Rabelais (Bakhtin 1965) is involved with the body of others.


This gives rise to the ambivalent language of popular comical culture, described by Bakhtin in his studies on Rabelais. Dialogism as described by Bakhtin, substantial dialogue oriented by the logic of otherness produces the type of parody that is characteristic of popular culture, it produces irony, comicality, the dynamic vision typical of popular culture where images are never finalized, isolated, inert, but rather are endowed with “regenerating ambivalence”.


Dario Fo (awared the Nobel Prize for literature in 1997) also works on Medieval popular comical culture and its parodic artworks (sacred parodic performances, parodic prayers, parodies of liturgy and the mysteries, etc.). In Mistero Buffo, giullarata popolare in lingua padana de ‘400, in which he collects and reconstructs documents relating to popular theatre, he too draws on the particular style of parodization and derision that characterizes Medieval popular culture. He also refers to Medieval popular culture when he uses the mimetic capacity of the actor as the main instrument of theatrical expression and elects the grotesque body as a signifying body. Moreover, as a form of critique of dominant ideology and of power, Fo resorts to popular culture in its capacity for subversion and provocation thanks to the tendency for excess with respect to homologation as imposed by official ideology. The plasticity, ductility, mobility, comicality, ambiguity typical of the grotesque expressions of popular comicality developed by Fo, evidence the possibility of a popular culture that is not necessarily the result of the passive consumption of culture functional to reproduction of the existing social system. This is a central point in the challenge launched by the body itself as depicted by Fo in all his artworks against cultural homologation as imposed by those who detain control over communication. And here let us underline that Fo’s entire artistic production is political insofar as it is artistic, in his own words: “all of art is political” (Fo, “Prefazione” to Il teatro politico 1975).


Dostoevsky’s dialogism as analyzed by Bakhtin does not involve voices independent of each other, as we have claimed on many occasions. Nor does polyphony consist in “the novel’s tendency toward drama,” toward “objectivity” and “impersonality”, toward the “author’s exit from the stage”. The polyphonic novel is not the novel approaching drama.


And yet Bakhtin is very clear on this point in his response to Lunacharsky and his critical review of the1929 edition of his monograph on Dostoevsky (published in Novij mir, 1929, 10). Bakhtin included his response to Lunacharsky in the 1963 edition of the same monograph. Lunacharsky interpreted polyphony as objectivity and dramatization where the author is effaced, and proposed to attribute polyphony thus described to both Shakespeare and Balzac. In the 1963 edition of Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics, Bakhtin rejects this proposal. According to Bakhtin, Balzac’s limit is of the subjective order and consists in the fact that in his novels he does not succeed in detaching himself from the objective representation of the word of his characters.


Balzac belongs to the same line of development in the European novel as Dostoevsky, and is one of his direct and most immediate predecessors.. […] But Balzac did not transcend the object-ness of his characters, nor the monologic finalization of his world. (Bakhtin 1963, Eng. trans.: 34)


As to Shakespeare, he belongs to that line of development in European literature in which the early buds of polyphony mature, and which is brought to completion by Dostoevsky (Ibid., p. 34). According to Bakhtin, this is a question of an objective limit, due to the fact that “drama is by its very nature alien to genuine polyphony; drama may be multi-leveled, but it cannot contain multiple worlds; it permits only one, and not several, systems of measurement” (Ibid.). Therefore, not only do not objectivity and dramatization in dialogue coincide with polyphony, but they can even obstruct its completion.


The utterances of others on a given issue can be reported to undersign them or comment on them or explain them or confute them. Therefore, in this case, we have in the same verbal context interrelation among immediately intentional words as well as among the basic units of sense, that is, among utterances: this is a question of dialogical relationships in the ordinary sense of the term, that is, relationships of consensus or dissent, of assertion or clarification, of request or response, etc. These dialogical relations between one’s own word and someone else’s can be the object of depiction in the “dialogue” genre, in dramatic genres. They belong to the context of a third word, that of the author who depicts the positions in dialogue, being a context that does not interfere with objectified instances, with positions that are depicted, but that is not influenced by them either. There is a dialogue, certainly, but in a monological context. In other words, this context remains solid and is not affected by dialogue, it does not undergo any weakening in its character as a word that limits itself to bringing to the stage and operating encounter and collision among words in dialogue.


As in direct reported discourse, here in the discourse that reports, the intention of the latter does not penetrate into the word made object, it does not enter its boundaries, but rather assumes it in its wholeness without interfering with its sense or tone. “Discourse that has become an object is, as it were, itself unaware of the fact, like the person”, says Bakhtin, “who goes about his business unaware that he is being watched; objectified discourse sounds as if it were direct single-voiced discourse” (Bakhtin 1963, Eng. trans., p. 192): both in the direct and immediately intentional word, the word oriented toward the object, as well as in the reported, the objectified, depicted word, there is a single intention, a single voice. They are both single-voiced, univocal words.


In the word reported in the form of indirect discourse, dialogism is not only that of dialogue commonly understood as an exchange of rejoinders in the context of a word, the reporting word, which does not at all interfere with the rejoinders themselves. The word of indirect discourse must necessarily analyze the word it reports. As such, unlike the reported word in the form of direct discourse, the word of indirect discourse is a double-voiced word as much as it may be a monodirectional, monological word, a word, therefore, which takes the word of the other as its object and presents it according to a plan of its own, according to a given intention of its own. In indirect discourse the word already presents the phenomenon of internal dialogism, but the reporting word overpowers the reported word. With respect to the word of the other, “meek and defenseless”, the reporting word “installs his own interpretation in it, forcing it to serve his own new purposes” (Ibid., p. 197).


However, the word of the other may also operate actively on the word that reports it, catching it off guard. Interference between one’s own word and the word of the other increases significantly above all in free indirect discourse, creating the phenomenon of dialogism internal to the word.


Certainly the word, whether it knows it or not, is always internally dialogical and is so to varying degrees. However, dialogism internal to the word is not a question of a difference in degree, but of a qualitative difference. Dialogue in the Bakhtinian sense is qualitatively different from formal dialogue and from dramatic dialogue, to the point that it can also be traced in lyrical poetry. Bakhtin analyzes Puskin’s poem, “Razluka” (“Parting,”1830) where three voices resound in each other, interfere with each other, and dialogue with each other: the hero’s, the heroine’s and again the hero’s as he now knows that the leave-taking narrated in the poem was forever (see Bakhtin 1920–24, in 1979, Eng. trans., pp. 211–221).


Therefore, dialogism as a degree that is always present in the word is one thing, and dialogism in the sense of rejoinders in formal dialogue understood as a discourse genre or as a modality of dramatic genres is another, and still something else is the word’s internal dialogism, that is, interference between one’s own word and someone else’s word, a word that not only is a double-voiced word, but also a double-accentuated.


The dialogical character of the word that Bakhtin aimed to evidence does not concern the second case, the obvious, predictable case of dialogue as it is commonly understood. Instead, it concerns dialogism as a degree, always present even when the word is oriented monologically; and, even more, it concerns dialogism understood as interference among voices and accentuations, intonations.


Dostoevsky’s word installs a relation that places as in front of another completely outside the subject-object scheme. This is connected with the polyphonic character of his novel. The hero in Dostoevsky is not the object of the narrating word. The narrating word is the word turned to the word, turned, as Bakhtin says, to someone who is present and not as a word about someone who is absent, which therefore can delude itself into being definitive.  Precisely because of this, this someone who is present manifests himself in all his otherness, that is, as capable of withdrawing from the word on him, of reacting, absenting himself, with his surplus, from the word that presents him. The word of the author considers the hero’s word as the word of a “second” person, and addresses it as a “you”: the author considers the hero’s word as a face-to-face word. The hero in Dostoevsky “is the subject of an address. One cannot talk about him; one can only address oneself to him” (Ibid., p. 251). Here, as Bakhtin states in the 1929 edition of his study on Dostoevsky, the author “speaks with all the construction of his novel not on the hero, but with the hero” (Bakhtin 1929, It. trans., p.  144, Eng. trans. by the authors).


4. Image, writing, de-representation


The text Gilles Deleuze dedicates to film, Cinéma I: L’image-mouvement (1983) and Cinéma II: L’image-temps (1985) is a taxonomy, an attempt to classify images and signs, as he observes in his introductory remarks to the first volume. In relation to the notions of “moving-image” and “time-image,” in addition to Henri Bergson (with special reference to his 1896 book, Matière et memoire), Deleuze also refers to Charles S. Peirce and his typology of signs which he describes as a general classification of images and signs, no doubt the most complete and the most varied, like a classification by Linnaeus in natural history or, better, like Mendeleev’s laws in chemistry.


Through the point of view imposed by motion-pictures on the question of signs and images, Deleuze shifts his detailed and profound reflections from the moving-image and its variations (perception-image, action-image, affection-image, pulsion-image) in Cinema 1 to the time-image in Cinema 2. Considerations on free indirect discourse and on free indirect subjective discourse, our special interest in this essay, are covered by Deleuze in a section dealing with the perception-image. This is only one stage in the gradual shift in his text which leads “beyond the moving-image”.


What is involved is a shift from the utterance to the utterable, from language to what  Hjelmslev calls linguistically unformed “materia”. In this sense, Pierpaolo Pasolini who was anything but “naïve”, as a few critics wrongly thought, speaks of cinema as a “language of reality”, “descriptive science of reality”, constitutive of semiotics beyond existing languages, verbal and non-verbal (see Pasolini 1975: 198ff.). Cinema is seen as the privileged place of this shift towards images and pre-linguistic (pre-verbal) signs. And this is so to the point of making the “time-image” possible beyond the “movement-image”.


The moving-image constitutes time in an empirical spatialized form. As Aristotle claimed, to speak of time is to speak of movement. Objective time is a question of spatialized time. Subjective time is a question of distension, “a stretching of the soul” (St. Augustine), centred on the present of consciousness, according to which the past is an old present and the future a present to come (on the spatialization of time, particularly interesting are Victoria Welby’s unpublished papers on the topic, a selection is now available in Petrilli 2009).


Cinema that, rather than presenting itself as action cinema, cinema centred on narrative content, presents instead situations without development, without extensions, which count in themselves, thereby becoming purely optical and sonorous situations, this type of cinema opens onto a direct time-image. Cinema can do what only music before it succeeded in doing: make a direct presentation of time-image, in which the past persists in the present, and passes by preserving itself, by doubling the image. Real and imaginary, present and memory coexist ambiguously in a relation of “undiscernibility”.


We could claim that the question of transition from the system of language to pre-linguistic material, from the utterance to the utterable, from the moving-image to the time-image is the question of writing, of recovering the writing in which the different historico-natural languages are grounded, writing before the verbal, before the letter. This confers a special sense to the expression “film writing”. It also establishes a special relation between film writing, musical writing and literary writing. Furthermore, the relation between moving-image and time-image, which is connected with the role of narration in the image (see Deleuze 1989, p. 301), makes it possible to associate the itineraries followed above all by film to narrative genres, in particular to the novel. Here, of particular interest is the role carried out by encounter and interaction between one’s own word and the uttered word, that is, between the uttered word and the word listened to, the present word and the past word, as occurs to a maximum degree in free indirect discourse.


The modelling procedure to which all human languages belong, verbal and nonverbal, is writing – writing understood as syntax, articulation, ars combinatoria. Musical language, for example, which intervals, beats, scans, articulates space-time, is made possible by primary modelling, ante litteram writing.  The a-priori is not speech (Noam Chomsky’s glottocentric fallacy with his Innate Universal Grammar). The a-priori is the human species-specific modelling device we called “writing”. Writing thus described (by contrast with the ethnocentric confusion of writing with transcription) precedes the birth of what is commonly understood by writing, that is, transcription, writing as mnemonics. Like verbal writing, musical writing as well presupposes the “capacity for writing” and, therefore, participates in the condition of scanning, articulating, relating, without which the human world would not be possible.


Musical language (Lomuto & Ponzio 1998), literary language, film language (see Deleuze, Ibid., pp. 37ff., on assimilation, beginning from Christan Metz, of the film image to the utterance, thereby leading filmic language back to the sphere of the linguistic), all resist verbal description and oblige recourse to de-representation, de-scription. This reflects on verbal language itself and the way it is described; and not only on the disciplines that describe it directly such as philology and linguistics, but also on the general science of signs in which they are inscribed, that is, semiotics.


Returning to Artaud against Artaud, Carmelo Bene’s “actorial reading” also proposes itself as de-scription, that is, de-writing (see the paper delivered by Marianne Fallon, “Entre texte et performance: le jeu de la di-scrittura chez Carmelo Bene”), release from transcription, from the mnemotechnic function, from re-citation, and becomes writing as we are describing it, writing avant la lettre. It is no incident that Deleuze should address his attention to Pasolini and his reflections on free indirect speech, as much as to Carmelo Bene dedicating an essay to him, “Un manifesto di meno”. This was published with Bene’s Riccardo III and with a response from Bene in a booklet titled Sovrapposizioni (1978).

5. To recapitulate


There is a theoretical place in which three authors meet, Deleuze, Bakhtin and Pasolini — all three authors are “other” from official culture. The “theoretical place of encounter” is reflection on “free indirect discourse”, which has benefited in particular from the attention of philologists, linguists and literary critics. According to Bakhtin, free indirect discourse plays a central role in the novel’s tendency toward polyphony, which begins with Dostoevsky.


There is no judgment-word in the polyphonic novel inaugurated by Dostoevsky, a word on the object, but rather the allocution-word, the word that enters into dialogic contact with the other word, word on the word and turned to the word. Therefore, dialogism presents itself as interference among discordant voices, as polyphony involving the narrator himself. According to Bakhtin, this is where the difference lies between the novel genre and dramatic genres. Polyphony cannot be achieved in theatre, if not through what Bakhtin calls its “novelization”. For example, it is possible to “novelize” Shakespeare’s King Lear, as does Marco Baliano, by making the Fool recount the whole sequence and allowing us to perceive interferences from the author’s voice in the Fool’s voice. Contemporary theatre presents multiple and diversified examples of such “novelization”. Carmelo Bene’s artwork merits consideration on its own account – Deleuze dedicates an essay to Bene – and to his interpretation of Shakespeare.


Unlike direct and indirect discourse, in free indirect discourse the author’s word and the hero’s word contaminate each other. One voice penetrates into the other and into his or her point of view: the word becomes a double-voiced work, internally dialogic or polylogic.


And this is no insignificant matter. Free indirect discourse reveals, but is also a practice in questioning the Subject and everything it is connected with in Occidental ideo-logic (nor is it incidental that today the polyphonic novel finds development above all in the South of the world, in Africa, Latin America): Identity, Difference, Belonging, Monologism, Being, Objectivity, Narration, Memory, History, Truth, Meaning, Reason, Power…


Pasolini (referred to by Deleuze in his volumes dedicated to cinema) translates free indirect discourse into what he calls “cinema of poetry”. He experiments free indirect discourse through that type of film take that is neither subjective, nor objective, but rather “free indirect subjective discourse.



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