Talent and Force: A Bakhtinian Reading of “Mountains Beyond Mountains” by Tracy Kidder

By Danielle Jones.

Published by The International Journal of the Humanities: Annual Review

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What challenges and imports do Mikhail Bakhtin’s dialogics—the belief that a novel should be polyphonic and resist a closed view of meaning presented through a single voice—carry for an increasingly globalized world? How could/should contemporary writers respond to these challenges? These questions are particularly relevant for literary nonfiction and travel writers who are concerned with not reducing a people or place to a single authorial perspective, especially one from the outside. Pulitzer Prize winning author Tracy Kidder provides an example of a polyphonic work in his book “Mountains Beyond Mountains”, which follows the life and career of physician and anthropologist Paul Farmer. Kidder renders Farmer’s life by showing scenes of Farmer with his patients, using exposition to describe Farmer’s relationships with his family and friends, summarizing his academic and intellectual life, employing dialogue to show his unique idiosyncrasies, and using himself, the writer, as an antihero. His approach of including multiple voices, of which his is just one among many, is an important example for how an author can “to an extraordinary extent broaden, deepen and rearrange this consciousness ... in order to accommodate the consciousness of others” and hence provide a paradigm for global writers to come (Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics 59).

Keywords: Literature, Globalization, Mikhail Bakhtin, Dialogics

The International Journal of the Humanities: Annual Review, Volume 10, pp.25-34. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 248.834KB).

Dr. Danielle Jones

Assistant Professor, English, University of Montana Western, Dillon, MT, USA

Dr. Danielle Jones has a Ph.D. in poetry from SUNY-Albany in New York and a MFA in creative nonfiction from Seattle Pacific University. She teaches literature and writing at the University of Montana Western. She has published a variety of poems and essays, and is currently completing a memoir about adopting her daughter, Angelika, titled Mother Russia, Father Time. She been awarded a Fulbright Scholar grant to Russia at Perm State University during the 2012–2013 academic year.