Remember Mikhail Bakhtin? He was the legendary Russian literary scholar who, as the story has it, used the only manuscript for his book on the Bildungsroman
as cigarette paper during the 900-day siege of Leningrad, 1941-1944. He'd been working on the text for years. I hope he enjoyed the smokes. Btw, he is also responsible for the continuous echo of the words 'dialogism' and 'carnival' in the corridors of the world's lit departments.
Anyway, recently I've been drawn to the Bakhtinian concept of the chronotope
, partly because others working on contemporary urban fiction have pointed out its usefulness, but also because the term is so beautifully symmetric and complete and big
, time and place. The connections of temporal and spatial variables in literary representation.
But this concept should not be exclusive to academic discourse or literary theory. We should use it in the same way we talk about squirrels and shoes and pain and spirituality. I think it could be particularly useful in describing how different ways of moving about produce different experiences of space and time. I'm not just talking about velocity being a combination of distance and time. The way in which one perceives surrounding space also depends on the method of movement (or transport).
The pedestrian chronotope. The bicycle chronotope. The car c. The train c. The plane c, the roller coaster c, the subway c, the ice skating c, the swimming c, the camel-riding c. The paragliding c. The kangaroo ball c.
I like the pedestrian chronotope very much: the freedom from haste and technological mediation, the feeling of contact with the bedrock, the slow passing of scenery, the luxury of using 15 minutes for a distance of one kilometre.