Totalitarian Visual “Monologue”: Reading Soviet Posters with Bakhtin
Abstract: Contemporary scholarship has noted Mikhail M. Bakhtin’s apparent animosity toward rhetoric. Bakhtin’s distinction between monologue and dialogue helps to explain his view of rhetoric, which is both hostile and receptive—hostile to monologic rhetoric but receptive to a dialogic rhetoric that is responsive to others. This essay reads Bakhtin’s account of monologue and dialogue as a reaction to the pervasive totalitarian visual rhetoric of the Soviet state. Drawing upon Bakhtin’s descriptions of authoritative and internally persuasive discourses and various kinds of double-voiced discourse—parody, satire, and polemic—the essay analyzes the workings of Soviet visual rhetoric as both monologic and potentially dialogic and recovers the various forms of otherness displaced by this rhetoric.
Figure 1: Industrialization: The Shock Brigades.
Figure 2: Industrialization: The Woman Worker.
Figure 3: Farm Collectivization: The Prosperous Life.
Figure 4: A Happy Life: Socialist Accomplishments.
Figure 5: Beloved Stalin is the people:s happiness. 1949
Figure 6: Enemies of the Five-Year Plan
Figure 7: Through the socialist offensive let us crush the resistance of our class enemy overcome difficulties and multiply achievements. 1928-30
Figure 8: Peasant woman join the collective farm
Figure 9: Let us destroy the kulaks as a class