analyzing the meaning of urban spaces via Bakhtin's novel theory

Document Type : Research Paper


1 lecturer in department of architecture, Islamic azad university of Isfahan.

2 Faculty of Architecture and Urban Design, Iran University of Science and Technology

3 faculty of architecture and urban design, Iran university of science and technology, Tehran,Iran.


Interpreting the meaning of urban spaces is a controversial subject in urban studies. There are different approaches from qualitative to quantitative to analyzing and understanding the meaning of a place. However, these attitudes are formed based on analyzing data derived from researchers or users. Hence, appearance of difficulties happens in interpreting historical place during special historical period. When there is no chance to have users or researchers experience. It seems that the best method in these cases is, considering urban spaces as a text and understanding their meaning via reading theories.
The principle theoretical basis of this article is emphasizing on M.M.Bakhtin's reading theory. The paper explores urban spaces as a particular text, novel, and takes the conceptual framework of Bakhtin's novel theory into consideration for content analyzing of places. Bakhtin mentioned special characteristics for novel, and discussed that the problem of other reading theories is disregarding these differences. Polyphony, dialogism, chronotopy and complexity in genres are characteristics he mentioned about novel. Dialogism and the tensions, resolutions, and reformations of language and ideas under these conditions, is the central mechanisms of interpretation. Variety of genres means the novel as a whole is multiform in style and variform in speech and voice, means several heterogeneous stylistic unities, often located in different linguistic levels and subject to different stylistic controls. Polyphony is a feature of narrative, which includes a diversity of points of view and voices. It means novel does not appear to aim for a 'single vision' and goes beyond simply describing situations from various angles. The chronotope is how configurations of time and space are represented in language and discourse. A social language, then, is a concrete socio-linguistic belief system that defines a distinct identity for itself within the boundaries of a language that is unitary only in the abstract.
As it will be discussed in detail, Bakhtin outlines new directions for the study of stylistics: The study of the novel must start from an acknowledgement of heteroglossia and be grounded in a view of language as social and historical, dialogic and dynamic, which give rise to yet new possibilities for representation and interpretation. It seems that the concept of, Bakhtin's novel theory which entered the scientific field, theoretically, can revised classic viewpoints of social science and humanities. There for, it can be used as a tool for analyzing subjects in various disciplines like science, philosophy, sociology and etc. Besides, planning and urban design can also use it as an analytical method. Grounded on this conceptual framework, this paper seeks to demonstrate that the dimensions of novel can be adapted to urban spaces. The achievement of this research is to develop a structural and substantial analysis method borrowing the concept of novel reading from linguistics, and to elaborate a tool for the meaning analysis in a historical urban research scope. This methodology is applied in a case study sample and novel characteristics are tested in 'Chahar Bagh', a historic street in the city of Isfahan, during Safavid era.


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