The chronotope

Anna De Fina
Table of contents

The notion of chronotope, literally timespace (from Greek χρόνος, ‘time’ and τόπος, ‘space’), proposed and developed by Bakhtin (1981) has been a source of great inspiration for scholars in a variety of fields in the social sciences: from education to social geography, from psychology to architecture, from cultural studies to history. Just to give a few examples of the scope of application of this notion, the chronotope has been invoked for the study of forms of popular art engagement and cultural performances (Kill 2018, Divita 2019), to analyze the kinds of timespace patterns patients use to understand their illness (Thompson et al. 2019), to describe ways in which indigenous communities narrativize their history (Lawson 2011), to give an account of conceptions of space and time behind architectural design (Carr 2017). Given its origins in Bakhtin’s literary scholarly work, the chronotope has had the most impact on narratology, however, it has also attracted an ever-growing interest in linguistics and linguistic anthropology and it is to developments in these latter two fields that I will devote this text. I will first present Bakhtin’s main ideas about the chronotope and then I will focus on some of its developments in linguistics and anthropology. I will summarize the main contributions to the development of a theory of the chronotope in these areas and then I will review applications to the study of a variety of phenomena that lie at the intersection of language, society and culture. In the last two sections I will offer some discussion of current issues and a summary.

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