Polyphonic novel: what it is, its characteristics and important works


What is the polyphonic novel?

It is a type of text that is part of the modern narrative, especially in the genre of the novel, which began to develop in Europe after the creation of Don Quixote de la Mancha, written by Miguel de Cervantes, a work that would be the main reference of this new type of literature. However, there are those who say that the father of the polyphonic novel is Dostoevsky.

In general, we speak of a work in which there is a plurality of consciousnesses that operate independently and cannot be confused, which is why we speak of a polyphonic novel, where independent voices are one of its main elements. Although little information is available about this type of text, we have identified several characteristics and aspects that should be considered.

Development of the polyphonic novel

As for its development, in the polyphonic novel we can identify several types of discourse produced in the works. On the one hand there is the oriented discourse that addresses its object, also the objectified discourse, which also has a univocal style since only one voice is expressed in which the author elaborates and focuses his own interests. And there is the discourse oriented to the word of others, a type of discourse that is developed mainly in works such as Dostoevsky’s. The latter occurs when the author uses the word of others to express his own interests. The latter occurs when the author uses the word of others in order to partially express opinions or purposes, although this can have different orientations.

On the other hand, in traditional writing we speak of the subject of enunciation, the addressee and the utterance. However, the author of the polyphonic novel may follow other paths. Thus, in the enunciation there may be the protagonic subject who is usually the voice of one or several characters and who narrates his or her life, may narrate the life of another character and even, often, be a kind of spy of another life. In this sense, the serial enunciations that will shape the multiplicity of voices within the novel are constructed.

What is the polyphonic novel

Main characteristics of the polyphonic novel

Let us now review the most important characteristics of this type of text, as well as its features and bases for the creation and identification of works that emerge from this category or that have been placed there because of their characteristics. Among them we find the following:

Importance of dialogues

One of the main points that we must take into account when reviewing this type of texts, is that they are works that in their totality are dialogic and pluriverbal. It is precisely this aspect of the polyphonic, that is, the existence of different voices, which gives the essence to this type of texts.

Multiplicity of voices

The essence of the polyphonic novel is the existence of a multiplicity of voices. In this sense, we can identify several distinct elements that appear with these voices, such as jargons, varied dialects, language styles, among others. Each of these elements enriches the polyphonic work.

They create interactions

From polyphony, authors begin to create the interactions that already precede them and that give life to the plurality of consciousnesses, as well as to the coexistence of separate consciousnesses within the same text. One of the most important examples of this feature is Dante’s Divine Comedy.

The most important works of the polyphonic novel

Now, within this type of literature, the works that most mark the characteristics of its notion are the following: The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri, The Thousand and One Nights, a play by writer Mario Vargas Llosa based on the book of short stories, La Celestina by Fernando de Rojas, One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez, Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare and Don Quixote de la Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra.

Remember that to learn more about other types of literature, movements, currents and more, in our section dedicated to this field you can access this much more information to continue learning about one of the most important artistic expressions of humanity.