Chronotope, ‘time-space’: Bakhtin’s neologism is even more of a stranger to us than ‘dialogism’; the latter is at least in the dictionary. Perhaps that is why, at least in anglophone contexts, it has not been given the welcome accorded to that category or to ‘carnival’, a phenomenon from the margins which is licensed now in our studies no less than on our streets (in both cases with unobtrusive policing). We think we know where we are with ‘novel’ – naming as it does that generic upstart which made good, and which is somehow peculiarly ours as heirs to its ‘great (English) tradition’ – only to find that this home ground becomes slippery and that Bakhtin means disturbingly more by that term than we could have guessed. Yet if this other thoroughly strange term which is meant to name the ‘gateway’ (FTC, 258) to all meaning stands somewhat forbiddingly over the entrance to the field it opens up, isn’t its very provocative oddness the first move of any understanding: namely,

the defamiliarization of what is so familiar as not to be noticed? The Heideggerian sense in which Greek is the language of philosophy has little to do with the accident of history by which that national culture, rather than some other, nurtured the first philosophers.1 Because its classical variety is no longer spoken by anyone anywhere, Greek participates in that paradoxically illuminating opacity offered by the universally unfamiliar; and because the compound ‘chronotope’ shares in this non-contingent strangeness, it is not compromised by a recent revisionist critique showing Greece to be the mere conduit of currents that flowed from another continent – strange to the point of ‘darkness’ for modern Europeans – where our species itself began.2