The Application of Bakhtin’s “Heteroglossia” to Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire

Raja Khaleel Al-Khalili


Tennessee William in A Streetcar Named Desire shows the struggles of middle class Americans as they undergo socio-ideological contradictions. The research applies Bakhtin’s theory that is defined in his book The Dialogic Imagination and specifically applies heteroglossia on A Streetcar Named Desire. Edward Said’s concept of “orientalism” is useful because Said’s concept explains the link between the problems of American society and its heterogeneous structure. The
play explores the effects of diversity on American society. The characters in the play perceive their lives as a reflection of their linguistically diverse surrounding which is closely tied to the American experience. The play also shows how diversity is seen as a negative presence in America. The research shows how the play is heteroglot by examining the characters’ stories. The play’s narratives reflect the two faces of how the middle class white Americans see the diversity of American culture. The research recommends that the analysis of plays based on the concept of “heteroglossia” could yield more insight into the other plays by Williams.


Bakhtin, American Literature, Heteroglossia, Tennessee Williams, Modern Drama, Racism, Said

Full Text:



Bakhtin, M.M. “Discourse in the Novel”. In Rivkin, Julie and Michael Ryan (eds). Literary Theory: An Anthology. Blackwell: Blackwell Publishing, (2004): 674 – 686.

Bakhtin, M. M. The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist (trans.) Michael Holquist (ed). Austin: Texas University Press, 1981.

Baym, Nina. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. New York: Norton, 2013.

Boyer, P. American History: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2012.

Berson, Misha. “What Does It Take to Keep ‘Streetcar’ on Track?” American Theatre. 25. 8

(2008): 110-113.

Cope, Virginia H. “A Multiethnic Streetcar Named Desire: We’ve Had This Date from the

Beginning.” Modern Drama. 57.4 (2014): 493-512.

Crandell, George. “Beyond Pity and Fear: Echoes of Nietzsche’s “The Birth of Tragedy” in

Tennessee Williams’s “A Streetcar Named Desire” and Other Plays. Southern Quarterly.

4 (2011):91-107.

Fisher, James. “‘Divinely Impossible’: Southern Heritage in the Creative Encounters of

Tennessee Williams and Tallulah Bankhead.” Southern Quarterly. 48. 4 (2011): 52-72.

Goldman, Max L. “Language, Satire, and Heteroglossia in the Cena Trimalchionis.” Texas

Tech University Press, 35.1(2008):49-65.

Kim, Gary. “Mikhail Bakhtin: The Philosopher of Human Communication.” Totem: The University of Western Ontario Journal of Anthology 12.1 (2004): 53-62.

Kurowska, Joanna. “Colonialism in the French Quarter: Tennessee Williams and Joseph

Conrad.” Southern Quarterly 50. 2 (2013): 109-122.

Mboti, Nyasha. “Heteroglossia in G.H. Musengezi’s The Honourable MP”Critical Arts 28.2(1984):178-198.

Raymond, Gerard. “Tennessee Waltzes On.” Advocate 795 (1999): 89-92.

Robinson, Andrew. “In Theory Bakhtin: Dialogism, Polyphony, and Heteroglossia.” Ceasefire Magazine (2011). < >Web. 6 March. 2016.

Thomières, Daniel. “Tennessee Williams and the Two Streetcars.” Midwest Quarterly. 53. 4 (2012): 374-391.

Tjuba, Valerij. (2012). “Hateroglossia”. The Living Handbook of Narratology. Interdisciplinary Center for Narratology, University of Hamburg.< >Web. 6 March. 2016.

Williams, Tennessee. A Streetcar Named Desire. In Nina Baym. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. New York: Norton, 2013.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

2010-2023 (CC-BY) Australian International Academic Centre PTY.LTD.

Advances in Language and Literary Studies

You may require to add the '' domain to your e-mail 'safe list’ If you do not receive e-mail in your 'inbox'. Otherwise, you may check your 'Spam mail' or 'junk mail' folders.