Heteroglossia is an extension of the concept of dialogism conceived by Russian linguist and literary critic Mikhail Bakhtin. Literally, it means a mixture of tongues. For Bakhtin literature should strive to be what he called double-voiced, by which he meant it should incorporate the voice of others.
The best examples of this type of literature should, he thought, submerge the voice of the author altogether. But Bakhtin also realized that the presence of different voices by themselves was not sufficient to produce the utopian effect he prized, particularly not if those different voices were all of the same type or class of people. Tolstoy’s work, according to Bakhtin, suffers especially acutely from this problem in that it is almost entirely populated by the aristocratic class and their various retainers, such that even the peasants whom Tolstoy is said to have held in such high esteem are only seen from the point of view of their masters. The better writers, from this perspective, are those like Dickens and Dosteoevsky whose works give voice to every class of people. For Bakhtin this can never be achieved simply by representing or depicting other classes (this is Tolstoy’s fault); one must incorporate their voice into the very style of the text itself. By means of parody and comedy (the larger effects of which Bakhtin called carnivalesque) the socially subordinate can be not merely depicted or quoted but brought to life, for in this way their subversive attitude to the social system that imprisons them in their class position can also be felt and understood. It is Dickens’s combination of social realism and satire that stands him above the other authors of his era (the other English writer he approves of is Thackeray, who obviously shares this trait with Dickens, albeit articulated differently).