Fictional Dialogue: Speech and Conversation in the Modern and Postmodern Novel

By Bronwen Thomas | Go to book overview

2
The “Idea of Dialogue”

The previous chapter argued that the study of fictional dialogue has been overly preoccupied with charting the varieties of speech presentation available to novelists and with debating the “realism” of particular representations. As I will argue more fully in chapter 4, the tendency has also been to focus on the “duologue of personal encounter” (Kennedy 1983) and on isolatable “scenes” where the characters’ talk has clear boundaries and identifiable outcomes. For some critics and theorists, however, it is necessary to reflect on whether fictional representations themselves help to instantiate an “idea of dialogue” that has an impact not only on how we conduct our everyday verbal interactions but also on our wider social and political relations. Central to such rethinking is work drawing on Bakhtin’s (1981) dialogical principle and the influence of linguistic theories and models that have demonstrated the importance of approaching conversational interaction as a microcosmic social system in which the distribution of power may be uneven. Cultural and literary historians have also explored the ways in which conceptions of the “art of conversation” may be subject to historical and cultural change and may be both reflected in and shaped by novelistic representations. Finally, the idea of dialogue may be revisited in terms of the versions of the self and of the mind that it helps perpetuate, for example, in recent work drawing on cognitive theories or in debates surrounding the concept of intersubjectivity. This chapter will outline and engage with debates in each of these areas, beginning with some of the important historical antecedents and contexts, before exploring the idea of dialogue with specific reference to Deception ([1990] 1992) by Philip Roth.


In the Beginning …

Most studies of dialogue begin with analysis of the etymology of the term and with some discussion of the classical tradition from which it stems.

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Fictional Dialogue: Speech and Conversation in the Modern and Postmodern Novel
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I - Theory 13
  • 1 - Debates about Realism 15
  • 2 - The “Idea of Dialogue” 36
  • Part II - Narrative Cornerstones 55
  • 3 - Speech, Character, and Intention 57
  • 4 - Dialogue in Action 74
  • 5 - Framing 95
  • Part III - Genre and Medium 111
  • 6 - Dialogue and Genre 113
  • 7 - The Alibi of Interaction Dialogue and New Technologies 129
  • 8 - Stuck in a Loop? Dialogue in Hypertext Fiction 152
  • Conclusion 170
  • Appendix - Last Orders- An Analysis of a Chapter from Graham Swift’s Novel 175
  • Notes 183
  • Bibliography 187
  • Index 201
  • In the Frontiers of Narrative Series 213
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