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

By Bronwen Thomas | Go to book overview

6
Dialogue and Genre

Toward a Generic Approach to Dialogue

As we have seen, an important contribution to the study of fictional dialogue has been offered by approaches that explicitly evaluate representations of speech with reference to linguistic models of conversation (Leech and Short 1981; Toolan 1985). Although such studies often focus on specific formal or institutionalized activity types or conversational genres, drawing on the work of discourse analysts (Sinclair and Coulthard 1977; Burton 1980), little or no consideration has been given to date to the ways in which different fictional genres may inscribe as “natural” certain patterns and forms of talk. Kozloff’s (2000) study of filmic dialogue shows how productive such an approach may be, as she examines the verbal patterns that characterize the melodrama, the screwball comedy, the Western, and the gangster movie, arguing that through repetition “these verbal patterns became part of our expectations of ‘generic verisimilitude’” (138). Far from suggesting that all representations are formulaic, this approach demonstrates that we cannot continue to speak of “verisimilitude” as a given but must examine more fully how different genres present us not only with distinctive, sometimes exotic idioms but with alternative models of interaction and communication.

In previous chapters the term “dialogue novel” has been used to group together novels from different periods and by different writers that share the characteristic that the narrative is conveyed almost entirely by dialogue alone. We have also seen that many of the novels and novelists that foreground and experiment with dialogue may be located broadly within a comic tradition. Page (1988) and Chapman (1994) have shown that the written representation of dialect owes a lot to comic writing, but we can also identify clearly how types of speech—such as rapid-fire repartee and banter—and devices such as the use of punch lines and the booby trap (Carens 1966) owe a great deal to joke structures and the language

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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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