JABBERWOCKY Lewis Carroll `Twas brillig, and the slithy toves Did gyre and gimble in the wabe: All mimsy were the borogoves, And the mome raths outgrabe. "Beware the Jabberwock, my son! The jaws that bite, the claws that catch! Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun The frumious Bandersnatch!" He took his vorpal sword in hand: Long time the manxome foe he sought So rested he by the Tumtum tree, And stood awhile in thought. And, as in uffish thought he stood, The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame, Came whiffling through the tulgey wood, And burbled as it came! One, two! One, two! And through and through The vorpal blade went snicker-snack! He left it dead, and with its head He went galumphing back. "And, has thou slain the Jabberwock? Come to my arms, my beamish boy! O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!' He chortled in his joy. `Twas brillig, and the slithy toves Did gyre and gimble in the wabe; All mimsy were the borogoves, And the mome raths outgrabe. 1 2 What is dialogism? As a theory, dialogism proposes “that the primary component in the constitution of narrative works, or of literature generally—and of general culture as well—is a plurality of contending and mutually qualifying social voices, with no possibility of a decisive resolution into a monologic truth.” --from M.H. Abrams’ A Glossary of Literary Terms “Truth is not born nor is it to be found inside the head of an individual person, it is born between people collectively searching for truth, in the process of their dialogic interaction.” --Mikhail Bakhtin Basically, speech or text that is dialogic is speech or text that reflects this ongoing and collective searching after the “true” or “right” way of doing things. When you read or hear dialogism, you can sense the presence of multiple voices and arguments and techniques; as a reader you can detect all of that activity, that open-endedness, that instability, that unconventionality. Dialogic speakers draw attention to their own unconventionality because they want to provoke questions about how we decide what is stable or unstable, reliable or unreliable, the right way of doing things or the wrong way. Dialogic texts are also cautionary warnings against accepting finalization (of language or argument, of form or content) as anything but temporary. Philosophically, conventions suggest stability, resolution, a “right” way to do things. To privilege conventional thinking/communication is to privilege the idea that the truth is best conceived as consensus; that’s how we recognize Truth—it comes out of agreement and resolution. Dialogic thinking/communication, however, privileges the interactive process of searching after trueness or rightness, and suggests that this process is eternal. 3 Colbert is a dialogic, unconventional communicator. Here’s an easy way to see it: The Word. How is this segment unconventional? Fracking is a serious topic that deserves a serious frame, yet Colbert includes a lot of unserious content. He takes on a persona that is not serious or genuine. The segment’s layers prevent us from easily figuring out what his primary purpose is or what he wants from us, his audience. How is this segment dialogic? The tonal shifts and the presence of more than one voice suggest that this argument—like any argument, on any topic—is tension-filled and vulnerable to sudden movements in tangential directions. These tensions and tangential shifts are incorporated strategically, to remind viewers of the necessarily messy, nonstraightforward routes that progress routinely takes. Similarly provocative is Colbert’s speech before a congressional subcommittee on migrant labor. Notice the multiple voices/personas competing for attention: The entertainer out for easy laughs The panderer looking to score political points with his fellow right-wingers The socially conscious political satirist spotlighting congressional inaction and absurdity (not so easy laughs) The sincere reformer hoping for progress 4 Entertainer: Panderer: Satirist: Reformer: italicize underline bold red Transcript of Stephen Colbert’s testimony before Congress —— Good morning. My name is Stephen Colbert and I’m an American citizen. It is an honor and a privilege to be here today. Congresswoman Lofgren asked me to share my vast experience spending one day as a migrant farm worker. I am happy to use my celebrity to draw attention to this important, complicated issue, and I certainly hope that my star power can bump this hearing all the way up to CSPAN1.