class notes from today

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.
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
Colbert is a dialogic,
communicator. Here’s an easy
way to see it: The Word.
How is this segment
 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
 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
 The socially conscious political satirist spotlighting
congressional inaction and absurdity (not so easy laughs)
 The sincere reformer hoping for progress
Transcript of Stephen Colbert’s testimony before Congress
——[1] 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.