The Rebirth of Dialogue
Bakhtin, Socrates, and the Rhetorical Tradition
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Offers a fundamental rethinking of the rhetorical tradition as dialogue.
Dialogue has suffered a long eclipse in the history of philosophy and the history of rhetoric but has enjoyed a rebirth in the work of Hans-Georg Gadamer, Martin Buber, and Mikhail Bakhtin. Among twentieth-century figures, Bakhtin took a special interest in the history of the dialogue form. This book explores Bakhtin's understanding of Socratic dialogue and the notion that dialogue is not simply a way of persuading others to accept our ideas, but a way of holding ourselves, and others, accountable for all of our thoughts, words, and actions. In supporting this premise, Bakhtin challenges the traditions of argument and persuasion handed down from Plato and Aristotle, and he offers, as an alternative, a dialogical rhetoric that restructures the traditional relationship between speakers and listeners, writers and readers, as a mutual testing, contesting, and creating of ideas. The author suggests that Bakhtin's dialogical rhetoric is not restricted to oral discourse, but is possible in any medium, including written, graphic, and digital.
James P. Zappen is Associate Professor in the Department of Language, Literature, and Communication at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.