The Rebirth of Dialogue

Bakhtin, Socrates, and the Rhetorical Tradition

By James P. Zappen

Subjects: Communication, Composition And Rhetoric Studies, Classics
Hardcover : 9780791461297, 237 pages, August 2004

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Table of contents


1. Introduction


Rethinking the Socratic Dialogue
Bakhtin, Dialogue, and the Rhetorical Tradition
Dialogical Rhetoric as Testing, Contesting, and Creating Ideas


2. The Traditional Socrates: Dialogue, Rhetoric, Dialectic


Socrates' Life and Work
The Philosophical/Rhetorical Tradition: From Dialogue to Dialectic and Rhetoric
The British Empirical Tradition: Logic and Socratic Negative Dialectic
The Dialogical Tradition: Testing, Contesting, and Creating Ideas


3. Mikhail M. Bakhtin, Dialogical Rhetoric, and the Socratic Dialogue


Bakhtin's Life and Works
Dialogical Rhetoric as an Exchange of Utterances
Bakhtin and the Socratic Dialogue
The Socratic Dialogue as Novelistic
Reading Texts Contextually and Extratextually


4. Cultural Conflict and the Testing of Persons and Ideas in the Laches


Cultural Conflict from Homer to Socrates
Cultural Conflict in the Homeric Epics
Anacrisis and Syncrisis: Testing Persons and Ideas


5. Truth as Dialogic: Creating a Cultural Hybrid in the Protagoras


Protagoras versus Socrates?
Cooperative Discussion: Creating a Cultural Hybrid
Cooperation or Contestation?


6. Dialogue as Carnival: Contesting Cultural and Rhetorical Practices in the Gorgias


Gorgias versus Socrates?
Carnivalistic Debate: Contesting Cultural and Rhetorical Practices
Dialogue on the Threshold: The Contest of the Just Life


Epilogue: Dialogical Rhetoric in Print and Digital Media


Cultural Conflict and Old/New Media
Testing Cultural Differences in Printed Texts
Contesting Cultural Authority in Digital Discussion Groups
Creating a Digital Community across a Cultural Divide



Works Cited


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.