Abstract

ABSTRACT:

This essay argues that a separation between dialogue and talk has been enforced since the rejection of mimetic realism in the late nineteenth-century art of fiction debates. Both the institutionalization of formalist methods and poststructuralism since Derrida have resulted, moreover, in continued suspicion about ontological claims made about any category of "orality." Yet what has been lost in the name of poststructuralist sophistication is an appreciation of talk as an embodied, relational, and sociologically mediated form. This essay contends that revisiting dialogue with a view toward such elements—from gestures and other physiological productions to "invisible" social dynamics—unfolds ethical dimensions of aesthetic judgment that endure into the present. Through examining two late Victorian novels specifically panned for their attempts to include talk's embodied situatedness into dialogue—George Meredith's One of Our Conquerors (1891) and Joseph Conrad and Ford Madox Ford's The Inheritors: An Extravagant Story (1901)—this essay motivates a prior literary historical moment (before dialogue's definitive separation from talk) to consider a continuing verbal bias in our own critical and creative practices. This essay speculates that an embarrassment about embodied procedures continues to underlie our sense of dialogue as a less sophisticated narratological category, and that "best practices" in creative writing problematically erase the body when mandating that dialogue must show interiority or further novelistic action. Ultimately, unlike "orality," talk compels a confrontation with dialogue that brings attention to historical and present ways in which the notion of speech is inseparable from the power dynamics of embodied relation.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-974X
Print ISSN
1063-3685
Pages
pp. 182-200
Launched on MUSE
2019-04-25
Open Access
No
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