• The Form of Talk: A Study of the Dialogue Novel

      O'Hara, Daniel T., 1948-; Singer, Alan, 1948-; Brivic, Sheldon, 1943-; Morell, Hortensia R., 1951- (Temple University. Libraries, 2010)
      The “dialogue novel” is best understood as an ongoing novelistic experiment that replaces narration with dialogue, so that such basic narrative constituents as character, setting, chronology, and plot find expression not through the mediation of an external or character-bound narrative consciousness, but through the presented verbal exchange between characters. Despite sustained critical attention to the variety and “openness” of the novel form, dialogue novels have been largely ignored within English studies— treated as neither a sustained tradition within, nor a perverse manifestation of, the novel. This study seeks to address that absence and to situate the dialogue novel within narrative and novel studies. Drawing from analytic philosophy, narratology, literary theory, and the dialogue novels themselves, this study demonstrates how the unique formal texture of the dialogue novel opens onto valuable discussions about such topics as cooperative language communities, narrative desire, the power dynamics implicit in talk, and the relationship between time and narrative. Overriding these concerns is an attention to how the social nature of conversation determines how the dialogue novel represents institutional power and character agency, as well as how the dialogue novel establishes a dynamic between reader and text for the refiguration of meaning and the reconstruction of fictional worlds. Chapter One uses Paul Grice’s Cooperative Principle as a baseline for delineating how communities are formed and maintained through dialogue in Henry James’s The Awkward Age. Chapter Two considers Henry Green’s late dialogue novels alongside his novel theory and René Girard’s theory of mimetic desire to illustrate how both character and readerly desire function as imitative practices. Chapter Three considers the novels of Ivy Compton-Burnett through Aaron Fogel’s theory of “forced dialogue” to argue that dialogue’s constraints can offer liberative structure to the novel form and those who are subject to these strictures. And Chapter Four reads dialogue novels by William Gaddis and Nicholson Baker through Paul Ricoeur’s threefold mimesis and Lubomír Doležel’s possible-worlds theory to argue that the dialogue novel presents an ideal form for examining the complex intersection of formal texture and history, as well as the dialectic between narrative configuration and human time.