the dialogue as a literary genre

I’ve been thinking quite a lot about the possibilities for dialogue opened by online publishing, blogging and web2.0 applications, in the wake of the Emerging Writers Festival. So many possibilites, so much to do. But is it all new? Being trained in classics, and a firm believer that culture actually helps, I’ve been wondering, not how to articulate the new options, but what, historically, should we think about? What is happening now, with blogs, what does it look like the most?

I had a thought, around comment threads. In political and reflexive blogs, people often post very interesting comments. Long, detailed, articulated. And the author answers. Often, the comment thread is longer than the original post, by far. And sometimes, the original post is just a conversation starter – the real work appears in the comment thread.

This is not unlike earlier dialogic genres: Plato, Lucien, or later, 18th century French writers – Voltaire and Diderot wrote a few.

Another thing to notice: the internet is an amazing platform for non-fiction, but seems poorer at publishing fiction. But fiction is not all there is to writing. In French literary history, various centuries have various genres. The 16th is poetry, the 17th is theatre, the 18th is non-fiction, and the 19th is the novel. So, we’re in a ‘philosophical age’, where the dominant form of writing is ‘philosophical non-fiction’, or exchanging ideas – about food, gender, politics – all these things that the French discussed three centuries ago, and which led to major changes in social structure.

 

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