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Political, religious, and philosophical mentoring of the Romantic period : the dialogue genre

By Adrian J. Wallbank

Abstract

This thesis examines the strategies, diversity and evolution of political, religious, and\ud philosophical dialogues between the publication of Sir William Jones’s The Principles of\ud Government (1782) and Robert Southey’s Colloquies on Society (1829). The dialogue genre\ud during the Romantic period has received scant critical attention, and little is known about its\ud evolution between the ‘death’ of the ‘Dialogues of the Dead’ style towards the end of the\ud eighteenth-century and the satirical and literary innovations demonstrated in the dialogues of\ud Peacock and Landor. This thesis elucidates the very significant changes that occurred in\ud dialogue writing during this period in relation to wider contemporaneous issues concerning\ud the Revolution Controversy, evangelical ‘enthusiasm’, reading audiences, the formation of\ud class identities, the diffusion of knowledge, and the burgeoning of the novel to name but a\ud few. Central to my argument is the notion that dialogue enacts a form of mentoring – a\ud procedure that is intended to either directly or indirectly facilitate a ‘conversion’ within the\ud reader, (and which ultimately becomes subverted only in satire). Such tactics go to the heart of\ud debates concerning education, didacticism, and the reading process itself. Dialogue’s\ud encapsulation of the primal constituent in communication - linguistic interchange - raises\ud fundamental questions regarding the exchangeability of ideas, power relations and ideological\ud manipulation, and as such, I look at how writers and propagandists used dialogue to bolster or\ud critique various ideological standpoints, whilst constantly interrogating the many\ud philosophical and textual problems that the genre poses. I argue that such questions, coupled\ud with the increasing sophistication and interpretative capabilities of reading audiences, made\ud the didacticism of the mentoring scenario untenable by the 1820s. However, I conclude that\ud philosophical dialogue becomes an ‘impossible’ venture without some form of direction and\ud coercion, and following this realization, the satirizing of philosophical debate and the process\ud of dialogue itself became a more viable way of dialogue writing

Topics: PR
OAI identifier: oai:wrap.warwick.ac.uk:1068
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