"When Dialogue Fails": Special Issue of Language and Dialogue

Anja Müller-Wood's picture
Call for Papers
December 12, 2020 to December 23, 2020
Subject Fields: 
Communication, Humanities, Linguistics, Literature, Political Science


For much of the twentieth century, “dialogue” has been a prized concept in academic and public discourse alike. Various models of social interaction and communication have been constructed, in disciplines like psychology (Vygotsky), philosophy (Merleau-Ponty, Levinas) and sociology (Bell), on dialogic principles; often – but not always – drawing on the formative ideas of Michail Bakhtin. Across the humanities and social sciences this commitment manifests itself in a focus on concepts such as alterity, interaction, intersubjectivity and relationality. Yet the cultural conflicts and aspersions by which the 21st century has been beset tell a somewhat different story. The surge of extremism across the political spectrum, the splintering of the public sphere into a patchwork of hostile tribes and the social media hysteria that kindles both, suggest that these are very undialogical times. Whether this situation is the result of a momentary lapse, or evidence that dialogic communication is intrinsically challenging, are questions that deserve to be pursued – not least because that pursuit also promises to lead to a firmer grasp of the dazzling and elusive concept of dialogue itself.

This special issue of Language and Dialogue aims to contribute to the discussion of the nature, scope and indeed the failure of dialogue by zeroing in on the following areas of interest:

When does dialogue fail – and why?

The foundations of dialogic communication: Cognition, Language, Performance

Dialogue and human nature

Dialogue in an age of identity (politics)

Dialogue between ideal and reality

(Re-)conceptualising dialogue

Proposals are invited for articles that address these or related topics from various disciplinary angles (linguistic, literary, neurobiological, pedagogical, philosophical, psychological, sociological). Please send abstracts of c. 250 words, accompanied by a brief biographical note, to Anja Müller-Wood, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz (wood@uni-mainz.de) by 23 December 2020. Notification of acceptance by early January 2021. The issue is scheduled for publication in January 2022.

Contact Info: 

Prof. Dr. Anja Müller-Wood

Department of English and Linguistics

Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

D-55099 Mainz


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