CoursesGood Talk: The Purpose, Practice, and Representation of Dialogue across Difference
COMM 290

Good Talk: The Purpose, Practice, and Representation of Dialogue across Difference

This course is an exploration of dialogue across difference through three lenses: theoretical, practical, and representational. Rather than prescribe a particular model of what dialogue should look like and accomplish, the course exposes students to a diverse range of ideas and narratives related to dialogue. By the end of the course, you’ll have begun to develop and practice your own working theory and model of dialogue that is relevant to your values and goals and meaningful to the kinds of work you are most invested in doing.

Tuesdays/Thursdays, 3:30 PM – 5:00 PM

This course is an exploration of dialogue through 3 lenses. The first is theoretical: What qualifies as “good talk”? How do language, culture, identity, and experience shape how and why we talk to each other? What are alternative ways to imagine dialogue that might look very different from what we think of as “dialogue” — might take place non-orally, asynchronously, or across great distances — but still achieve effective and intimate communication across lines of difference? The next is practical: What different dialogue models exist, and what are the origin, goals, and structure of each? What are the specific skills involved in participating in and facilitating dialogue? How can we safeguard against experiencing and perpetrating violence in discourse? The third lens is representational: How can representations and performances of dialogue – including graphic novels, stage plays, memoirs, podcasts, talk shows, YA literature, and more – expand our understanding of both what’s at stake and what’s possible when communicating across many different lines of difference?

Our goal will be to think in community with one another towards individual understanding. Rather than absorbing a single, unified theory and set of strategies for a particular dialogic model, you will leave the course having begun to formulate and practice your own theory of dialogue that is relevant to the kinds of scholarly, community-based, professional, or personal work you are invested in doing.

Here’s how we will get there. We’ll read some theory and a lot of literature in a range of genres and forms, produced by creators of diverse identities. You’ll write periodic short reflections, but the main mode of engagement in the course will be dialogic, as we consider the course’s essential questions and texts in a variety of dialogue configurations (pairs, small groups, whole group) and modes (oral, written, visual, embodied). We’ll experiment with different dialogue models and workshop concrete dialogue skills each week, as students take turns facilitating our in-class discussions. Your final project for the course will be to design and carry out a community or campus dialogue on a topic you deem to be of urgent civic or social concern, individually or with a partner, with the audience, format, purpose, and criteria for success determined by you.

Learning Outcomes  

By the end of this course, you should be able to:

  1. Define and describe clearly your understanding of dialogue, including its purpose, its key challenges, and necessary skills for participating in dialogue effectively.
  2. Participate in and facilitate dialogue effectively and with increased confidence in a variety of formats (oral, written, and embodied) and with a range of group sizes.
  3. Reflect critically on your own assumptions, attitudes, and positionality and how they inform your participation in, and facilitation of, dialogue across lines of difference.
  4. Analyze the representation of dialogue in a range of texts, focusing on the complexities, challenges, and possibilities related to dialogue across various forms of difference.
  5. Execute a dialogue process from beginning to end, including goal-setting, determining criteria for success, identifying stakeholders, planning, facilitating, and reflection.



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