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Dialogue (Literary Genre)


Dialogue was a medium of instruction before the Academy, a teaching technique of Socrates that was perfected by Plato as a literary form. There are four main forms: the dialogue-report, a stenographic account of a conversation; the dramatic dialogue, which transforms a historical dialogue for literary effect; the fictional dialogue; and the didactic discourse, where the dialogue is only a framework. Plato's dialogues, dramatic and fictional, were probably influenced by the mimes of Sophron (Athenaeus 11.504b; Plato, Rep. 5.451C), but their total meaning emerges only through the subtle dialectic and the resolution of opposing points of view. This concept of the dialogue was not fully grasped by Cicero or Tacitus, or by Christian imitators of Plato who used the dialogue as a vehicle of instruction. Examples of the dialoguereport are Augustine's On the Happy Life and Gregory of Nyssa's On Fate; of the didactic discourse, the Symposium of Methodius of Olympus.

Bibliography: r. hirzel, Der Dialog, 2 v. (Leipzig 1895). r. hackforth and r. m. henry, The Oxford Classical Dictionary, ed. m. cary et al. (Oxford 1949) 273274. a. hermann and g. bardy, Reallexikon für Antike und Christentum, ed. t. klauser [Stuttgart 1941 (1950) ] 3:928955.

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