Having laid out the enabling dialogical space and the characteristics of emerging dialogue, I will now elaborate a particular morphology of dialogue, an archetypal model of dialogue that illuminates individual and group roles. Combining information from Isaacs (1999a & 1999b), Keirsey (1998), Starhawk (1990 & 1999), and others, I offer a dynamic model of dialogue based on the dependant intersection of two polarities: order-creativity, individual-community. I will articulate the need for balance along these intersecting polarities as an ideal of dialogic practice, activity that occurs within an enabling dialogical space built on the criteria of dialogue and results in the presence of the characteristics of emerging dialogue.

I use the term morphology from the folkloric analysis of Propp in The Morphology of the Folktale (1971). Propp offers an analysis of folktales that identifies a set of character roles based on function in the story. Propp explains that a single character can fill a single role, that a character can fill multiple roles, or that multiple characters can fill a single role. Similarly, in framing this archetypal model of dialogic process, I have identified group roles. I suggest, following Propp, that a single participant can fill a single role, that a participant can fill multiple roles, and that several participants can fill a single role at the same time.

In addition, I suggest that these roles can exist in interpenetrating layers. For example, I may find myself acting as my own facilitator in an inner dialogue while in a group where I exhibit the functional behavior of the creative force. In this example, I may internally be evaluating whether my creative behavior is disruptive to the group process, but the group may not be aware that I am internally enacting that function of restraint.

A structural frame, like Propp's morphology or the archetypal model I have proposed, is still a frame, and as such there are necessarily limitations to the usefulness of a structural model. [2. Although not connected with the topic of this paper, an excellent critique of Propp’s structuralist analysis can be found embedded in Johns’ Baba Yaga (2004).] This is especially true when the frame is used to filter out or ignore phenomenon that are not well explained by the frame. I do not mean to imply that people are these archetypal functions, but rather that people engaging in a dialogic process appear to act like these roles in various combinations, and that there may be tendencies for some personality types to exhibit some of these functional behaviors more than others when in a dialogical group.

Posted by John Bell on December 10, 2006
Tags: The Fifth Principle of Dialogue

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