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Two-Day Workshop, November 14th -15th 2003, with Tom Anderson and John Shotter: Exploring Living, Bodily, Spontaneous, Responsive-Expression: the Chiasmic Structure of Social Life in a Post-Cartesian world


Additional readings relevant to the six classes

1) Materials relevant to Class 1 (participants should try to read this material before the next class):

2) Materials relevant to Class 2:

3) Materials relevant to Class 3:

4) Materials relevant to Class 4:

5) Materials relevant to Class 5:

6) Materials relevant to Class 6:

Additional materials:


Department of Educational Psychology
University of Tennessee
Fall 2002

Course Outline:

"Talk, we hold, is the fundamental material of human relations... [It has the] ability to shore up the timbers of fractured sociation,... to throw bridges between the promised and the performed,... to repair the broken and restore the estranged..." (Scott and Lyman, 1968).
"Imagine that you enter a parlor. You come late. When you arrive, others long preceded you, and they are engaged in a heated discussion, a discussion too heated for them to pause to tell you exactly what it is about. In fact, the discussion had already begun before any of them got there, so that no one present is qualified to retrace for you all the steps that had gone on before. You listen for a while, until you decide you have caught the tenor of the argument; then you put in your oar. Someone answers; you answer him (or her); another comes to your defense; another aligns him or herself against you, to either the embarrassment or gratification of your opponent, depending upon the quality or your allay's assistance. However, the discussion is interminable. The hour grows late, you must depart. And you do depart, with the conversation still in progress" (Burke, 1957, Philos of Literary Form, pp.95-96).
"It is quite possible to imagine and postulate a unified truth that requires a plurality of consciousnesses, one that in principle cannot be fitted within the bounds of a single consciousness, one that is, so to speak, by its very nature full of event potential [sobytiina] and is born at that point of contact among various consciousnesses. The monologic way of perceiving cognition and truth is only one of the possible ways. It arises only where consciousness is placed above existence. (Bakhtin, 1984, p.81).
"Truth is not born nor is it to be found inside the head of an individual person, it is born between people collectively searching for truth, in the process of their dialogic interaction" (Bakhtin, 1984, p.110).

Course description:

The first thing I must say, is that it may seem that although this is to be a course centered on and in my own work, my own work has developed in my 'dialogues', so to speak, with a central group of other writers and thinkers in Social Theory. Hence the seeming focus in many sessions on the work of a particular thinker or writer. This, however, will be the device I shall use to bring out my own, dialogically-structured account (note, not a theory) of how we might inquire in a productive manner into the nature of our current social practices, i.e., how we might fashion a form of inquiry that will allow us to develop, elaborate, and refine them in an emancipatory way.

This course, then, will be about what we can do, between us, socially, not just with language, but with the whole our responsive-expressive bodily activities. But it will also be about how we can come to understand, to 'enter into', strange, new worlds, 'realities' that may be quite unfamiliar to us.

In co-ordinating and sequencing our activities with the activities of others, in different ways, we can 'make' (that is, 'socially construct' or 'co-construct' between us) different kinds of social relationships. In constructing different kinds of relationships, we construct different kinds of 'social realities'... and, in doing that, we provide each other with opportunities to be uniquely, different kinds of people.

This course, then, is not about language and behavior, but about language as behavior, about 'doing things with words' in our responsive expressions in relation to events in our surroundings. Indeed, the focus on our living, embodied, spontaneous expressions will be crucial. This course is not about mysterious 'information processes' taking place hidden inside us somewhere. Thus, not only will we have to abandon the simple idea that 'words stand for things', but also too, the idea that the world we inhabit between us, is already of a fixed nature. Instead, we must begin to treat it as still in something of a 'primordial' state, as still open and as yet not wholly formed, i.e., it is still a complex mixture of potentialities. What we take its nature to be is still open to be constructed or negotiated between us, in an endless back and forth of discussion and argumentation.

But in whose language should the discussion be conducted? Do some people have more power than others? And who has responsibility for making sure those involved in it respect each other, and give each other the chance properly to talk about themselves? Indeed, how do we know that the language used is adequate to the task? Are some languages better than others for talking about interpersonal problems? What is it that makes the growth of interpersonal understanding possible? What might make it impossible? In other words, the idea that we construct our 'social realities' in our talk opens up our talk to a whole set of new questions about the nature of dialogue and conversation.

This course will deal with these and many other related issues. And it will do so by focusing on the crucial moment in interpersonal exchanges, when one person confronts an other, and you do not quite know how those involved will respond to each other, that processes of social or co-construction are at work. It is the nature of the influences at work in these crucial moments that we must study.

Course objectives:

Four Meetings: Aug Fri 23 (5.30-9.30pm)-Sat 25 (8.30am-5.30pm); Sept 20th-Sat21st; Oct Fri 25-Sat 26; Nov Fri 15-Sat 16

First meeting Aug Fri 23 (5.30-9.30pm)-Sat 25 (8.30am-5.30pm): General introduction to joint action and dialogically-structured human activities

Fri 1st session: Dialogism and the unnoticed "background" to all our human activities
2nd session: Cartesianism
Sat 1st session: Vico and intro to Wittgenstein
2nd session: Social Accountability (accounts and constitutive background expectancies)
3rd session: Internal and external relations
4th session: Garfinkel (Dana conversation and pseudo-counseling experiment)

Second meeting Fri Sept 20th-Sat 21st: Some central writers and thinkers

Fri 1st session: The general character of Wittgenstein's philosophy
2nd session: Wittgenstein's grammatical studies and his methods
Sat 1st session: Voloshinov's approach to language
2nd session: Voloshinov's own dialogically-structured form of inquiry
3rd session: Bakhtin and "utterances" and "speech genres"
4th session: Merleau-Ponty and his emphasis on perception and its 'chiasmic' structure

Third meeting Fri Oct 25th-Sat Oct 26th

Fri 1st session: General recap of where we have got to. Plus a return to the general character of Wittgenstein's philosophy and some of his methods
2nd session: Voloshinov's dialogical approach to language
Sat 1st session: Bakhtin's theories of the "utterance" and of "speech genres," Part I
2nd session: Bakhtin's theories of the "utterance" and of "speech genres," Part II
3rd session: The idea of "real presences" and the "chiasmic" structure of dialogical meetings
4th session: Psychotherapy: the "living "moments" article

Fourth meeting Fri Nov 15 - Sat, Nov 16th

The insertion of special, dialogically-structured practices of "interruption-noticing-formulating-comparing-ordering" into our everyday practices that lead to them becoming self-developing, self-elaborating, and self-refining practices

Fri 1st session: General recap of where we have got to, plus a return to the "chiasmic" structure of dialogical meetings
Fri 2nd session: Discussion of Raymond Williams's (1977) concept: "Structures of Feeling."
Sat 1st session: Making "other voices" present in our worktelling of (not about) other voices, and two styles of writing
Sat 2nd session: Metaphors - the scope of their power and their limitations
Sat 3rd session: Space for the discussion of group member's projects
Sat 4th session: Who are we? Where have we come from? Where are we going?

For details of further classes and workshops, contact:

The KCC Foundation
2 Wyvil Court
Trenchold Street
London SW8 2TG

Telephone: 020 7720 7301; Fax: 020 7720 7302