The Dialogue and the Inquisitor

So in class, we wrote some dialogues and, as a parting gift, I gave you “The Grand Inquisitor.” Here’s some thinking about each:

The Dialogue
 Mr. McAteer, what’s the point of writing the dialogue if you’re not going to read it?

I’m glad you asked. I’m going to ask you to write a lot of things that I’m not going to read. In fact, I was the loudest voice calling for ungraded writing to be part of the K-12 ELA curriculum when we wrote that curriculum ten or so years ago.

That’s great. I’m thrilled to hear that you wrote curriculum. Now I’ll be able to sleep at night. But that doesn’t answer my question.

I’m sorry, what was the question? I was busy talking about myself.

What was the point of the dialogue?

Oh, right, the dialogue. Well, you know how I feel about discovery writing, and writing a dialogue is a great way of discovering the presence of dialogues in the texts that you read. So that’s point number one. Point number two: your dialogue likely addressed content that is important to you, the kind of thing you involuntarily think about when you’re in a thinking frame of mind. This content, whatever it is, will be essential to the assignment I give to you on Tuesday after we discuss “The Grand Inquisitor.”

I get your first point, but the second is still a little vague to me.

Well, cowboy, that’s just how I roll. But trust me, you’ll see what I’m talking about. But don’t leave before I give you the last little nugget. You may have discovered that you discovered a metaphor when you went on your dialogue journey. You found a comparison that is natural and valid. The experience of discovering a metaphor for yourself should give you some insight into the way writers find (as opposed to impose) metaphors in their works.

“The Grand Inquisitor”
This is a chapter from one of the greatest books you will have the chance to read, The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoevsky, and it is included in a series called “Milestones of Thought.” Through the layers of dialoguing – Ivan and Alyosha; The Inquisitor and the Man; Dostoevsky and the New Testament – Dostoevsky examines some important questions that reside in the “enduring context.” Is there a God? Are humans capable of handling freedom? Do they even want it? Are institutions corrupt? Does history teach us anything? Is a happy ending possible?

Not all of you will be the right reader for the same questions, and some of you will be the right reader for purposes unaddressed here. Whichever reader you are, the task is this: Read actively, and at the end of each section (before the poem, temptation 1, temptation 2, temptation 3, after the poem), identify which passage or which part of the text carries the essential language of that section.

Happy weekending.


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