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Dialogues: Language, Literature, and the Construction of Meaning


Admission requirements

You have received your propaedeutic diploma within one academic year and your academic results are good (indication: 7,3 average). Students who meet the criteria may apply for a place in the Humanities Lab.


Dialogue is everywhere in life: in television talk shows, newspaper interviews, public debate and in the prefabricated question-and-answer sequences that help us navigate through websites. We are encouraged to engage in dialogue with others to bridge cultural, political and religious divides, but also with our inner selves to reach understanding, find comfort, and so on. Dialogic structures are present in apparent monologic texts when a writer uses a stylistic device like a rhetorical question, and in grammatical constructions such as English be like or Dutch zoiets hebben van (She was like who do you think you are? Ik had zoiets van ja laat maar).

While omnipresent in 21st century media culture, dialogue –and reflection on dialogue– actually has a very long history as a once well-established and popular form of literary production. This history has been traced back to the elite culture of Humanism that rediscovered the rhetorical and philosophical dialogues of the ancient philosophers in classical civilization, but the actual formative period for the dialogue as a literary genre in the Western world were the Middle Ages. Then dialogue was instrumental in shaping monastic teaching, academic disputation, courtly conversation, self-formation, intercultural debate and judicial argumentation – all of which have left their mark on the modern uses of dialogue, offering models for education and meditation, for inclusion and exclusion, in creative and mundane language use, in judgment and consensus, inquiry and consolation.

As dialogue is both a genre, a speech act, and a form of discourse, the topic is relevant from a wide range of academic disciplines: grammar, cognitive science, argumentation theory, philosophy, theatre studies and literature. This course looks at the characteristics of dialogue from these various disciplines, but also seeks to integrate different approaches in order to find answers to the basic questions on the roles of debate and reasoning in the Humanities and beyond.

Course objectives

  • Investigate the use of dialogue as a tool for communication and for thinking in various historical periods, cultures, and media.

  • Train students in analysing dialogic dimensions of various types of discourse and genres.

  • Develop the capacity of students to use dialogic structures to convey complex networks of interconnected ideas.


Courses of the Humanities Lab are scheduled on Friday afternoon from 13.00 to 17.00. For the exact timetable, please visit the following website.

Mode of instruction

Lectures, seminars, excursion.

Course Load

Lectures and seminars 24 hours Readings 60 hours Weekly assignments 14 hours Final project 42 hours Total course load 140 hours### Assessment method

  • Weekly participation/assignments (20%)

  • Final project performance (30%)

  • Written report on final project (50%)

Attendance is compulsory for all meetings (lectures, seminars, excursions). If you are unable to attend due to circumstances beyond your control, notify the Humanities Lab office (see email address below), and hand in your weekly assignment in writing to the instructor. Being absent without notification may result in lower grades or exclusion from the course.

If the final grade is insufficient (lower than a 6), there is the possibility of retaking the final report. Contact the course lecturer for more information.


Blackboard is used in this course for:

  • Making readings available

  • Assignments

  • Communication

Reading list

The readings will be announces and made available before the start of the course. For orientation, interested students are advised to read the “Introduction” of Peter Wimack (2011), Dialogue, London/New York: Routledge, p.1–7.


Students of the Humanities Lab will be registered via uSis by the administration of the Humanities Lab.


dhr. Prof. dr. A. Verhagen
dhr. Dr. G. Warnar

Humanities Lab:
Office: e-mail
Phone: 071-527 2228 or 071- 527 8039


If all participants of this course are Dutch native speakers, this course will be taught in Dutch.
More information: website.