term “ dialectic ” means “ H u m a n i t i e s

term “ dialectic ” means “ H u m a n i t i e s

The term “Dialectic” means “the art or practice of arriving at the truth by using conversation involving question and answer.” Think of your dialectical journal as a series of conversations with the texts we read during this course. The process is meant to help you develop a better understanding of the text you choose. Use your journal to incorporate your personal responses to the text, and how any of our class discussions relate to the text. You will find that it is a useful way to process what you’re reading, prepare yourself for group discussion, and gather textual evidence for a literary analysis assignment.


  • As you read, choose passages that stand out to you and record them in the left-hand column of a chart (include page numbers so I know where you’re referencing).
  • In the right column, write your response to the text (ideas/insights, questions, reflections, and comments on each passage)
  • Provide at least ten (10) entries. Each entry must be more than two sentences long.
  • Your responses should be typed.

Sample Dialectical Journal entry: The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien

Passages from the text


Comments & Questions

“-they carried like freight trains; they carried it on their backs and shoulders-and for all the ambiguities of Vietnam, all the mysteries and unknowns, there was at least the single abiding certainty that they would never be at a loss for things to carry”.

Pg 2

(R) O’brien chooses to end the first section of the novel with this sentence. He provides excellent visual details of what each solider in Vietnam would carry for day-to-day fighting. He makes you feel the physical weight of what soldiers have to carry for simple survival. When you combine the emotional weight of loved ones at home, the fear of death, and the responsibility for the men you fight with, with this physical weight, you start to understand what soldiers in Vietnam dealt with every day. This quote sums up the confusion that the men felt about the reasons they were fighting the war, and how they clung to the only certainty – things they had to carry – in a confusing world where normal rules were suspended.

Choosing Passages from the Text:

Look for quotes that seem significant, powerful, thought provoking or puzzling. For example, you might record:

  • Effective &/or creative use of stylistic or literary devices
  • Passages that remind you of your own life or something you’ve seen before
  • Structural shifts or turns in the plot
  • A passage that makes you realize something you hadn’t seen before
  • Examples of patterns: recurring images, ideas, colors, symbols or motifs.
  • Passages with confusing language or unfamiliar vocabulary
  • Events you find surprising or confusing
  • Passages that illustrate a particular character or setting

Responding To the Text:

You can respond to the text in a variety of ways. The most important thing to remember is that your observations should be specific and detailed.

Types of responses:

  • Raise questions about the beliefs and values implied in the text
  • Give your personal reactions to the passage
  • Discuss the words, ideas, or actions of the author or character(s)
  • Tell what it reminds you of from your own experiences
  • Write about what it makes you think or feel
  • Agree or disagree with a character or the author
  • Analyze the text for use of literary devices (tone, structure, style, imagery)
  • Make connections between different characters or events in the text
  • Make connections to a different text (or film, song, etc…)
  • Label a section with a literary device or element and how that affects the story
  • Discuss the words, ideas, or actions of the author or character(s)
  • Consider an event or description from the perspective of a different character
  • Analyze a passage and its relationship to the story as a whole

You must include 10 entries, written in complete sentences, with clear explanation of what you’re seeing in the text portion that you’re quoting.

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