The English terms dialogic and dialogism often refer to the concept used by the Russian philosopher Mikhail Bakhtin in his work of literary theory, The Dialogic Imagination. Bakhtin contrasts the dialogic and the "monologic" work of literature. The dialogic work carries on a continual dialogue with other works of literature and other authors. It does not merely answer, correct, silence, or extend a previous work, but informs and is continually informed by the previous work. Dialogic literature is in communication with multiple works. This is not merely a matter of influence, for the dialogue extends in both directions, and the previous work of literature is as altered by the dialogue as the present one is. Though Bakhtin's "dialogic" emanates from his work with colleagues in what we now call the "Bakhtin Circle" in years following 1918, his work was not known to the West or translated into English until the 1970s. For those only recently introduced to Bakhtin's ideas but familiar with T.S.Eliot, his "dialogic" is consonant with Eliot's ideas in "Tradition and the Individual Talent," where Eliot holds that "the past should be altered by the present as much as the present is directed by the past". For Bakhtin, the influence can also occur at the level of the individual word or phrase as much as it does the work and even the oeuvre or collection of works. A German cannot use the word "fatherland" or the phrase "blood and soil" without also echoing the meaning that those terms took on under Nazism. Every word has a history of usage to which it responds, and anticipates a future response.
The term 'dialogic' does not only apply to literature. For Bakhtin, all language — indeed, all thought — appears as dialogical. This means that everything anybody ever says always exists in response to things that have been said before and in anticipation of things that will be said in response. In other words, we do not speak in a vacuum. All language is dynamic, relational and engaged in a process of endless redescriptions of the world.
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