This seminar has been conceived to observe how and why language varieties beyond the standard are employed in fictional literature. The initial hypothesis is that attitudes toward non-standard language (rural and urban dialects) and/or the English of non-British immigrants or visitors are both highly marked and stereotypical. Within any piece of fictional writing the divergent (non-Southern English standard) utterances of literary figures is virtually always limited to dialog and always has an evaluative function within the larger narrative framework. The nature of the evaluation varies according to
• (a) the time of writing,
• (b) the regional association of the writer
• (c) the fictional speaker’s
○ educational, or
○ ethnic status
○ though probably less often their gender.
In regard to (a), the time of writing, we will, after looking briefly at Middle English and Early Modern English examples of literary dialect, concentrate chiefly on (1) late 18th/19th/early 20th century writing, on the one hand, and (2) late 20th/early 21st century fiction, on the other.
Five regions are envisioned for the work of the seminar: the West Country, the North (of England), Scotland, Ireland, and London as the urban center.
Possible authors are Th. Hardy, R.D. Blackmore and S. Waters; E. Gaskell, D.H. Lawrence, and B. Hines; W. Scott, R.L. Stevenson, and I. Welsh; Wm. B. Yeats and B. Friel; Ch. Dickens, G. B. Shaw, A. Levy, M. Ali, and Z. Smith; but perhaps D. Defoe, Wm. M. Thackeray, and G. Eliot, among many, many more.
We will try to rate how the authors we look at present their characters’ speech in comparison with linguistic descriptions of the given variety. Among other things we will take the differences between the written and the spoken medium including eye dialect and social stereotypes into account.
Participants are not only expected to do the background reading and to take part in seminar discussion, but also either to make an oral presentation on one of the authors (singly or in a small group with a later written version plus assessment) or to take the final examination.