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Post-Authenticity: Literary Dialect and Realism in Victorian and Neo-Victorian Social Novels

Pickles, Suzanne (2018) Post-Authenticity: Literary Dialect and Realism in Victorian and Neo-Victorian Social Novels. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Abstract

This thesis considers what a post-authenticity approach to literary dialect studies should be. Once we have departed from the idea of literary dialect studies being engaged in ascertaining whether or not the fictional representation of nonstandard speech varieties can be matched with those same varieties in the external world, how should we study the dialect we find in novels? I argue that literary dialect studies should be placed within critical work on the realist novel, since the representation of speech, like the broader field of realism, aims to reflect an external world, one with which the reader can identify. This, as yet, has not been done. My approach is to place greater emphasis on the role of the reader. I consider the ways in which writers use literary dialect to manage readers’ responses to characters, and the nature of those responses. I give a close reading of Victorian and neo-Victorian novels to show that, whilst the subject matter of these works has changed over time to suit a modern readership, the dialect representation – its form and the attitudes to language usage it communicates – is conservative. Referring to recent surveys, and through my own research with real readers, I show that nonstandard speakers are still regarded as less well-educated and of a lower social class than those who speak Standard English. This, I argue, is why writers encode such attitudes into their works and are able to manipulate readers’ responses to characters. I argue that it is the interplay of text, reader, and the broader cultural context in which the work is both written and read, that gives meaning to the literary dialect and brings it within the scope of studies of the realist novel.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Arts and Humanities (Sheffield) > School of English (Sheffield)
Depositing User: Mrs Suzanne Pickles
Date Deposited: 28 Jan 2019 09:35
Last Modified: 28 Jan 2019 09:35
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/22690

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