The Narrator and the Nation-Builder: Dialect, Dialogue, and Narrative Voice in Minority and Working-Class Fiction

Alexander Beecroft

Abstract


"The representation of social class and other forms of social centrality and marginality (race, regional identity, rurality, etc.) presents a dilemma for literature. Since in most contexts the literary language is, or is at least held to be, a monopoly of elites, to report characters from the margins speaking and thinking in such a register can seem like an egregious violation of the tenets of realism. On the other hand, to have such characters speak as they would in daily life mars the smoothness and literariness of the text’s language, in way most often thought suitable only for comic e ects, from Aristophanes to Dickens. The question of how to balance these issues, marking marginal characters enough to make their status legible without interfering with the expected literary qualities of the text, has been, and remains, a challenge."

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