Monday, January 5, 2009

Writing in Dialect

"One of the Best Loved, North and South"
The Appropriation of National Reconciliation by LaSalle Corbell Pickett
by Caroline E. Janney
Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 116, No. 4, 2008,
pages 370-406

Continuing with the theme of the use of literature in image building, an article in the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Volume 116, No. 4 for 2008 discusses the images of former slaves in post-war literature in an article about LaSalle Pickett. Mrs. Pickett published a short story, "In De Miz" in 1893, in which the speech of a former slave is written in the vernacular or dialect.

I have encountered other examples of the speech of former slaves being rendered in dialect, most notably, in my experience, in some of the novels of Ellen Glasgow. I find it to be difficult reading, as I must sound out many of the words in order to understand them. Ms. Janney suggests that "Tales written in dialect likewise suggested that African Americans remained at a primitive stage of development. . ." I had not thought of the issue in that light. I had assumed that reproducing the dialect was an effort to preserve speech patterns that might be disappearing.


monix said...

You raise an interesting point, Carolyn. One that troubles me when I watch old movies. Are they a real portrayal of life or is there an underlying prejudice? I cannot decide.

Lisabeth said...

Very fine and interesting posts.

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