Literatures Of Language

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This dissertation traces the intertwined history of linguistics and imaginative literature in the nineteenth-century United States. Fiction and travel literature throughout the century gave rise to changing modes of thinking about and documenting language difference. At the same time, new discourses of language study transformed how literary authors represented and reflected on speech in writing. The history of this cross-disciplinary, mutually constitutive relationship has been an understudied topic in both historical linguistics and literary criticism. By reading major works from each field in context with one another---by performing, in other words, a literary history of language study---I seek to understand the profusion of multilingual and dialect literatures and to create a more complete historiography of the discipline of linguistics.

My first chapter examines the work of early US language scholars Peter Duponceau and John Pickering. Alongside their research into various Amerindian languages, I discuss the fiction and travel writing of James Fenimore Cooper, Washington Irving, and Margaret Fuller. Historicizing literary vernacular as part of an emerging, multidisciplinary interest in phonetic transcription, I turn in the second chapter to a number of authors of the Southwestern comic genre: Augustus Baldwin Longstreet, William Gilmore Simms, David Crockett, Thomas Bangs Thorpe, and George Washington Harris. The third chapter focuses on the ethnolinguistic literature of James Russell Lowell and Mark Twain. Alongside their work I examine postbellum linguists William Dwight Whitney and Max Muller, who were beginning to make the case for applying a strict scientific method to the study of language variation. The final chapter follows Lafcadio Hearn, an enigmatic, international travel writer who was responsible for some of the first ethnographic sketches of French and Spanish Creole quarters of New Orleans. These documents reveal a novel retheorization of contact languages and creoles in fin-de-siecle American literature and language study.

Throughout this dissertation, it is my goal both to resurface further cross-disciplinary documents, and to reveal their shared methodological and conceptual approaches to language---approaches that were not simply echoes across a divide, but a collective practice that was part of the nascent disciplinary landscape of language study.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781244702998
  • Publisher: BiblioLabsII
  • Publication date: 9/30/2011
  • Pages: 262
  • Product dimensions: 7.44 (w) x 9.69 (h) x 0.55 (d)

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