Document Type

Honors Project - Open Access

Abstract

This project uses sociolinguistics to theorize the use of African American Vernacular English (AAVE) in literature across three time periods: the Antebellum era, the post-bellum/Reconstruction era, and the Harlem Renaissance. Different dialects of English encode different power structures, and in order to interrogate those power structures I track how white and black authors represent the language of African American characters on the page and how audiences interpret that language. I find that African American authors tend to embrace the variability and diversity of natural language better than their white counterparts, whose use of literary dialect often falls into essentialist clichés.

 
 

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