The land that rises : dialect as unheimlich in British writing

Morris, Catherine (2018) The land that rises : dialect as unheimlich in British writing. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


This thesis is in two parts. The first is a critical analysis of the use of dialect as unheimlich in British writing. Using Freud’s essay, The Uncanny (1919), as its basis, this thesis will argue that the use of dialect creates tension within a text between the representation of home, and of that which may be considered unhomely. Reading a range of British texts psychoanalytically alongside sociolinguistic studies, this thesis seeks to show how an author’s choice of dialect-use within their literary form is bound up with an unheimlich mind-set of dialect within both writer and reader, whilst considering the cultural and historical contexts in which these attitudes are based. A range of unheimlich notions may be read from dialect, and its use is to be repressed or rejected as abject and replaced with the more accessible standard English associated with education, adulthood, civilisation and power. Yet it might also be read that, through standard English, the ‘strange’ has been brought into our homes and our mouths, made familiar through the hegemonic appropriation of the ‘mother tongue’. Whilst the hearing of spoken accents and dialects within various medias has become increasingly common, negative connotations remain, especially when presented in the written form; what might be familiar to the ear remains strange to the eye. Its use divides readers as to its necessity and desirability, suggesting there is a long way to go before dialects are accepted fully in literary terms. Yet it remains an important aesthetic tool for the writer, and its continued use suggests the need or desire to represent in writing the many individual ways of speaking, and so too a sense of place, person, home, and familiarity, within the text. That writers appear to uphold associated connotations of maleness, or of undesirable, regressive human traits through dialect, however, suggests that embedded inequalities persist and so too the unheimlich qualities of dialect. The second part is a literary novel, exploring lives in a post-apocalyptic matriarchal society, set in Yorkshire, in which dialect and who is speaking play a discernible role.

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