ENMC981-1 (Schedule # 94282)
University of Virginia
Fall 2004
T 2:00pm-4:30pm (305 CHM)
Mr. David Golumbia
Office: 304B Bryan
Fall 2004 Office Hours: T 1-2, W 12-2, & by appt

The Novel and Nonstandard Languages

Perhaps the archetypal modern written genre, the novel is, at the same time, very often prized when it incorporates precise representations of “ordinary” oral discourse—dialogue—that are judged differently from the rest of novelistic writing. Bakhtin in particular draws attention to the role played by dialogue in the written novel. Dialect or vernacular forms (nonstandard variations on standard modern languages) are familiar throughout the history of novelistic dialogue, so that many exemplary novelists (Dickens, Faulkner, Twain, Joyce, Walker) are seen to a greater or lesser degree as masters of vernacular representation. In this class we will focus on novels published from the 1950s to the present day, largely written in Anglophone countries outside of the US and the UK and also by members of minority communities in the US and UK, that incorporate significant elements of and discourse about nonstandard languages, including Singlish, so-called Caribbean creoles, US Black English, and others. We will focus on nonstandard English for the sake of common class work, but students having experience with other languages are encouraged to participate. We will read novels alongside theoretical works that address the roles and functions of nonstandard languages. We'll read novels by Hwee Hwee Tan, Oonya Kempadoo, Jessica Hagedorn, Alice Walker, R. Zamora Linmark and Lois-Ann Yamanaka, and linguistic and cultural theory by writers including Bakhtin, Homi Bhabha, Ngugi wa Thiong'o, William Labov, James Milroy and Lesley Milroy, Gayatri Spivak, Michael de Graaf, and Arjuna Parakrama. Finally, we will return to read Huckleberry Finn, arguably one of the most important sites for the meeting of vernaculars and the written novel. Requirements: final research paper of 20-25pp., seminar presentations, course participation. Limited to graduate students.


Books (at UVa Bookstore)

Theoretical Works

Book (at UVa Bookstore)
Articles (in toolkit or xerox)


Final paper. Coursework will be mainly focused on the generation of a professional-quality final paper of 20-25pp, due in my English Dept Lounge mailbox by 5pm on the final day of Exam period, Tuesday Dec 21. The final paper should be related in subject matter or thematically to the work of the course, but need not necessarily be focused on one of the texts we discuss in class. The paper should be submitted in print and not electronically. I discourage taking incompletes for seminar work under ordinary circumstances.

Presentations. Each student will prepare two very brief presentations during the semester, one on a theoretical article or chapter and one on a one of the novels we read. These presentations should be at most 5-10 min. In the case of articles, the presentations should briefly summarize the basic argument and then raise 2-3 questions for discussion. In the case of the novels, one presenter will examine in some depth the language used in the novel, and the other will summarize the basic themes of the novel and present 1-2 areas for discussion. Both of these presentation models will be discussed in more detail in class. The point in both cases is to provide material to get the class talking, and as such the presentations are not graded but included in the aggregate participation grade for the seminar. Pariticipants are discouraged from speaking longer than 10 minutes except by prior arrangement with the instructor.


The final grade will be composed 80% of the letter grade for the final paper, and 20% on the aggregate grade for course participation.

Week-by-Week Syllabus

Tue Sep 7. Class 1. Introduction

Tue Sep 14. Class 2. Standard and Nonstandard Languages

Tue Sep 21. Class 3. Languages in Novelistic Discourse

Tue Sep 28. Class 4. Dogeaters

Tue Oct 5. Class 5. Rolling the R's

Tue Oct 12. No class. Reading period.

Tue Oct 19. Class 6. Heads by Harry

Tue Oct 26. Class 7. Foreign Bodies

Tue Nov 2. Class 8. "Creolization" and Variation

Tue Nov 9. Class 9. Mimicry and the Politics of Standardization

Tue Nov 16. Class 10. Tide Running

Tue Nov 23. Class 11. The Color Purple

Tue Nov 30. Class 12. Huck Finn

Tue Dec 07. Class 13. Summary and discussion of final projects.



Last updated September 10, 2004.