The ugliness of the self: Slang and dialect

This workshop will explore the uses (and abuses) of slang and dialect in contemporary fiction. From Peter Carey’s ribald historical novels, to the futuristic tales of George Saunders, slang and dialect are being used to fascinating narrative effect. We will briefly discuss how our sense of so-called “bad language” has shifted over the years, and also look into the surprising etymology of some of our most prominent curse words. However, the primary focus will be upon the examination of published excerpts and student work, with a general discussion of how slang and/or dialect are being used, and the overall effects created.

What, ultimately, does such language express about the characters? The authors’ attitude towards the subject matter? The greater world depicted? Does such language even have a place in literary fiction? Where do we draw the line?


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