Rhetorics of Literacy: American Dialect Poetry, 1870-1930


ACLS Fellowship Program




This project explores the production and reception of dialect in nineteenth- and twentieth-century American poetry, organized around "rhetorics of literacy"—how poets direct readers, through the use of unusual subgenres, to experience the poetry as both oral and literate. In examining the details of authorial attempts to represent "nonstandard" speech along with the socio-cultural contexts of reading dialect, both silently and aloud, this project shows what dialect poetry's visible markers (such as odd orthography, punctuation, and spatiality) can reveal about its oscillation between orality and literacy and its function as a popular but strangely difficult form.