Kirsten Lew Humanities and Social Science
The American Vernacular in Twain and Hemingway
My research deals with a trend in American prose that, starting around the nineteenth century, led to an increasingly speech-based way of writing, called plain speech, characterized by simplicity in language, conciseness, and straightforwardness. Starting with Mark Twains Adventure of Huckleberry Finn, which was the first time that a serious work of literature maintained the use of a dialectical speaker throughout itself for a purpose other than humor, American literature entrenched itself in the vernacular, breaking with the verbosity and erudition of Anglo writers. I am tracing how, starting with the dramatic advent of Huckleberry Finn, American prose adapted the notion of plain speech into a literary form, culminating in the blunt and powerful prose of Ernest Hemingway. I also want to explore the implications of plain speech as an American form, in terms of its development on the frontier and its fixation on the common.