From voice to accent: theory and practice in Woolf, Lessing and Gordimer

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Enquiries made into the genre of the novel have always considered the choice and use of critical terms to be an important consideration. The thesis examines the use of voice as a critical term. It is argued that the idea of voice emerges out of the Jamesian emphasis on point of view. As a term, voice is problematic with its anthropomorphic connotations. Largely through the influence of Wayne C. Booth, voice comes to be understood as referring to the author speaking within and through the narrative. Chapter One of the thesis examines the historical development of the use of point of view and voice from Henry James up to the work of Booth. Chapter Two deals with the impact of structuralist and poststructuralist enquiries on the use of voice as a critical term. While the work of Gerard Genette greatly refines the categories and uses of voice within narrative, his essential approach remains the same as that of previous theorists. It is argued that it takes the work of poststructuralists like Jacques Derrida to fully examine the assumptions at work in the term voice. Because of the inherent metaphorical limitations of voice, it is argued that a new term be used. The term accent is introduced to take the place of voice because it is able to signify both the oral and the written aspects of language. It is thus argued that the discussion is able to become more text-centered rather than centered on a human subject. The use of the term accent is then demonstrated in the three subsequent chapters. First is a chapter on the modernist novel, The Waves by Virginia Woolf, where a study of accents highlights the structure of the novel and makes apparent the play of language within the text. Second is a chapter on the proto-realist novel, The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing, where a reading of the accents elucidates the la yering of texts. The third is the postmodernist novel, Burger's Daughter by Nadine Gordimer, where by noting the accents the reader is better able to understand the nature of Rosa Burger's "conversations." The thesis concludes that a study of accent in narrative helps to clarify the structure of these novels and thus the reader's understanding of the text.
Bibliography: p. 221-232.
McDowell, J. N. (1988). From voice to accent: theory and practice in Woolf, Lessing and Gordimer (Doctoral thesis, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada). Retrieved from doi:10.11575/PRISM/19491