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Chapter 1. Enregistering the North

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Abstract

William Bullein’s Dialogue Against the Fever Pestilence (1st ed. 1564) wasreprinted by the Early English Text Society in 1888 and later included in EarlyEnglish Books Online (EEBO). Although much of the scholarly interest in the texthas been in the areas of medical history (e.g. Mitchell 1959) and Early ModernEnglish literature (e.g. Griffiths 2007), it has recently caught the attention ofscholars interested in dialects of Early Modern English (Taavitsainen,Melchers and Pahti (eds.) 1999; Wales 2006; Ruano Garcia 2010). However, thehistory of Bullein’s Dialogue as a source of dialect material goes back to thetime of the EETS reprint: it was included in R. O. Heslop’s (1896) bibliographicallist of works illustrative of the dialect of Northumberland and Heslop usedit as a source for some of the entries in his Northumberland Words (1892–4).Since Heslop’s glossary has, in its turn been widely cited as an authoritativesource for information on traditional Northumbrian dialects, the influence ofBullein’s Dialogue has been considerable. In this paper, I discuss Bullein’s use ofNorthumbrian dialect within the framework of indexicality and enregisterment(Agha 2003). I argue that Bullein, who had had contact with speakers ofNorthumbrian dialect whilst practising as a physician in Tynemouth, chose toportray the character of Mendicus by referencing features that already indexedNorthern stereotypes due to their association with the Border Ballads. In doingthis, Bullein both drew on and contributed to the enregisterment of Northern,and, more specifically, Northumbrian dialect as ‘outlandish'.

References

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