Volume 2, Issue 1
  • ISSN 2210-4372
  • E-ISSN: 2210-4380
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In this paper, we take up three novels: Mary Barton, by Elizabeth Gaskell (1848/2008), Shirley, published just afterwards by Charlotte Brontë, and North and South, published six years later by Gaskell. Each novel is a revoicing of previous works, and we shall present evidence that the last two directly and consciously revoice the first two. We argue that a form of revoicing we call “exaptation”, or the borrowing of formal devices for very different functions than those for which they initially evolved, can be observed on at least four different timescales: the genre, the author’s career, the novel’s characters and plot, and the exchanges of dialogue. With each book, we examine each timescale and then we look both quantitatively and qualitatively at the wordings of a request, a confession, and an act of violence. In this way, we hope to demonstrate how the early social realist novel developed devices for showing thought processes alongside the verbal processes and the physical activities of characters by devoicing speech, first as indirect discourse, then as quasi-direct discourse, and finally as unspoken understandings. It is, we argue, a way that is not very different from the way that the Russian psychologist Vygotsky hypothesized that children develop verbal thinking and inner speech from dialogue.


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