Literary Dialect in Sarah Waters's Fingersmith (2002)

PICKLES, Suzanne (2023). Literary Dialect in Sarah Waters's Fingersmith (2002). Neo-Victorian Studies, 14 (1), 1-27.

Pickles-LiteraryDialectFingersmith(VoR).pdf - Published Version
Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

Download (347kB) | Preview
Official URL:
Open Access URL: (Published)
Link to published version::


So far, much of the critical work on Sarah Waters’s neo-Victorian novels has focussed on how she both adopts and adapts the Victorian novel form to reflect her own interest in lesbian narratives. In contrast, this article explores Waters’s representation of the nonstandard English in the direct speech of the working-class and criminal underclass characters in Fingersmith (2002) and the extent to which it can be read as a development of the literary dialect of the nineteenth century, especially that seen in Dickens’s oeuvre. I demonstrate that her representation of dialect reflects twenty-first-century awareness of, and complex attitudes towards, nonstandard speech varieties. I consider the way in which Waters’s novel, in changing the focus of stories set in the Victorian era, also changes the form of characters’ nonstandard speech, and explain how direct speech is integral to the development of a plot which challenges the reader’s expectations and opinions.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: characterisation; Charles Dickens; Fingersmith; grammar; lexis; literary dialect; phonology; plot; Sarah Waters
Identification Number:
Page Range: 1-27
SWORD Depositor: Symplectic Elements
Depositing User: Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited: 11 Sep 2023 12:40
Last Modified: 11 Oct 2023 11:47

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics