Eliza Jane SmithMar 4, 2022
Slang and Class in Nineteenth-Century France
Lexington Books 2021
Eliza Jane Smith's Literary Slumming: Slang and Class in Nineteenth-Century France (Lexington Books, 2021) applies a sociolinguistic approach to the representation of slang in French literature and dictionaries to reveal the ways in which upper-class writers, lexicographers, literary critics, and bourgeois readers participated in a sociolinguistic concept the author refers to as "literary slumming", or the appropriation of lower-class and criminal language and culture. Through an analysis of spoken and embodied manifestations of the anti-language of slang in the works of Eugène François Vidocq, Honoré de Balzac, Eugène Sue, Victor Hugo, the Goncourt Brothers, and Émile Zola, Literary Slumming argues that the nineteenth-century French literary discourse on slang led to the emergence of this sociolinguistic phenomenon that prioritised lower-class and criminal life and culture in a way that ultimately expanded class boundaries and increased visibility and agency for minorities within the public sphere.
Pallavi Joshi is a PhD student in French Studies at the University of Warwick.