Reading: Portrayals of Stigmatized “Mountain English” in Southern Literature


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Portrayals of Stigmatized “Mountain English” in Southern Literature


Andrew Burlile

Senior at Virginia Tech, US
About Andrew
I'm a senior English major at Virginia Tech, with minors in Sociology and Language Sciences. I'm currently preparaing for an MA in Irish Literature and Culture.
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This paper uses a comparative analysis of James Dickey’s novel Deliverance and James Still’s novel River of Earth to parse popular language ideologies concerning the Appalachian English dialect of ‘Mountain Speech.’ Deliverance portrays Appalachian natives as ignorant and violent, utilizing non-standard orthography to represent eye-dialect of Appalachian Speech; it feeds the story on stereotypes related to the popular stigmatized terms for Southerners as “Red-necks” and “hicks.” James Still’s River of Earth portrays Appalachian language and culture accurately as Still lived in Appalachia his whole life. Yet, despite these inaccuracies, Deliverance remains the more popular novel, even being turned into a movie in 1972. This paper proposes the theory that Dickey’s novel is more popular because his voice as a Southern writer lends credibility to popular stereotype, whereas Still’s combats stereotype with factual evidence garnered from his time amongst Mountain Folk.

How to Cite: Burlile, A., 2016. Portrayals of Stigmatized “Mountain English” in Southern Literature. Philologia, 8, p.None. DOI:
Published on 14 Apr 2016.


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