What inspires an author to adopt a dying vernacular as a literary medium? In his lucid and original book, Languages of the Night: Minor Languages and the Literary Imagination in Twentieth-Century Europe, Barry McCrea explores the surprising intimacy between rural orality and metropolitan modernism, arguing that minor languages shaped and energized modernist aesthetics. Moving with facility between Ireland (James Joyce, Seán Ó Ríordáin), Italy (Pier Paolo Pasolini), and France (Marcel Proust), McCrea examines the seemingly incongruous parallel between the modernist love of old dialects and the modernist desire to invent new languages. He argues that the literary turn to dialects can be explained neither by a neo-Romanticist or primitivist cult of authenticity nor by patriotic revivalism. Instead, it is a literary technique or device, an example of what he calls “modernist expressionism” (xiv). McCrea's authors are drawn to rural tongues...

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