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vernacular tradition

vernacular tradition - For a time written language was a...

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For a time, written language was a tool solely of the elite and educated. Manuscripts were written chiefly in Latin, the language of the academics, and poor, working class citizens often were not given the education necessary to read. In addition, books and other forms of written word were simply too expensive for the lower class to afford, so even intrepid, self-taught readers rarely had access to many literary materials. As a result, authors wrote to their audience; literature was published with elevated vocabulary and grammar on the correct assumption that the only readers would be well educated. In addition the body of these works also spoke to their audience, utilizing subjects such as politics, philosophy, and science, subjects of little to no importance to the working class but of great interest to academics. While it took several years for this to change, the breakthrough that opened literature to the masses occurred in 1456 when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press. This invention allowed publishers to produce literary manuscripts and documents at a much more massive scale and at cheaper prices. Intellectual life was suddenly no longer a tool for the elite, and literacy became more widespread and vital to daily life. The working class became more well-read and authors, keen to the change, began writing works of interest to a broader population. However, while the working class now started to become literate, they were still not as well-versed in literature as the academics. The lofted grammar and structure used in past works could not be employed for manuscripts written for non-academics. Thus, authors began to make their works more widely readable, utilizing a more common language. And so the use of vernacular language in literature was born. However, the use of vernacular was not something unique to the 15 th century, nor is it something surrounding purely language. Early American authors also employed
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vernacular tradition for many of the same purposes. Author Ralph Waldo Ellison’s Invisible Man heavily utilizes vernacular tradition to make more rich his novel. In his work, Ellison reproduces speech patterns and folklore of rural and urban African- Americans. Throughout the story, a “jazz” style is evoked, in which Ellison utilizes a traditional rhetorical form to play against his theme. Monologue is used heavily in letters, sermons, songs, and traditional nursery rhymes to represent the cultural ambiance of Ellison’s subjects. Through the use of these vernacular devises, a deeper look into the protagonist’s lifestyle is possible.
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