Avoiding the male-authored model of competing orations, French and Italian women of the Renaissance framed their dialogues as informal conversations, as letters with friends that in turn became epistles to a wider audience, and even sometimes as dramas. No other study to date has provided thorough, comparative view of these works across French, Italian, and Latin. Smarr's comprehensive treatment relates these writings to classical, medieval, and Renaissance forms of dialogue, and to other genres including drama, lyric exchange, and humanist invective -- as well as to the real conversations in women's lives -- in order to show how women adapted existing models to their own needs and purposes.
Janet Levarie Smarr is Professor of Theatre and Italian Studies at the University of California, San Diego.
Making Conversation in Modernist Fiction examines the role of character dialogue in key works of Anglo-American modernism. Through close analysis of texts including The Ambassadors, The Sun Also Rises, “The Dead,” The Sound and the Fury, Absalom, Absalom!, The Waves, Between the Acts, “Melanctha,” and Cane, the book documents the ways in which some of the most canonical British and American modernist authors transformed the conventions traditionally used to render talk in fiction.
If historically dialogue had been treated as a subordinate element in fiction—a tool for developing character or advancing plot—this book demonstrates that writers such as Henry James, Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, William Faulkner, Virginia Woolf, and Gertrude Stein would increasingly emphasize it as a poetic structure in its own right. In this way, Alsop argues, modernist writers “make” conversation in radically new ways and for a diverse range of expressive and communicative ends. Over the course of five chapters that explore this previously overlooked avenue of modernist innovation, Making Conversation offers readers a radical new paradigm not only for understanding fictional talk but also for interpreting some of the most celebrated examples of early twentieth-century narrative.