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Race, Nation, Class and Language Use in Tom Leonard's Intimate Voices and Linton Kwesi Johnson's Mi Revalueshanary Fren

Liam Connell and Victoria Sheppard

in Scottish Literature and Postcolonial Literature

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print June 2011 | ISBN: 9780748637744
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748652143 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3366/edinburgh/9780748637744.003.0013
Race, Nation, Class and Language Use in Tom Leonard's Intimate Voices and Linton Kwesi Johnson's Mi Revalueshanary Fren

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Tom Leonard and Linton Kwesi Johnson have made use of place-specific spoken language in their poetry, which is represented in the text through experiments with orthography and phonetics. Leonard uses ‘phonetic city dialect’ in Intimate Voices, and Johnson's poetry, as set out in Mi Revalueshanary Fren, brings together a Jamaican-English-speaking voice with a musically rooted ‘sound’. The language of Leonard's text seems principally to justify a class reading rather than a colonial one. The epithet ‘scruff’ in ‘Unrelated Incidents 3’ might be read as an attempt to reify class identity as a form of the ethnic labour, structuring the hierarchical divisions of labour by denoting class as an essentialist category. The comparison of Leonard and Johnson's dialect work suggests that the effort to undermine the linguistic hierarchies that have governed poetic form can be effectively utilised to expose the political lines of privilege that such hierarchies support.

Keywords: Tom Leonard; Linton Kwesi Johnson; Intimate Voices; Mi Revalueshanary Fren; language; race; nation; class identity

Chapter.  5774 words. 

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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