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The bold careers of Henry James, D.H. Lawrence, James Joyce, and Samuel Beckett--writers with profoundly unsettled cultural identities--spark Margery Sabin's investigation of values carried through inherited forms of speech. The Dialect of the Tribe offers fresh readings of such great novels as The Golden Bowl, Women in Love, Ulysses, and the Beckett trilogy which illustrate how complex attitudes toward the speech forms of language inform the most varied social, psychological, and aesthetic structures in modern fiction. Sabin explores the powerful tension in these writers between appreciation for the resources of common speech in English and contrary longings for a freedom associated with abstraction, system, and foreign or private language. Her own critical procedures transcend restrictive and reductive polarizations, as she lucidly analyzes the biases of both the Anglo-American critical tradition and the challenge to that tradition in French literary theory and practice. Written in a jargon-free, accessible style, The Dialect of the Tribe argues that the ambiguous cultural positions of the great modern novelists in English emerge as a major source of their strength--the rich traditions of the English language give enlivening power to writers also remarkable for their drive toward radical independence and skepticism.