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Journal Article

The Historical Present in Charlotte Brontë's Novels: Some Discourse Functions

Laurel J. Brinton
Style
Vol. 26, No. 2, Stylistics and Strategies (Summer 1992), pp. 221-244
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/42945970
Page Count: 24
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
The Historical Present in Charlotte Brontë's Novels: Some Discourse Functions
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Abstract

Recent work in discourse analysis has called into question the traditional function of the historical present as a "pastmore-vivid," postulating instead segmenting, foregrounding, and evaluative functions. The different uses of the present tense in the novels of Charlotte Brontë, an innovator in the novelistic use of this form, can all be understood as serving discourse functions. The present of authorial comment, expressing general truths and the narrator's addresses to the reader, serves foregrounding and external evaluative functions. The present of static description and of narrative events (the historical present) both serve as "foregrounding dramatizers" and expressions of the narrator's subjectivity. As a result, they function as devices of internal evaluation, in which the narrator's point of view is inserted with no disruption of the narrative frame.

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