28 July 2009

Forum Play

Can multilingual literary criticism be interdisciplinary? It should be, and yes, it can be.

First, it should be, because the boundaries of disciplines disappeared with critical theory: intellectuals such as Michel Foucault are routinely cited not just by literary critics (Foucault was not even a literary critic) but by just about everyone else in academe. With the world going global, intellectual life has also gone global, in the sense that one can no longer stay within a very small specialized field.

Second, it can be, because there are many areas where it obviously benefits from other fields of human interest. Take the Forum Play, for example. Katrin Byreus's role-playing teaching exercise (derived from Augusto Boal), meant to make students directly involved in solving real-life problems, works with mixed-language groups, where the role players can speak in different languages to each other, even if the other players do not speak these other languages. Multilingual literary critics can help illuminate the dynamics of the Forum Play and help teachers use it more effectively. Listening to someone speaking in a language you don't understand is like reading a literary text with words from a language we don't read. The theoretical insights will be the same, even if the practical applications are clearly different. The Forum Play is interdisciplinary, involving theater, education, psychology, and so on; we cannot do multilingual literary criticism on the Forum Play without invoking or using these other fields.

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