13 July 2009

Read non-European languages

Steven G. Kellman, clearly the leading scholar in the field that this blog focuses on, writes that "Translingual transactions have occurred frequently throughout literary history, and they are wonderfully instructive to anyone interested in literature, language, and the connections between the two. Yet, though studies of individual translingual authors and of bilingualism in society abound, it is astonishing that almost nothing has been written about the general phenomenon of literary translingualism. Useful exceptions include Leonard Forster’s The Poet’s Tongues, Jane Miller’s essay “Writing in a Second Language,” and Elizabeth Klosty Beaujour’s Alien Tongues. ... However, much still remains to be learned about other languages, other groups, and other countries beyond the United States." (p. xi of The Translingual Imagination)

I salute Kellman's dedication to our shared mission of foregrounding the second-language issue in the reading of monolingual texts, but I should point out to him the need not just for him but for other American scholars to read books published outside the USA and in languages other than European ones. There has been, for a long time now, in books and articles written in Filipino, for example, a lively discussion about non-mother-tongue literature. One of the items in my bucket list is to formulate a theory out of the varied, sometimes disparate attempts to read literary texts from the point of view of two or more languages.

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