08 September 2009

Heteroglot interzone

Jesse Alemán begins his article entitled "Chicano Novelistic Discourse: Dialogizing the Corrido Critical Paradigm" (1998) with this paragraph:

"The dialogic nature of language Mikhail Bakhtin describes in 'Discourse in the Novel' is nothing new to Chicano literary production, especially considering the 'interlingualism' that distinguishes it from North American literature in English and Mexican literature in Spanish. Numerous critics have already pointed out how Chicano literature straddles the borderlines of two national languages as it incorporates and combines each to create a hybrid discourse that registers the liminal cultural position Chicanos occupy between both linguistic world views. Examining Juan Felipe Herrera's poetry, for instance, Alfred Arteaga explains, 'Two nations are imagined in English and in Spanish and differentiate themselves at a common border, yet Chicano border space is a heteroglot interzone, a hybrid overlapping of the two,' and most critics agree that the interlingual peculiarity of Chicano literature arises from this 'heteroglot interzone.' So, as with Bakhtin's notion of language in general, Chicano literary discourse in particular is said to originate from a border space."

It is striking that what is being said here of Chicano literature can be said also of Philippine literature, which inhabits a similar "heteroglot interzone," except that with Filipinos, there are more than two languages to worry about. A novelist whose mother tongue is Bicolano, for example, but who lives in a Tagalog-speaking region and writes in English, negotiates three linguistic worlds, making life extremely difficult for the literary critic who wants to explore all the levels of meaning found in a work. Unlike the New Critics who had to spend a tremendous amount of time tracking down the Latin and Greek roots of English words in a 17th century British text, however, Wikcritics have only to be familiar with three or more modern languages (admittedly, already a formidable task) to catch at least the most basic interplay among discourses. Just as it is with other kinds of literary criticism, the critic has to do consciously what the creative writer does subconsciously or instinctively.

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