26 May 2010

Irish multilingual texts

"Code-Mixing in Biliterate and Multiliterate Irish Literary Texts" (2008) by Tina Bennett-Kastor studies texts that use more than one language (Frank McCourt’s Teacher Man, Maeve Binchy’s Firefly Summer, Cathal Ó Searcaigh’s “Do Jack Kerouac” and “Cainteoir Dúchais,” Nuala ni Dhomnaill’s “An Crann,” Brian Friel’s translations, and Antoine ó Flatharta’s Grásta i Meiriceá) and comes to the following conclusion:

"Multiliterate texts are constructed deliberately so that switch points or other points of linguistic contact within the text often signal additional, metaphorical levels of meaning which are coherent with the theme and/or other aspects of the work. To succeed in delivering these levels of meaning, the multiliterate writer must depend upon readers whose literacies overlap with those of the writer.  The implications for the development of a literary aesthetic in a multilingual society are that it is not enough to recognize that a written work exhibits two or more languages and to understand the meanings of the words in each language. To fully appreciate the aesthetic within the work, the writer and reader both must comprehend the complex political, historical, social, and cultural dimensions of the writer’s choice of language. As Ireland moves toward an increasingly integrated and full bilingualism, the potential for increased language interaction within literary works will grow. Literary theory, interpretation, and the teaching of literary analysis must keep up with the realization of this potential. ... The multiliterate writer calls out to the reader in what Joyce described in Ulysses as 'that other wor[l]d,' and depends on the reader both to hear these echoes, and to understand them."

Let's hear it for both James Joyce and Bennet-Kastor!


  1. Discovering the following book I thought this might also be interesting for you: Dirk Delabastita and Rainier Grutman (eds.): Fictionalising translation and multilingualism.

    Here is a review of the book: