12 June 2010
Translingual Writing egroup
"From Beckett to Brodsky, dozens of writers – of poetry as well as of prose – have abandoned a native language for an acquired one. Whether driven by circumstances (Joseph Conrad, Jean Moréas, Vladimir Nabokov, Elsa Triolet, Irène Némirovsky), or by choice (Fernando Pessoa, Oscar Wilde, Milan Kundera, Rainer Maria Rilke, Andreï Makine), their writing in 'other languages' has found a place in modern literature. This seminar invites a multidisciplinary discussion of this phenomenon. There is room for disagreement: according to Marina Tsvetaeva, 'writing is already – translating, from one’s native language into another,' while Philip Larkin claims that 'a writer can have only one language, if language is going to mean anything to him.'
"Points of inquiry might include: the reasons behind translingual writing, its reception in different audiences and its growth in the last century; its relation to autobiography, the aesthetics of exile, or the theory of translation; the effect of writing in a second language on the syntactic, idiomatic and semantic texture of a literary work; whether one can speak of a specific poetics of translingual writing (e.g. in Deleuze and Guattari); the interpretations made available by such recent methodologies as postcolonial theory, economic critique of globalization and the rise and fall of politics of identity; how translingual writing reflects approaches to language as either a tool to convey ideas, or the structure that determines them; methodologies of inter-language comparison; how a writer’s de- and reconstructed poetics refract through the prism of what linguists study as second language acquisition."
As I have taken pains to point out in this blog, the difference between Tsvetaeva's and Larkin's views is similar to the difference between Einsteinian and Newtonian physics: one is merely the special case of the other. On the surface or in everyday life, Newtonian physics (or Larkin's view) suffices, but seen from a deeper or broader perspective, everything is Einsteinian or relative (Tsvetaeva's view).