02 February 2011

Mixtilingual poetry

The alternative term for multilingual poetry - mixtilingual poetry - comes from an old article, "From Bilingual to Mixtilingual Speech:  'Code-Switching' Revisited" (1988), by Renzo Titone.  Here's the abstract:

"Offers several justifications for the claim that code-switching is a positive, not a negative, phenomenon. Included are three examples of 'mixtilingual' poetry: poetry 'mixing languages' in order to evoke different feelings and images within a certain cultural context. The poems mix English and Spanish, English and Italian, and Italian and Spanish, respectively."

While the term mixtilingual makes explicit the presence of two or more languages in a single text, it hides a second and more sophisticated layer of language-based meaning-making in a text, that of a mother tongue beneath the surface of a second-language literary text.  A text need not be obviously mixed to be mixed; what appears to be a monolingual text, if written by someone with a different mother tongue, is necessarily also mixed and should be read as a "mixtilingual" text.  To make the lives of critics even more difficult, there is a third layer, which is the apparently monolingual text written in the mother tongue; in this case, Bakhtin's dialogics should bring out the other languages (idiolect, subtext, other voices, personal language, whatever) that are present in such a text.

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