Too specialized?

29 April 2009 at 4:54 AM | Posted in News | Leave a comment

Is multilingual literary criticism too specialized? We have to think about this as the idea of over-specialization gets hammered, as a side result of the worldwide economic crisis. (Read the New York Times article by Columbia professor Mark Taylor.)

My initial answer is yes and no.

Yes, because there are very few of us looking at the polyglot aspect of literature. Even in our own specialized field, we cannot even claim that we are in so-called mainstream literature courses. (In the Philippines, even if Philippine Literature in English is usually taught in undergraduate courses, it is taught as though English were not a second or a foreign language to Filipino writers.)

No, because bilinguality or multilinguality is most likely the rule rather than the exception for creative writers. Since they are very curious and very literate, even monolingual writers usually take the trouble to be able to read another language. If we are able to convince more critics to think about the relationship of mother tongues to languages of literary creation, we might be able to establish what could be the kind of truly multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary area that Taylor is looking for.

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