Culler and Jose Garcia Villa10 June 2009 at 7:26 AM | Posted in News | 9 Comments
Here is a summary of Culler’s idea of literary competence:
“Jonathan Culler, in his Structuralist Poetics, moves away from the idea of the underlying competence of literary works, and considers instead the literary competence of readers. Culler argues that this literary competence, regarded as a kind of grammar of literature, is acquired in education institutions. In his later work, On Deconstruction, he develops the idea further, drawing on diverse critical responses to institutions, and questioning the foundations of a literary competence that surreptitiously promotes the doctrines and values of specific traditions.”
What is being “surreptitiously promoted” by the usual way of reading works by multilingual authors as though they were monolingual is the dubious primacy of the second language. For example, by reading Jose Garcia Villa‘s poems as though the poet spoke English from childhood, we fall into the silly trap that my American graduate school teacher in Survey of American Literature fell into when he pronounced Villa as a “minor American poet.” He (and most other readers) failed to see that the line “Then musical as a sea-gull” in Villa’s famous “Lyric 17” makes full sense only when we realize that Villa is writing in Tagalog, using English words.