Azade Seyhan11 September 2009 at 5:18 AM | Posted in News | 1 Comment
Azade Seyhan writes in Writing Outside the Nation (2000):
“Chicano/a literary and cultural criticism has cast its critical vision on a diverse spectrum of theoretical and imaginative writings from Latin America and from other ethnic and minority cultures in the United States. By situating their literature in a more international and intercultural context, Chicano/a literary theorists subtly state their dissatisfaction with the relatively minor critical attention paid to their cultural production in mainstream academic criticism. Angie Chabram Dernersesian has been a leading advocate of reassessing Chicano/a writing in the context of new critical frameworks and of forging transnational linkages with underrepresented and/or emergent literary traditions. Castillo conceptualizes the new poetics of Xicanisma in a manner analogous to the reconfiguration of cultural legacies in contemporary ethnic and immigrant literatures. ‘We are looking at what has been handed down to us by previous generations of poets,’ she writes, ‘and, in effect, rejecting, reshaping, restructuring, reconstructing that legacy and making language and structure ours, suitable to our moment in history.”
I join Seyhan’s advocacy of what I have called Wikcriticism, but I disagree on one major point. I hate the use of the words minor and underrepresented (and even the word emergent, which I am forced to use occasionally, being an admirer of Raymond Williams). We need to decolonize our minds (as the African writers put it). I think that multilingual or interlingual literature is the mainstream, but the so-called mainstream writers and critics just don’t know it. In fact, in theory, all literary texts are dialogic or made up of two or more languages (we all learned that from Mikhail Bakhtin!). In the case of monolingual writers, the other language is what linguists would call the idiolect (or the unique kind of language that only one individual speaks or writes); it is the idiolect that interacts with the common or shared language. Again, I use the analogy of physics: the equations of relativity can be applied to everything, but in ordinary events, where we are far from approaching the speed of light, we just ignore the almost infinitesimal quantities involved, but almost infinitesimal does not mean zero. Many critics ignore the idiolect when reading monolingual texts, but the theoretical reality is still there: a writer writes in one language using words from another language. In a multilingual or interlingual text, the reality hits us straight in the face.