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Table of contents :
TABLE OF CONTENTS
PART I - GLOBALIZATION: HISTORY AND OVERVIEW
PART II - THE GLOBAL IN THE LOCAL
PART III - CASE STUDIES
B- LANGUAGE AND LINGUISTICS
Adventuring in the Englishes
Adventuring in the Englishes: Language and Literature in a Postcolonial Globalized World
Ikram Ahmed Elsherif and Piers Michael Smith
Adventuring in the Englishes: Language and Literature in a Postcolonial Globalized World, Edited by Ikram Ahmed Elsherif and Piers Michael Smith This book first published 2013 Cambridge Scholars Publishing 12 Back Chapman Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE6 2XX, UK
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
Copyright © 2013 by Ikram Ahmed Elsherif and Piers Michael Smith and contributors All rights for this book reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owner. ISBN (10): 1-4438-4801-8, ISBN (13): 978-1-4438-4801-5
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Acknowledgments ..................................................................................... vii Introduction .............................................................................................. viii Ikram Ahmed Elsherif and Piers Michael Smith Part I: Globalization: History and Overview Chapter One................................................................................................. 2 English Literature in its Encounters with Other Languages Robert J. C. Young Chapter Two .............................................................................................. 17 Globalization as Inspiration Sahar El Mougy Chapter Three ............................................................................................ 25 Adventures in Digital Land: Why We Read the Classics Marianna Torgovnick Chapter Four .............................................................................................. 40 English Literature or Literature in English: Appropriating the Language of the Colonizer Ikram Ahmed Elsherif Part II: The Global in the Local Chapter One............................................................................................... 56 The Caribbean in the Metropolitan Imagination Raymond Ramcharitar Chapter Two .............................................................................................. 70 Granada: Migrations, Hybridity and Transcultural Encounters Fadia Faqir
Table of Contents
Chapter Three ............................................................................................ 79 Liquid Grammar, Liquid Style: On the East-Asian Way of using English or the Phenomenon of ‘Linguistic Air-Guitars’ Thorsten Botz-Bornstein Chapter Four .............................................................................................. 96 Global Shakespeare Piers Michael Smith Chapter Five ............................................................................................ 109 Great Texts and Literary Appreciation: An Algerian University Experiment Yasmina Djafri Part III: Case Studies A- Literature: Chapter One............................................................................................. 130 Peter Ackroyd’s Hawksmoor and the Case of the Lost Detective Martin Rosenstock Chapter Two ............................................................................................ 146 Outlooks on Life and Chance in the Stories of Two Trinidadian Writers Andrew James B- Language and Linguistics: Chapter One............................................................................................. 164 The Globalization Process and the Revival of the ESP Enterprise Smail Bemmoussat and Omar Azzoug Chapter Two ............................................................................................ 174 Holding the Ground: Expressing Identity through Signage in Kuwait Nur Soliman Chapter Three .......................................................................................... 192 World Englishes Thrive, Standard English Reigns: The Case of Resumptive Pronouns in Relative Clauses Marta Maria Tryzna Contributors............................................................................................. 210
We would like to thank GUST Bookstore and Growmore General Trading Co., Wataniya Telecom, KFAS (Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences), CACR (Center of Alumni and Corporate Relations) and Arabian Advanced Systems without whose support and assistance this book could not have been produced. We would also like to thank CTheory: An International Journal of Theory, Technology and Culture for allowing us to reprint a revised version of “Liquid Grammar, Liquid Style: On the East-Asian Way of Using English,” which was originally published in its April 2006 issue. We would also like to thank Rodopi publications for allowing us to reprint Robert J. C. Young’s essay, which, in an earlier version, appeared as ‘English in the Languages of Cultural Encounters’, in Literature for Our Times: Postcolonial Studies in the Twenty-First Century, eds. Bill Ashcroft, Ranjini Mendis, Julie McGonegal, and Arun Mukherjee, Amsterdam/New York, NY: Rodopi, 2012, 165-84. We would also like to thank all the scholars and writers who contributed to this book, with a special note for Fadia Faqir for allowing us to include the text of the lecture she gave at the 2012 GELL (GUST English Language and Literature) First International Conference in Kuwait. Our deep gratitude also goes to GUST administration and our colleagues in the English Department for their support and assistance. A special thank you for Hiba Kaouri for her valuable assistance in the editing of the manuscript of this book.
Where Goethe could speak of World Literature (Weltliteratur) in translation in the early nineteenth century, we can now speak of World literatures in English. Today we are aware of the spread, as much as the distribution, of the English language, of the growth of regional Englishes, and correspondingly of multiple literatures in English. English, even as the lingua franca of business and diplomacy, is not quite the universal hegemonic discourse it looked like becoming at the end of the last century, nor is it the standardized homogenous medium philologists thought it would become during the nineteenth century. Of course, it was ever thus, English being little more than a stew of other languages from earliest times. But in the past, certainly until very recently, it was associated with a culture and a national origin; it was the marker and standard-bearer of cultural difference. In the era of twenty-first century internet culture and information flows, we are much more aware of English and its literature as not only inter-mingled and hypertrophic but as supranational and global. In postcolonial terms, English has become the language of ‘others’ and its literatures are no longer derived from a common metropolitan centre and heritage. Different forms of English continually adapt and break ranks, becoming Englishes. If the literatures can be inflected with anxieties about using English, of one kind or another, as opposed to a native language (as in the novels of Chinua Achebe), they can also be jubilantly re-written with diglossic passages and the unembarrassed use of un-English words (as in the fictions of Timothy Mo or Ken Saro-Wiwa). English is morphing into Englishes at a fantastic rate, through creolization and what Robert Young, in his essay below, calls self-hybridization. There are 1600 languages currently in use on the Internet, where there was only one in the 1980s. If these are in near-continuous contact and dialogue, and if English maintains its hold as the dominant tool of information, as many predict, then we can imagine Englishes endlessly at play, endlessly reproducing, even as they retain a core intelligibility. Not babble or Babel, but Singlish, Chinglish, Manglish, Spanglish, Arablish, etc., code-switching elevated to a global discourse—a speakings in tongue.
Adventuring in the Englishes
Beginnings The initial idea for this book began with a conversation in which we were discussing the language our students use in writing their essays. Our students are non-native users of English, yet many of them speak the language fluently. Writing, however, is a totally different matter. The use of slang, chat-room language, symbols and abbreviations, non-grammatical and informal expressions are some of the more frequent problematic features of their written work; interference of mother tongue expressions is another. Nevertheless, their essays remain fairly comprehensible, and they are generally able to communicate their ideas well. The question, then, was, to what extent is linguistic ‘correctness’ important? And is it essential for communication to insist on the use of ‘standard’ English? This question led to other equally important questions. How can we define ‘good, standard’ English? After all, in this expanding, increasingly complex globalized world the English language has grown and transformed, and there are many Englishes spoken and written around the world. Must we insist on the BBC variety of English? The discussion extended to literature, since there is also the debate over the merits of teaching/reading standard canonized texts as opposed to more contemporary literary texts which experiment with both language and literary techniques. Writers whose mother languages are not English have infused and enriched the English language with the words, expressions and thematic and cultural concerns of their mother tongues. Many of those writers are already considered canonical authors of ‘English’ literature. However, the discussion was further complicated by considering the fact that even canonical texts written by native speakers sometimes used the vernacular non-standard English. Has this impaired the communicative aspect of the texts? It is already established that the use of the vernacular increases rather than decreases the realistic literary merit of texts. In Discourse on the Method for Reasoning Well and for Seeking Truth, Rene Descartes argues that the difference between human beings and animals is that we “are […] capable of putting together different words and creating out of them a conversation” through which we can make our “thoughts known”. The statement highlights and emphasizes the use of language for the purpose of communication. But, do the ‘different words’ in our ‘conversation’ (written or spoken) have to be of the same language to guarantee communication? And, does the use of ‘hybrid’ English impair communication? Or, on a more basic level, does the hybridization of English, which defies the traditional attempt at standardization, cripple or enrich it? To answer these questions we sought the views and expertise and
experiences of other scholars, creative writers, and practitioners of the English language and its literature. The result is the collection of articles in this book. The articles are heterogeneous, approaching the topic from different angles, literary, creative, linguistic and instructional. They represent different perspectives, offering different answers to the questions already posed, as well as posing new ones.
Endings The book is divided into three main parts. Part I consists of four chapters which examine the concept of globalization and attempt to determine whether it is a new phenomenon or a phenomenon as old as civilization, one that has always been a characteristic of the ever changing, overlapping cultures which have constantly poured into each other over the ages. Robert Young’s “English literature in Its Encounter with Other Languages” discusses the spread of English from past to present, and place to place, exploring its encounters with other languages and analyzing its subsequent self-fashioning. While noting tensions arising from contemporary authors’ decisions to write in English as opposed to their native languages, he considers the aesthetic, social and political implications, concluding with an account of the possibilities in other major languages, such as Arabic, in their own related encounters, and how each responds to a new global dynamic. The Egyptian novelist Sahar El Mougy in “Globalization as Inspiration” expands on Young’s argument, taking it a step further back in time as she explores the ancient civilizations of Greece, Rome and Egypt and their global influences. She also explores the possibilities and challenges modern globalization, the internet and cyber space open up for contemporary writers, and the humility the influx of information imposes, as well as the empowerment. Marianna Torgovnick’s “Adventures in Digital Land” takes this latter idea a step further, including personal encounters with digital realities, along with accounts of the speed of publication and the circulation of ideas today, the state of the printed book, the differences between Classical narratives and modern internet-driven stories, and concluding with a defence, against the grain, of canonical writing and what, in particular, ‘Englished’ Greek epics can still teach us. Finally, in this section, taking up a thread in Young’s and El Mougy’s essays, Ikram Elsherif’s “English Literature or Literature in English” surveys the ways in which English was and is appropriated, transformed and used by the previously colonized to write back at the centre. However, she also challenges the notion of ‘writing back’, arguing that in postcolonial times English is employed as a liberating medium of cultural expression.
Adventuring in the Englishes
Part II consists of five chapters which move from the general to the specific, exploring the influence of globalization in particular parts or locales. In “The Caribbean in the Metropolitan Imagination”, the Trinidadian creative writer Raymond Ramcharitar examines how the Caribbean is figured in and outside the popular metropolitan imagination. He goes on to undermine the stereotypes of, particularly, the European imagination by holding up a locally manufactured lens to the fictive Caribbeans of V. S. Naipaul, Wilson Harris and Derek Walcott. A more intimate approach to English Literature and its encounters with otherness is taken by the Jordanian-British novelist Fadia Faqir, who addresses, in “Granada: Migration, Hybridity and Transcultural Encounters”, her relationship, as an “‘expatriarch’, a woman who left her country because of domestic, political, and intellectual policing,” to the English language and English culture. She describes her development as an individual and as a novelist, focusing on cross-cultural encounters, representation and the personal and literary hybridity which allowed her to write English literary works using an “Arabised” English. In “Liquid Grammar, Liquid Style: On the East-Asian Way of Using English or The Phenomenon of ‘Linguistic Air-Guitars’”, Thorsten Botz-Bornstein takes up the case of what he calls ‘East Asian English’, distinguishing its (to Anglophone ears) curiosities of diction and address from the communicative limits of pidgin or creole and finding, at least in its allegorical content, its liquid grammar, in Japanese (Engrish), Chinese (Chinglish) and Korean (Konglish) advertisements, magazine headings and slogans, a new aesthetics beyond the bounds of straightforward English commercial language play. In “Global Shakespeare”, Piers Michael Smith considers Shakespeare as both icon (and iconic) of British Literature and appropriated vehicle of un-British expression, exploring instances of transcultural adaptations in Canada, Thailand and Kuwait and noting their tendency not only to critique but to elude canonical metropolitan models of containment. Finally, in this section, Yasmina Djafri explores the challenges of teaching canonical English or ‘Englished’ literary texts to Algerian university students, and offers the results of an empirical experiment she conducted to test Algerian students’ degree of literary appreciation of canonical and non-canonical English texts. Part III of the book focuses on case studies and is divided into two sections: Literature and Language and Linguistics. The first consists of two chapters which examine the work of specific writers. In the first chapter, Andrew James analyzes the fictional works of two contemporary Trinidadian writers, their treatment and portrayal of their culturally hybrid characters, and the multiplicity of truths and thematic concerns in a modern, postcolonial Trinidadian society concerned about its future. In the second
chapter, using the evolution of the detective story in English circumstantially and in London paradigmatically as a metropolitan template, Martin Rosenstock analyzes Peter Ackroyd’s anti-detective novel Hawksmoor as a case not just of that genre’s attempt to subvert the detective story’s conventional enlightenment modes of scientific analysis but of western modernity’s suspicion of rational inquiry, or distrust of reasoned discourse altogether—one legacy of decolonization and the subsequent spread and fusion of knowledges elsewhere. The second section of Part III consists of three chapters focusing on language and linguistic studies. In the first chapter, Smail Bemmoussat and Omar Azzoug argue for the necessity of developing ESP programs to cope with the demands of an increasingly globalized world where English has become the language of commerce, science and technology. In the second chapter, Nur Soliman investigates the sociolinguistic dynamics of signage in Kuwait, a country noted for its multi-ethnic and multi-national population, where street signs signify an expression of various social identities. Marta Maria Tryzna in the last chapter attempts to define ‘Standard’ English and argues for the necessity of teaching formal grammatical rules to non-native speakers of the language at the same time as she analyzes first language interference, particularly in the case of non-native speakers in Kuwait. The heterogeneity of the topics and interests discussed in the different chapters parallels the ever-growing numbers of the Englishes spoken around the world. Interestingly, too, it reflects the heterogeneity of the contributors who may be described as cosmopolitan, both as individuals and as a group. They are mostly professors of English who have cross-cultural teaching experiences and who live or have lived and worked in both Anglophone and non-Anglophone countries. To many of them English is their dominant language, but not the mother tongue. All of them are bilingual or even trilingual. Thus their scholarly investigations are flavoured with their personal experiences or “adventures” with the language and its users. It is the heterogeneity and the personal flavour, we hope, that will make Adventuring in the Englishes appeal to the multi-national, multi-cultural, and multi-lingual community of a world where English has become the most recognizable sign of globalization.
PART I GLOBALIZATION: HISTORY AND OVERVIEW
CHAPTER ONE ENGLISH LITERATURE IN ITS ENCOUNTERS WITH OTHER LANGUAGES ROBERT J.C. YOUNG
I want to consider the idea of the cultural encounter between English and other languages, while at the same time also thinking about English as a language of cultural encounter, as a language that in some sense is in transition and in translation, and then compare the situation of English today to that of other literatures and languages. The idea of English as a language and literature of cultural encounter offers a rather different perspective from the ways in which English literature has traditionally been marked even in such categories as world literatures in English, Anglophone, postcolonial, or Commonwealth literature(s). All these ways of describing literatures in English written outside Britain have particular implications, but the general assumption, as with ‘English Literature’, is that they are written, or read, in English. But what exactly, we might ask, is the English of English literature? In order to answer this question, I thought I would start at an obvious place, with a few examples from canonical authors of English literature, drawn from those I studied when I was ‘reading’, as they say, for my BA in ‘English Language and Literature’ at Oxford University—surely the place, if anywhere, that represents the heartland of English, of pure English English and English Literature proper. My first example is a poem I was given to read in my very first term, on arrival in Oxford. Oft him anhaga are gebideð Metudes miltse þeah þe modcearig geond lagulade longe sceolde hreran mid hondumhrimcealde sæ, wadan wræclastas: wyrd bið ful aræd! Swa cwæð eardstapa…
English Literature in its Encounters with Other Languages
So here, it seems, is authentic English Literature, straight from my Oxford BA course on English Language and Literature. You might object, though, that the claim by Anglo-Saxonists to call their object of study ‘Old English’ rather than Anglo-Saxon forms part of a particular, now historical ideology about the origins of English culture generally in Anglo-Saxonism. So let us look at something more recent. I could cite some Chaucer, whose language resembles modern English a little more than the poet of The Wanderer, but I thought John Donne might be fairer as a more comparatively recent canonical figure of English literature: Qvot dos haec Linguists perfetti Disticha feront, Tot cuerdos Statesmen, hic livre fara tunc. Es sat a mi l’honneur d’être hic inteso; Car I leave L’honra de personne n’être creduto tibi.
This curious macaronic poem by John Donne written in five languages is perhaps the 17th century equivalent of the famous singing waiter’s song at the end of Chaplin’s film Modern Times (1936) when the up till then silent hero, having lost the shirt cuff on which he had written down the words of his song, resorts ingeniously to singing it in an incomprehensible multilingual composite of foreign words while he mimes the meaning with exquisite and provocative gestures. You might argue, though, that the Renaissance is in some sense different from more modern literature. So let us move right up to the nineteenth century. The Dorset dialect poet, William Barnes, would perhaps be too easy an example, so let’s take his contemporary, the more urban, and urbane, the Pre-Raphaelite Dante Gabriel Rossetti: Per carità, Mostrami amore: Mi punge il cuore, Ma non si sa Dove è amore. Chi mi fa La bella età, Sè no si sa Come amerà? Ahi me solingo! Il cuor mi stringo! Non più ramingo, Per carità! ‘Barcarola’
Perhaps though, you might argue, that Dante Gabriel Rossetti is hardly a central canonical figure of English Literature. So let us take the Poet Laureate of the Victorian era, Alfred Lord Tennyson, writing here in a poem called ‘The Northern Farmer: New Style’ (1864): Me an’ thy muther, Sammy, ‘as beän a-talkin’ o’ thee; Thou’s beän talkin’ to muther, an’ she beän a tellin’ it me. Thou’ll not marry for munny---thou’s sweet upo’ parson’s lass--Noä---thou’ll marry for luvv---an’ we boäth on us thinks tha an ass. Seeä’d her todaäy goä by---Saäint’s-daäy---they was ringing the bells. She’s a beauty thou thinks---an’ soä is scoors o› gells, Them as ‹as munny an› all---wot›s a beauty?---the flower as blaws. But proputty, proputty sticks, an› proputty, proputty graws. Do›ant be stunt: taäke time: I knaws what maäkes tha sa mad. Warn›t I craäzed fur the lasses mysén when I wur a lad? But I knaw›d a Quaäker feller as often ‹as towd ma this: Doänt thou marry for munny, but goä wheer munny is!›
My final example is taken from the doyen of both British and American literature, T.S. Eliot, the modernist imitated by generations of those all around the world in the twentieth century who aspired to write poetry in English. Here is part of a poem of Eliot’s, written shortly after the Waste Land, in 1925: Le garçon délabré qui n’a rien à faire Que de se gratter les doigts et se pencher sur mon épaule: Dans mon pays il fera temps pluvieux, Du vent, du grand soleil, et de la pluie; C’est ce qu’on appelle le jour de lessive des gueux.’
So there we have ‘English’ literature. It turns out that in fact English Literature is written in many languages. One of the most interesting features of Eliot’s The Waste Land (1922) in fact is that it is a poem written in seven languages (Latin, Greek, French, German, English, including Cockney English, Italian, Sanskrit). In that sense, The Waste Land demonstrates a characteristic that brings it close to the particular defining feature of what used to be called Commonwealth Literature: while all the different countries of the Commonwealth have a legal link to English, the official language of the Commonwealth, on the other hand, English, is situated at each place in polyglot environments; this means that it never marks the boundary of language or of writing—just as English
English Literature in its Encounters with Other Languages
literature, as my examples show, has never been wholly written in standard English or even English at all. So the contemporary phenomenon of English literature being written out of and into the frame of other literatures, languages and cultures is not something new as is often suggested but intrinsic to its identity. The difference is only in the way that it is presented—as English literature or literature in English. However wide the spread of the English language today, in most if not every country English is surrounded by other languages. Postcolonial societies are multilingual. So although it does not get reflected in much postcolonial criticism, one of the distinctive things that emerges in any study of postcolonial literature is the degree to which postcolonial societies, and the writers in them, operate in a multilingual environment. To write in English is not the same all over the world as it is as if you were writing in England—though having said that, in fact if you walk through the streets of London, you will hear almost every language on earth, and certainly plenty of Arabic. In most countries where writers are writing in English, English is surrounded and permeated by other languages. At every site, every language zone, rhizomatic contact occurs, transforming the languages in the process. How is English affected by these cultural encounters around the world? By what different situations of production and reception? Let us take India as an example. ‘Indian English’ is now possibly the most widely spoken form of English on earth—or so David Crystal somewhat improbably claims. So those who complain about the globalization of English perhaps should start with India, except that they need to remember that there the language locks inexorably into a Hindi which is itself spattered with English and ‘chalta hai’! English has shifted. Hinglish has reached. Let’s prepone this talk! Perhaps it is not so much that English has been globalized, overpowering all other languages, as that it has a constant facility of self-hybridisation, mixing with other languages in a recurring make-nice. English has long been a lingua franca, ever since it came into being, as Sir Walter Scott put it in Ivanhoe, as ‘the … mixed language, in which the Norman and Saxon races conversed with each other’. English, you might say, is at least suited to be a global language since it is already a hybrid compound of the languages of Europe: just as with Conrad’s Kurtz, all Europe went into the making of it—and indeed well beyond Europe, for let’s not forget Kurtz’s bungalow, coffee, mattress, pajamas, shampoo, and veranda or the haphazard way he breaks European taboos. Now English is merging even more quickly with other languages of the world, picking up not just
individual words but developing new hybridised forms—Banglish, Chinglish, Punglish, Singhlish, Spanglish, Hinglish … That Flintoff, yaar—he’s too good, innit? Hey Bhai, did you ask that rasmolai on a date or what? That boy is a good for nothing badmash!
These phrases are taken from Baljinder J. Mahal’s The Queen’s Hinglish: How to Speak Pukka (2006). It’s a sort of modern HobsonJobson, the difference being that while Hobson-Jobson charted the dialect of the British in India, and the development of Babu English–‘We are happy to inform you that your request has been rejected’—the Queen’s Hinglish charts the ways in which South Asians in Britain are blending English with Hindi, Urdu and Punjabi in England itself, changing the language in a way that is already apparent in contemporary literary works such as Suhayl Saadi’s Psychoraag (2004), Gautam Malkani’s Londonstani (2006), or Daljit Nagra’s collection, Look We Have Coming to Dover! (2007). Is there something about English that facilitates this kind of absorption of other languages? Mahal writes: English is and always has been a greedy language. Throughout the centuries it has been gathering exotic words from other tongues like a wildly successful gambler hording chips … its relentless appetite for the new, making it at once the largest and most versatile of all the world’s languages.
English, it seems, has always been voracious, and far from trying to keep itself pure, has languished in a constant state of desire for other languages. So English and English Literature alike are engaged in a constant practice of mixture, absorbing other languages and dialects, a process that has provided the context for much writing in the Caribbean, as in the work of Sam Selvon, Erna Brodber or even Derek Walcott or V.S. Naipaul, who move across different registers between standard English and multilingual creoles, or, in a different way, in West Africa, in books such as Ken Saro-Wiwa’s Sozaboy: A Novel in Rotten English (1985). But this absorptive quality is also why English will never, strictly speaking, become a global language. It keeps getting more and more mixed. This idea of languages as essentially mixed, as engines for producing mixture, constantly transgressing all forms of fixity and purity, is the very opposite of the way in which language has generally been thought of for the past two or three hundred years. A predominant idea in England, starting in the nineteenth century, was to try to remove the later encrustations of French and scholarly Latin and restore English to its purer plain Anglo-Saxon forms, a strategy endorsed by many from Hazlitt to
English Literature in its Encounters with Other Languages
Hopkins to Herbert Spencer, from George Eliot to George Orwell. This sort of linguistic eugenics was also the basis of the creation of modern Turkish with a romanized script in the 1920s, in which Kemal Attaturk’s linguists at the same time attempted to remove all trace of Persian and Arabic words from Turkish (where this was impossible, they simply claimed that the Iranians or Arabs had taken over words that were originally Turkic). A similar kind of linguistic eugenics, propelled by political and communal interests, has also driven the creation over the past two hundred years of the literary and even spoken forms of Hindi and Urdu, whereby one language was divided into two, with two scripts, Perso-Arabic or Nagari, with each trying to rid itself of words associated with the wrong influence—Persian or Sanskrit. The intense history of the language politics of South Asia means that there the choice of language can never be separated from cultural, religious and class or caste issues. I used to think that language was truly a demotic force, a matter of the power of people, that those at the top could not control the shifting modalities of language that the people produced. But it is much more complicated than that, as these examples show. What we often see is a tension between those at the top, seeking to preserve and maintain a pure or purified language, and the uncontrollable demotic transgressive elements below, a power struggle between the classes—as described so memorably in Bakhtin or Voloshinov’s accounts of what they call the struggle for the sign. Bakhtin was writing about this to remind us of how relations between language, literatures and nations since the 19th century have to a degree been coercive, a succession of attempts to move language, literatures, and nations into synchrony with each other. This was the basis of linguistic nationalism which, as I will argue in a minute, was based on the ideologies of the vernacular and the mother tongue. What we are seeing today in some respects is a movement in the opposite direction. It is no longer the case that we necessarily associate particular languages with particular nations. By the same token, literature is becoming something that we increasingly have to conceive of in transnational terms.
II I was recently asked to participate at a seminar on the newly-emergent and quite modish topic of the medieval postcolonial. Naturally I was intrigued. As people spoke at the seminar, I was struck by the degree to which the European Medieval world was also multilingual—often as in England with separate languages for the aristocracy and peasantry, with all spoken vernacular languages separate from the written (Latin). Latin
operated as a universal language across the whole of medieval Europe, which means that much so-called French or English Literature of that period is in fact written in Latin, while for two hundred years after 1066 French was the official language of England. People often forget today that English was not always the official language of England. Like all romance languages, of course, French too is also but a creole vernacular version of Latin. Much medieval French literature was in fact written in England, even though it now is seen as an integral part of ‘French’ literature. Meanwhile, even after English was re-instituted as the official language of England, the dominant language of English literature in its broad sense of writing on all topics (the modern narrow sense of literature is a nineteenth-century invention) remained Latin—there is a huge amount of, now largely unread, ‘English’ literature in Latin. Latin and French were very gradually abandoned with the reformation and the rise of mothertongue ideology, and the attachment of the vernacular or locally spoken language to notions of authenticity. In general in Europe we now assume this linguistic framework as natural—that is, that your mother tongue, the one you speak first and at home, is the most authentic form of expression and therefore that the vernacular should be the language of the national literature. Except that national literatures tend to specify one language only, whereas no nation on earth operates with a single uniform language. All such ideas of national or regional literatures are based on the Protestant ideology of identifying a necessary connection between the oral and the written that produces authenticity—remember Cordelia’s words at the beginning of King Lear: ‘I cannot heave my heart into my mouth’. But is there any particular reason for literatures to conform to the dictates of seventeenth-century Christian Protestant linguistic ideology? Why should we necessarily need to write in the same language that we speak? Especially since the language that we write rarely corresponds very closely to the language that we speak, even when it is ostensibly the same language, and nowhere is this more true than in the realms of postcolonial theory. The Protestant mother-tongue ideology was an important factor in the development of ideas of nationalism. As historical philology in the early nineteenth century developed identifications of race, or nation, with language, so races, languages, and literatures came to be seen as discrete entities conceived according to the dominant hierarchical model of linguistic evolution, specifically August Schleicher’s Stammbaum theory of the family tree of languages according to which all languages had a genetic relationship on the model of biological descent. Some languages formed part of one family and were related, others were not. One of the interesting effects of the family tree model of the origination of languages was that it created
English Literature in its Encounters with Other Languages
bonds of invisible sympathy between people who had previously never imagined that they had any particular connection—e.g. between Sanskrit and European languages, including English, or with Celtic, which produced the invention of the ‘Celtic’ peoples, as well as divorcing peoples who had historically been connected for centuries—the most notorious example of which would be that of the Germans and the Jews, who spoke a form of German, Yiddish—cf modern Turkish German. The identification of language and nation or race (words that were used synonymously in the nineteenth century) soon moved into a populist conception producing panGerman, pan-Slavic, pan-Hellenic, pan-Turkic, pan-Arab and other nationalist movements based on affiliation through language. Because of the tree/filiation model, an idea of nations developed in which it was assumed they should be a sealed homogeneous unit, ideally of a single race, comparable to a bounded language, with the corollary that the nation should have a single language with borders as clearly marked as those of the state on the map. The idea of linguistic nationalism correlates with the Protestant idea of the authenticity of the vernacular, that speakers of a particular language, or version of the language, should find their political identity there. What that means in practice is that it encourages the proliferation of more and more languages as the basis for cultural and political identification. In this context, I want now to contrast the situation in South Asia to that in the Middle East. To write in English in South Asia particularly is to submit to a multilingual world of language rivalries. The situation in South Asia has changed dramatically from the time when Sanskrit made up the universal written form, or even the later situation which continued to the mid-nineteenth century when that role was fulfilled by Persian. When the British Governor William Bentinck changed the language of the courts and of Indian education from Persian to English around 1830, he also introduced a version of European vernacular and mother tongue language politics in India which would lead to the rise of language nationalism. Today the English literature of Indian literature in English is always part of something else—being written in a country with as many as 800 languages, 2000 dialects, 23 official languages and major written literatures in twelve or more of them. For any Indian in India, writing in English involves the exercise of a choice which includes an implicit relation to other local languages. What is English’s relationship to them, beyond its historical identity as the language of the former coloniser? In the nineteenth century, Indian intellectuals were certainly influenced by the tree/filiation stammbaum model of languages developed by European historical philologists, which produced the idea that nations and races
should be sealed homogeneous units comparable to a language, with the corollary that the nation should have a single language with national borders and that writers should write in their native language. Although the emphasis in the post-independence era usually gets placed on communalism and religion, language politics are at least as important in the recent history of South Asia. Pakistan’s decision to make Urdu the national (but not official) language of the state was the primary catalyst to the Bangla movement in East Pakistan in the 1950s and its eventual secession into Bangladesh. Sri Lanka continues to suffer from the aftereffects of a Civil War whose origins are generally traced back to the Sinhala Only Language Act of 1956. So here are two secessionist civil wars that were partly produced by language policies derived from ideas of nineteenth century European philology. It was while he was in England where he heard about the language politics of Welsh nationalism that Gandhi decided to switch from writing in English to Gujarati. Intimately linked both to the independence movement and the events of Partition, India has its own complex history of language movements particularly with respect to the development of Hindi as a national language, which, as with Urdu in Pakistan, also produced a counter-reaction from other language groups, above all from Bengalis in the East and those from the Indian South. The language movements were the primary catalyst for the reorganisation of the Indian states from the provinces of British India to their modern form according to languages spoken in 1956 and they were also instrumental in preventing Hindi from becoming the single national language as Gandhi had envisaged—with the result that it shares that position today with English. Since 1956, Indian literature or literatures has been duly required to reflect these paradigms of state/language formations—rather like the languages that are printed on the Indian banknote. But should it be assumed that every regional language must have its own written literature? The literature/state/language ideology also assumes a monolingualism of both the state and the writer, and neatly divides the different languages up as if they never interact, cross or interfere with each other in everyday life. As a writer, you are supposed to choose just one, and certainly not move between languages, even if that is often the way people speak. In fact for many middle-class Indians, educated in English-medium schools, there is no necessary correlation between the language which they speak at home and the language in which they write—a situation comparable to Latin in medieval Europe (for Bapsi Sidwa, Gujarati/Urdu; for Amit Chaudhuri, English/Bengali). But, whereas some early writers in English such as Mulk Raj Anand were regarded as provocative pioneers, today writing in the
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indigenous so-called regional, or basha language, is customarily considered to be more authentic, with the corollary that those who write in English find themselves being accused of somehow betraying their nation and its many mother tongues (here Hindi functions as both a national and regional language). The debate about language choice in a formerly colonial country is often associated in the English speaking world with the names of Ngugi wa Thiong’o and Chinua Achebe. Ngugi famously advocates writing in your own native language, even a minority one such as Kikuyu. Achebe argues that English is in its own way an African language, and follows James Joyce’s example by Africanising English into a distinctive idiom. This second possibility has been followed by many writers, including Salman Rushdie and even Vikram Seth. What it means is that in some sense the globalisation of English is in fact being simultaneously countermined by taking over the old English idea of speaking and writing in the vernacular. So at the level of literature, global English becomes almost unreadable—think of Joyce’s Ulysses, Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, Saro-Wiwa’s Sozaboy or any of the novels of Erna Brodber. The irony of global English literature is that much of it is hardly written in English. The situation in South Asia is markedly different from the Middle East. The situation in Arabic speaking countries is distinct from any of those that I have described so far. For aside from having two forms of written language, classical and modern, the diglossic situation of the division between literary and spoken Arabic (to say nothing of the difference between standard Arabic and local dialects) to some degree offers a situation comparable to that of medieval Europe, or to the situation in China, in which the written form is universally legible, while the spoken forms can be distinct enough to be mutually unintelligible (cf also Hindi and Urdu, or Italian) and could technically be called another language. Despite some examples such as Driss Ben Hamed Charhadi’s A Life Full of Holes (1964), which was transcribed and translated from Moghrebi Arabic by Paul Bowles, the European emphasis on the need for literature to reflect the authenticity of vernacular speech does not obtain in the same way. This was at least in part the result of the way in which printing was introduced after 1821 and exploited by Nahda (Revival) movement which developed the written form of modern Arabic. The result today is that, as Abdelfattah Kilito puts it: As is well known, written Arabic, unlike spoken Arabic, has undergone only slight and secondary changes throughout its history, so that whoever today can read Nizar Qabbani can read al-‘Abbas ibn al-Ahnaf, and those who can read Salah ‘Abd al-Sabur can read Salih ibn ‘Abd al-Quddus, and
Chapter One whoever reads Midaq Alley can also read The Book of the Misers. This is a strange and amazing phenomenon, rarely encountered in other cultures.
We might contrast the situation in Turkey, where because of the language reforms of the 1920s, few Turks can read books written in Turkish before that date. The unique position of Arabic can help us to understand why nationalist language politics has not had the same importance in this part of the world as in South Asia. What this means of course is that as well as having avoided some of the negative consequences of these language movements, literature in Arabic is always already more fundamentally transnational than other literatures, and this has meant that the Arabic speaking world has maintained a rare cultural unity, sustained by the unique link between the language, especially in its written form, and Islam. This has meant that, with some exceptions, the fundamental postcolonial question of language choice has not been such an issue for Arab writers. However, this question is not absent, even in the Arab world, particularly for writers from the Maghreb, the more multilingual environment of le maghreb pluriel where the possibility of choosing between local languages such as Arabic and Berber, and the colonial languages of French and Spanish, has placed writers such as Assia Djebar, Tahar Ben Jelloun, or Abdelkabir Khatibi in a position comparable to the classic formulations of the problem of what language a writer in a multilingual, formerly colonial environment should choose to write in in the English-speaking world. In the Mahgreb in particular, it is often the idea of writing in French that produces similar problems to those in Africa or India who write in English. The question of language choice will always have to be made, but whatever language they choose, many postcolonial writers nevertheless retain a certain anxiety in their relation to the particular language in which they write, the more so if this is a major European language such as English or French. This is one reason, for example, which makes the Algerian-French philosopher Jacques Derrida in certain respects a “postcolonial writer”, as he shared a marked sense of being estranged within his own language. Derrida’s situation is essentially the same as that of James Joyce: as he puts it in Monolingualism of the Other, ‘You see, never will this language be mine. And truth to tell, it never was’. If world literature consists of literary works that successfully circulate internationally beyond the confines of their own borders by typically wearing their own original cultural context ‘rather lightly’ as David Damrosch has argued, any work of postcolonial literature will always be riven by its own context, since it will be the literature of a culture forcibly internationalised by the impact of foreign cultures and languages from
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beyond that were imposed on that culture without choice. Perhaps the best example of that would be the Palestinian writer Anton Shammas’s decision to write his novel Arabesques in Hebrew, provocatively inserting a Palestinian voice forever within the domain of Israeli literature. Encounters between languages are never neutral and literature can never escape the cultural conditions of the politics of language—which means that it will always be marked by the presence, or absence, of other dominant or repressed languages that operate within its own specific local environment. We could say that in general terms, world literature is prized for aesthetic value while postcolonial literature is valued for the degree to which it explores the effects upon subjective and social experience of the historical residues of colonialism, including language itself. For postcolonial literatures, the questions of language, language choice and translation, are central. In this respect, we may contrast the situation of world literature, which, though it might acknowledge the uneven relation between literatures and their respective languages, is not always concerned directly with issues of language choice and translation. Whereas world literature is generally approached in terms of individual writers expressing themselves in their own language, which we may however read in translation and which may require the mediating role of the critic, this assumption is never simply a given for the postcolonial writer, who very often exists in a state of anxiety with respect to the language in which he or she writes. Language anxiety is fundamental to postcolonial writing. A writer’s relation to language is always at the same time a relation to history. A third strategy in the face of language anxiety can involve just deciding to write in another language altogether, as was the case in the decision by Samuel Beckett to write in French. For Beckett, French was not a problematic colonial language as it was for Dejebar, but rather offered the possibility of a neutral language that allowed him to escape from the Scylla and Charybdis of nationalist Irish, Joycean ‘Girlic’ and colonial English. In a similar way, it is also the case that more recently, as English has become a global language, it has also to some extent become an unmarked medium by means of which writers can mediate their own cultures and their own experiences of cultural difference. English has proved particularly attractive for diasporic writers, such as the JordanianBritish author Fadia Faqir, Leila Aboulela, originally from Sudan, as is Jamal Mahjoub, the British-Egyptian writer Ahdaf Soueif, or the Pakistani-British writer Nadeem Aslam. Although Arab writing in English does not usually figure in postcolonial accounts of ‘The Language of Postcolonial Literatures’, such as the book on that topic by Ismail Talib, I would argue that as Indian writing in English becomes more normative
and at times repetitive or predictable, Arab writing in English, in which we could also include writers such as Edward Said, as well as the presence of widely translated writers such as Tayeb Salih, Ghassan Kanafani, Mourid Barghouti and Nawal el Saadawi, has become one of the most exciting fields of international writing in English or translated into English today. Here we might note that Arab writing in English has emerged in a context in which literatures have become simultaneously both transnational and multi-national, so that diaspora writers can be considered in different ways as part of the literature in which they write, and the culture from which they write, though it probably remains the case that diaspora writers offer more interest to the cultures of the language in which they write than those of the region from which they originated (Edward Said would be an interesting case here: his critical writings have provoked a good deal less interest in the Middle East than his political writings). Rather than disconnecting literatures altogether into the realm of world literature, it makes sense today to think of literatures not so much as national or transnational as regional—either in geographical or linguistic terms or both. The literatures of the world are connected in a way that we have never experienced before by virtue of the languages that they are written in, a situation which perhaps resembles earlier regional linguistic structures such as the ways in which Persian dominated the literary field from modern Turkey across Iran to Afghanistan to Northern India, or the situation of Arabic. The return of this transnational operation and understanding of the literary field is one reason I think why there has in the last decade been a burst of new interest in Goethe’s idea of a World Literature. But World Literature is, I think, too broad a category to be altogether useful, and perhaps at the same time, as a largely Western concept, too narrow—the only Arabic literature discussed in the recent 500 page Routledge Companion to World Literature edited by Theo D’haen, David Damrosch, and Djelal Kadir, is the Thousand and One Nights, the first written text of which of course appeared in French. It is more productive, in my view, to think of literatures involving linguistic, regional and cultural fields that operate in relation to each other. Literatures now make up something that could perhaps be described best by invoking Michel Foucault’s concept of a dispositif. This discursive concept maintains the more politicised and power relations that also distinguish postcolonial from World Literature, particularly with respect to language. Arabic literature, which contains individual national literatures such as Egyptian literature, but which at the same time forms a larger unit, in some degree provides the best model for the ways in which the literatures of the world are being reformed as
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transnational units around particular languages, not universal in the sense of world literature which at some level tends to make all literatures submit into translation into English, but still cohering as units defined by being written in particular languages. Some writing from the Maghreb and the Middle East can be related to the postcolonial condition of language anxiety, particularly that written in English and French, while much literature in Arabic cannot. That disjunction is precisely what makes Arabic literature so uniquely interesting. For today writing in Arabic finds itself at a critical point, where its unique universality as a written form across the Arab world is being mediated by the decision of some writers to write in English or French, or even in vernacular forms of Arabic, particularly when writing on the internet rather than in book form. The future for written Arabic and Arab writers stands poised on the balance.
Works Cited Bakhtin, M.M. (1981) The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays, trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist (Austin: University of Texas Press) Charhadi, Driss Ben Hamed (1999) A Life Full of Holes (1964]. Introduction by Paul Bowles. (Edinburgh: Rebel Inc) Crystal, David (2005), ‘Mother-tongue India’, Talk for Lingua Franca (ABC, Australia) January 2005. 17 March 2011
D’haen, Theo, Damrosch, David and Kadir, Djelal (2012),Routledge Companion to World Literature (New York: Routldge) Damrosch, David (2003), What is World Literature? (Princeton: Princeton University Press). Das Gupta, Jyotirindra (1970) Language Conflict and National Development: Group Politics and National Language Policy in India (Berkeley: University of California Press) Derrida, Jacques (1998) Monolingualism of the Other, or the Prosthesis of Origin , trans. Patrick Mensah (Stanford: Stanford University Press) Kilito, Abdelfattah 2008. Thou Shalt Not Speak My Language. Translated by Waïl S. Hassan. (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press). Mahal, Baljinder K. (2006) The Queen’s Hinglish: How to Speak Pukka (Glasgow: HarperCollins Publishers) Malkani, Gautam (2006) Londonstani (London: Fourth Estate) Nagra, Daljit (2007) Look We Have Coming to Dover! (London: Faber) Rushdie, Salman (2006) Midnight’s Children  (London: Vintage) Saadi, Suhayl (2004) Psychoraag (Edinburgh : Black & White)
Saro-Wiwa, Ken (1985) Sozaboy: A Novel in Rotten English (Port Harcourt, Nigeria: Saros) Voloshinov, V.N. (1973) Marxism and the Philosophy of Language, trans. Ladislav Matejka and I.R. Titunik (New York: Seminar Press)
CHAPTER TWO GLOBALIZATION AS INSPIRATION SAHAR EL MOUGY
Is globalization a new phenomenon? I would like to start with this question. If globalization is a new phenomenon specific to the last twenty five years, how are we supposed to perceive many stories? What about the story of Baibars, (al-Malik al-Zahir Rukn al-Din Baibars al-Bunduqdari), nicknamed Abu al-Futuh (Arabic: ΡϮΘϔϟ ϮΑ) (1223 – 1277)? Baibars was a Mamluk Sultan of Egypt. He was one of the commanders of the forces which inflicted a devastating defeat on the Seventh Crusade of King Louis IX of France. He led the vanguard of the Egyptian army at the Battle of Ain Jalut in 1260, which marked the first substantial defeat of the Mongol army and is considered a turning point in history. His reign marked the start of an age of Mamluk dominance in the Eastern Mediterranean and solidified the durability of their military system. He managed to pave the way for the end of the Crusader presence in Syria and to unite Egypt and Syria into one powerful state that was able to fend off threats from both Crusaders and Mongols. Born in the Crimea, Baibars was a Kipchak Turk (Kazakh Turk). It was said that he was captured by the Mongols on the Kipchak steppe and sold as a slave, ending up in Syria. Baibars was quickly sold to a Mamluk officer and sent to Egypt, where he became a bodyguard to the Ayyubid ruler As-Salih Ayyub. And from bodyguard to Sultan he rose. Baibars is still seen as a “national” hero in Egypt and Syria. What about Muhammad Ali Pasha, the Khedive of Egypt who did not speak the Arabic language? Ali (1769–1849) was an Albanian commander in the Ottoman army, who became WƗli and self declared Khedive of Egypt and Sudan. Though not a modern nationalist, he is regarded as the founder of modern Egypt because of the dramatic reforms in the military, economic and cultural spheres that he instituted. He also ruled the Levantine territories outside Egypt. The dynasty that he established ruled Egypt and Sudan until the Egyptian Revolution of 1952.
How are we supposed to perceive Alexander III of Macedon (356323 BC), commonly known as Alexander the Great? By the age of thirty, he had created one of the largest empires of the ancient world, stretching from the Ionian Sea to the Himalayas. He is well known as a commander undefeated in battle. But his legacy of cultural diffusion was also immense. He founded some twenty cities that bore his name, most notably Alexandria in Egypt. Alexander’s settlement of Greek colonists and the resulting spread of Greek culture in the east resulted in a new Hellenistic civilization, aspects of which were still evident in the traditions of the Byzantine Empire in the mid-15th century. Alexander became legendary as a classical hero in the mold of Achilles, and he features prominently in the history and myth of Greek and non-Greek cultures. The Ancient Library of Alexandria, is it far fetched to perceive it as a globalized intellectual hub? The largest and most significant library of the ancient world, it flourished under the patronage of the Ptolemaic dynasty and functioned as a major centre of scholarship from its construction in the 3rd century BC until the Roman conquest of Egypt in 30 BC. The first known library of its kind to gather a serious collection of books from beyond its country’s borders, the Library at Alexandria was charged with collecting the world’s knowledge. It did so through an aggressive and well-funded royal mandate involving trips to the book fairs of Rhodes and Athens, and a policy of pulling the books off every ship that came into port. They kept the original texts and made copies to send back to their owners. Alexandria, which welcomed trade from the East and West, soon found itself the international hub for trade, as well as the leading producer of papyrus and, soon enough, books. Other than collecting works from the past, the library was also home to a host of international scholars, patronized by the Ptolemaic dynasty with travel, lodging and stipends for their whole families. As a research institution, the library filled its stacks with new works in mathematics, astronomy, physics, natural sciences and other subjects. Is it possible to think of Plato and Pythagoras as the great Greek philosophers we know them to be without acknowledging that they have been taught in Egypt? Obviously, it is possible since Western schools, until a few decades ago, taught that the Western civilization is a child of Greece, thus ignoring the cultural achievements and influence of Egypt and Sumer. Thus, history is being written as if Greece just happened to exist as a great civilization without the more ancient cultures which fertilized and paved the way for it. Despite the allegation that Egyptian civilization was “primitive” when compared to the cultural and specifically
Globalization as Inspiration
philosophical achievements of the Greeks, yet proof is accumulating of the intellectual impact Egypt had on the Greek civilization. Wouldn’t one, with clear conscience, call this an intellectual global cross- fertilization?
Problematic of Globalization Now what about literature and writing in the globalized world of today? The situation, I dare say, is quite complicated. Let me give one example of this complexity, an example related to the English literature. Globalization could be responsible for the demise of certain languages and the rise of others. Mandarin is the first language of 845 million speakers, followed by Spanish (329 million speakers) and English (328 million speakers). However, the most popular second language is undoubtedly English, the “lingua franca” of globalization: About 35% of the world’s mail, telexes, and cables are in English. Approximately 40% of the world’s radio programs are in English. Some 3.5 billion people have some knowledge of the language. English is the dominant language on the internet. However, Stuart Hall in Dangerous Liaisons: Gender, Nations and Post Colonial Perspectives speaks of the discussion that is going on at the moment in England, “trying to convince the English, that they are, after all, just another ethnic group- just hovering off the edge of Europe, with their own language, their own peculiar local customs, their rituals, their myths” (174). Hall goes on to explain the difficulty of such endeavour since the English ethnicity has the peculiarity of viewing itself as encompassing everything within its range. The English identity “is located in a place, in a specific history…. It is located in a whole set of notions about territory, about where is home and where is overseas, what is close to us and what is far away. It is mapped out in all the terms in which we can understand what ethnicity is. For the English, it is, unfortunately, for a time, the ethnicity that places all the other ethnicities; in short, it is an ethnicity defined in its own terms” (175). Like other ethnicities, the English identity represents itself as perfectly natural, condensed, homogenous and unitary. Like other ethnicities, it is supposed to be a stable and still point in a confusing world. Yet Stuart Hall spells out no secret when he states that Englishness was never that still and unitary, neither in relation to the societies with which it was deeply connected nor at home. Among the factors which break up the old unitary formations is the post-war labour migration. Having ruled great parts of the world for three hundred years, now the English identity lives the paradox of having to coexist, at home, with the ex- colonized who refused to behave themselves and stay at home (176).
The ex- colonized are now reshaping the language and infusing the English literature with the new content of their own experiences, by different rhythms and a different English. In The New British Poetry (1989), the reader first encounters one of the biggest sections of the anthology: Black British Poetry. Another section of the book is entitled: “A Treacherous Assault on British Poetry”. In his introduction to the selection of Black British poetry, Fred D’Aguiar states: “[t]hese poets are distinguished not only by their black identity, though this does figure as a primary concern in the work of some, but by a strong sense of being “other” than what is loaded as indigenous and capitally British” (3). In the poetry of the Black British, this otherness stands in defiance against the homogeneous and unitary British identity. In “Listen Mr Oxford Don”, John Agard says: Me not no Oxford don me a simple immigrant from Clapham Common I didn’t graduate/ I immigrate But listen Mr Oxford don I’m a man on de run and a man on de run is a dangerous one I ent have no gun I ent have no knife but mugging the queen’s English is the story of my life I don’t need no axe to split up yu syntax I don’t need no hammer to smash up yu grammar I warning you Mr Oxford don I’m a wanted man and a wanted man is a dangerous one Dem accuse me of assault on de Oxford dictionary imagine a concise peaceful man like me dem want me to serve time for inciting rhyme to riot but I tekking it quiet down here in Clapham Common I’m not a violent man Mr Oxford don I only armed with human breath but human breath/ is a dangerous weapon So mek dem send one big word after me I ent serving no jail sentence
Globalization as Inspiration
I slashing suffix in self defense I bashing future wit present tense and if necessary I making de Queen’s English accessory to my offence (6)
John Agard, the Caribbean British poet, challenges the Queen’s English. The poem is both a declaration of rebellion and the act of rebellion itself since the reader follows the poet’s breaking of rhyme, grammar and punctuation. The poem is the act. This is only one example/ window unto the dilemma of English, which is only representative of the complex global world we are living. A new and huge mosaic is stretched in front of today’s writers. The mosaic speaks of shifting boundaries, migrant groups settling in the metropolis, second and third generation migrants to the West dealing with the new country as the homeland they know, yet they are still perceived as the “other”. It tells stories of children with hyphenated identity and revolutions starting in the Arab world alerting the Western people to the fake democracies they have. Welcome to a globalized world, chaotic sometimes but brimming with possibilities.
Humility What possibilities, what promise could be waiting out there for the writer? In the last twenty years, the internet has been transforming the world, as we know it, into something different. Political/ national boundaries are blurred out, people are having open access to information coming from the different corners of the globe, individuals are now active agents in this world of information, many of them are not only documenting the daily history of their own countries/ lives/ times, but they are also the makers of events. Now that history is no more caught in the grip of the people in power, what histories are being written? What different versions of history? Would this multiplicity of voices create a new mosaic of the complex reality of our world? Because of the internet, the world seems smaller, one knows what is happening out there in different parts of the world at the moment things happen. Yet it also looks much bigger, more intricate and full of details. The writer comes to realize his/ her own smallness in comparison, his/ her limitations and also the impossibility of grasping it all. Thus, a new humility is born. Writers tend to focus more on their intimate surroundings, what they know best, or what they have experienced. The better bet would be to write what you know rather than venture into experiences quite
foreign, experiences which are better presented by the writers living them. Suddenly Tagore’s lines vibrate with life: I have thanked the trees that have made my life fruitful but have failed to remember the grass that has ever kept it green. (Fireflies, 1928)
With the overwhelming realization of the complexity of our globalized world, writers are turning their gaze from the far away/ the trees to the grass under their own feet. But the grass under our feet is already made of a mix of colours: a mix of cultures, a mix of ideas maybe born in some other place; yet their impact is rippling in other parts. The grass under our feet carries the mark of globalization. I look at a few examples from Egyptian literature. I remember Baha’a Taher’s Love in Exile (1995 ). An Egyptian journalist living in Switzerland, in a semi voluntary exile from his country, in love with a Swiss, feeling the pangs of separation from home and the almost unbearable pain of the massacre of Sabra and Shatila in Lebanon in 1982. Naguib Mahfouz’s trilogy (1956- 1957 ) documents life in Cairo in the first half of the twentieth Century. Though anchored in Cairo, globalization appears in the Egyptian resistance to the British occupation of their land; and Kamal, the intellectual son of the family, is formed and transformed by the writings of the European philosophers. In The Map of Love by Ahdaf Soueif (1999), we get a map of what globalization is: colonization, resistance, intercultural marriages, individual lives affected by the political conflicts. In my last novel Noon (2007), two of the four main protagonists are half Egyptian, and the voice of the Goddess narrator weaves Sappho verse with Mahmoud Darwish and old papyri wisdom. Khaled Alkhamissi’s Noah’s Arch (2009) depicts the Egyptian migration to the metropolis, or at least the attempts to jump off the sinking ship into a new life in Europe and the US. I guess whether writers choose to do that or not, we write about a globalized world because globalization has seeped into the details which make our own lives. But speaking of Egyptian literature, there is a debate right now about some young Egyptian writers writing in English and French. To what extent should one worry about the Arabic language and the Egyptian culture if some writers cannot but express themselves in another language? This is definitely a side effect of globalization. Those writers have been educated in English and French schools. They have used those languages to communicate over the internet and sometimes in their own lives. They do not have command over their own language. Yet the content of their
Globalization as Inspiration
works, the concerns and the questions are definitely the product of their culture. Would this materialize into a threat in the next decade or two?
Empowerment Let me explore another possibility, that of empowerment. The internet has proven itself to be not just an information treasure house, but also a tool of cultural resistance. Oppressed groups (and I guess we all are) now have a voice and they have come to know how to use it well. Speaking of possibilities, is there something writers could learn from the internet generation? In Egypt, I have called them the “emergency law” generation; those who were born after the 1980s, those who have lived their entire lives under the Mubarak dictatorship, and among very dry and hostile social and cultural conditions. Ten years ago, those bloggers were not playing activists; they were simply venting out their frustration at the mainstream culture and the political regime which systematically marginalized them. In doing so, they were, without knowing, reshaping themselves as they were tracking their lost identity from under the rubble of oppression. This act of resistance, first conducted individually, then in groups of growing numbers, led to the revolution which undermined a long dictatorship. Did the dictatorship, whose police state managed to cripple and disfigure the Egyptian opposition in the last thirty years, ever imagine that its worst enemy would turn out to be the digital activists? In prose and verse, in bookstores and writing groups as well as in the virtual space, the young bloggers/writers reconstructed their identity. They found a voice. They found each other. They helped make a revolution. Do we have something to examine here, a possibility maybe of approaching writing in a different way as we examine the kind of language this generation uses: an uninhibited language, quite aggressive with authority figures and long established social norms, a certain degree of openness, a burning honesty, a simple straightforward style? But of course, the question of language pops up again. The internet has given voice to tens of millions of people worldwide. They write daily. They write in a simple language, sometimes a mix of languages, sometimes Arabic is written in Latin letters. This new and simple language, as compared to the more complex multi-layered language of literature, has recently found its way into publication. There is an increase in the printed material because of those books by bloggers. And they have a readership because of the simplicity of the language and the straightforward content. How would this transform literature in the next 20 or 30 years? Would it threaten the throne of the writer? Would it give rise to new literary genres?
I believe one could derive empowerment from the flood of internet writings if we choose to. All over the world, and on a regular, if not daily basis, people are documenting their own experiences, analyzing the world, thinking of solutions. They start grouping. They think together of new ways of dealing with their reality. Is there a threat to the writer here, some sort of dethroning from the oracle seat? Some writers might choose to get inspired by the abundance of material ready at hand. But in all cases, is not it empowering to see the ordinary people empowered as never before? Is not it empowering to see revolutions erupt in a region, either forgotten on the cultural map of the world, or simply treated as ex- colonies and present oil and natural resources store room. Stereotypes are being smashed, new realities emerging. The tens of millions of bloggers are witnesses as well as makers of the new reality. Are we, as writers, part of this? Can we catch up? Do we want to catch up? I know I have posed more questions than attempted to fish for answers. But the truth is: I do not want to find the answers. I am waiting for some of the answers which will take us by surprise as the process of globalization unfolds. I do not want definite answers right now because there is a certain degree of joy in living the confusion of a history being made while we are here, now. I guess writers of today are very lucky indeed to be part of this history and witnesses to it. We are in the middle of a transforming world. We are being flooded by ideas, images, changes, turmoil and inspiration. We are sea farers and captains in a strange sea. And the lines of the Greek/ Egyptian Constantine Cavafy’s keep echoing in my ears: When you set out on your journey to Ithaca, Pray that the road is long, Full of adventure, full of knowledge …. Pay that the road is long. That the summer mornings are many, when With such pleasure, with such joy You will enter ports seen for the first time ….
Works Cited Allnutt, Gillian, eds, et al. The New British Poetry: 1968- 88. London: Paladin Grafton Book, 1988. McClintock, Anne, Mufti, Aamir & Shohat, Ella, eds. Dangerous Liaisons: Gender, Nation and Post Colonial Perspectives. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1997.
CHAPTER THREE ADVENTURES IN DIGITAL LAND: WHY WE READ THE CLASSICS MARIANNA TORGOVNICK
Deeply now into the digital age, almost everything we took for granted about reading and writing has changed. The pace has been so rapid that, when I began this essay, less than a year ago, I had the utmost contempt for Twitter as a medium, thinking it even more shallow than paper-thin Facebook. Now I have become an avid Tweeter: follow me, as we say, at Marianna_Tor. I have digitized my first two books and set up new websites, all with an eye to e-publishing, which will more and more enter out professional lives. My adventures in Digital Land and my re-thinking in that context of why we read the Classics, begins with a story from the recent past, when I first began to suspect that things would never be what they were.
1. The Way We Write Now I was walking down 57th Street in Manhattan when I noticed a poster that featured a headless Statue of Library silhouetted against a smouldering New York skyline. I am Legend, Cloverfield:1 around 2007, cult-favourite films were about to destroy New York yet again and I found myself wondering why.2 Some people see a hunger for spectacle in the 1
I am Legend (Dir., Francis Lawrence, 2007); Cloverfield (Dir. Matt Reeves, 2007). 2 Two examples from 1933 are Deluge (dir. Felix E. Feist) and Kong Kong (dir. Merian Cooper and Edward Schienstack), the latter remade several times (in 1976 and 2005) and a cultural icon. Footage from Delue once thought lost can now be found on You Tube and makes for spectacular viewing for its early special effects. It influenced almost shot by shot sequences from the recent film The Day After Tomorrow (dir. Roland Emmerich, 2004).
theme, or an urban death wish, even an invitation to an event like 9/11.3 But it served more likely, I think, as a prophylactic magic charm, the kind of symbolic enactment and cosmic knocking on wood Freud called fortda.4 A baby fears that his mother will die or disappear when she leaves the room; he throws his toy or bottle from the crib, forcing her to turn back. We sit at the movies and see buildings tumble, seas rise and freeze, the city dies before our very eyes: we exit the dark and there they stand, tall and proud against the sky. The movies air our fears—nuclear, terrorist, environmental, viral—and imagine worst-case scenarios. Having my scope and theme, I wanted to explore further. I write a proposal called “The Lure of Urban Destruction.” I research and draft two sample chapters. I get ready to send them out to agents or editors, as I always had done in the past. And now, as if apocalypse isn’t terrifying enough on its own, comes the scary part. A New York Times article about that summer’s disaster movies alludes to a book by Max Page called The City’s End. To my surprise, since I had never heard of it or of him, his book sounds almost exactly like the one I plan to write. Like a good citizen of the 21st century, I find the book on Amazon and take the printed invitation to “Look Inside!” Organized by decades, its table of contents looks like an eerie twin of my own. I buy the book and read it. And here things get really peculiar. Page is an historian with a special interest in painting; I am a literary critic with a special interest in anthropology and film. Our examples reflect the difference as does our level of detail and interpretive approach. But our basic conclusions seem finally too close for me to continue writing.5 I put the proposal and sample chapters away, turning some of the material into a column and the rest into a lecture on New York. I continue what then seemed like the private action of reading the classics, a project I had begun two years before, somewhat inchoately, during a period of mourning. 3
Slovoj Zizek made the claim in a famous, some would say notorious article published after 9/11. It was published in his books, Welcome to the Desert of the Real: Five Essays on September 11 and Related Dates (New York: Verso, 2002). 4 See Freud’s Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920) for his examples of fort-da. 5 Max Page, The City’s End: Two Centuries of Fantasies, Fears, and Premonitions of New York’s Destruction (New Haven: Yale Univ Press, 2008). I took some comfort in the fact Page reveals in his preface about the tough time he’d had producing his book. It began life as the catalogue to an exhibit planned for late Fall 2001 that got cancelled. He spent some seven years in the wilderness with a topic that might have become hot after 2001 except that the memory of burning buildings that crumbled was too close and too painful.
Adventures in Digital Land: Why We Read the Classics
Some months later, I’m talking to an editor at an important press and tell the story of my abortive project. She asks what chapters I’ve already written. When I say King Kong, the 1933 version, she gets excited. It’s 2008 and the financial markets have just collapsed, casting us into what’s being called the worst recession since the Great Depression. She thinks editors would just love a book on Depression entertainment. In what seems like a happy coincidence, I’ve recently spent a cold January and February watching 1930s films.6 I give it a whirl. Called “Letting Loose in the Great Depression,” the project seems to me terrific. I re-read novels with which I’d totally connected in my youth: Lost Horizon, The Good Earth.7 Their plots come back to me as friends I had never really forgotten, so that he reading tastes delicious. I work through the boomlet of books about F.D.R. and his first years in office— fascinating stuff as Barack Obama settles into his Presidency. I research 1930s games, like Monopoly and Bingo; I investigate Depression songs and fads. I write about some well-known but also some obscure 1930s films, which I find harder than I thought would be the case, since they require plot summaries that feel boring. I’m working on this problem when my colleague Morris Dickstein publishes Dancing in the Dark which, though far different in tone, texture, and outlook from what I plan, nonetheless covers a lot of the same material and just plain got there first.8 What’s going on and how does it differ from the past? And what does it tell us about the way we write and publish now? It’s not unusual for two or even three books with similar topics to appear around the same time. That used to make for productive dialogue and foster joint reviews. But with multiple blogs, and updated professional websites, and a constantly recurring news-cycle, more of the same information circulates quite freely now, so that writers become increasingly likely to think about similar topics in similar ways. Someone or some posting whispers an idea to someone else; a professor latches onto the idea and gives it nuances; in a another city, a person with a different background begins to explore the same general issue. Similar angles on specific subjects 6
To explain: this viewing of Depresion films was not depression but occasioned by a festival called “Breadlines and Champagne” at the Film Forum in New York’s Greenwich Village. 7 James Hilton, Lost Horizon (1933) and Pearl S. Buck, The Good Earth (1932) were both best-sellers and continue to be availabvle in inexensive paperbacks. Both were made into 1937 films, Lost Horizon directed by the estimable Frank Capra, The Good Earth by Sidney Franklin. 8 Morris Dickstein, Dancing in the Dark: A Cultural History of the Great Depression (New York: Norton, 2009).
become more likely. At the same time, current protocols for writers and publishing call for reducing their book to a one sentence summary, a point of condensation at which books quite different in texture and feeling end up sounding alike. Burned in the past and under siege today, publishers get nervous. People may not buy books, they fear, even rather different books, on topics that did not sell well. Or, the inverse fear, people may not buy a book because they did buy one on a similar subject. We’re living in what’s become a classic Catch 22. In modern publishing, each book—not each press or each year or season (equally intuitive, the general public might think)—has its own bottom line. That is, every book must earn backs its own advance rather than the press as a whole making a profit, perhaps by generating a single yearly best seller. Not seeming likely to meet costs may, and usually will, prevent publication. Being published but not meeting expectations can put an author outside the pale for future books. Everyone knows the common wisdom that tough as it is to publish a first novel, publishing a second or third may not happen unless the first one pays out its advance. Good luck we tell young writers—you’ll need it. I’m not blaming editors here or the internet or even the abstract entity called “presses” for the present state of affairs. Sometime when we were not looking, a publishing model that gravitated to an automatic “no” rather than a “yes,” or a “maybe” has been locked too firmly into place. How-to people like agents, editors, and authors began taking it for granted that we should look for reasons something might not work and should not even happen. I remember John Lennon saying that he fell in love with Yoko Ono when he opened some boxes she installed at an exhibition and saw the word “yes” at the bottom rather than “no” or “fuck you.” Would that love story happen today? For those of us who love books, the recent changes have been more than just transitions to new business models or new technologies. They’ve been real losses. We’ve moved away from a time of lively intellectual debate in crossover books aimed at both specialized and general readers; away from a time as recent as 2004 when presses sought and nurtured new talent. The situation I am describing exists perhaps most acutely in the United States. But I learned, among many other things at GUST, that similar conditions prevail in many other countries, so that interests in self-publishing seemed quite keen. And the list of books initially self-published that make it big is small, but growing. The urge to write remains healthy, with many people wanting and indeed compelled to do it. Over the last ten years, novels and memoirs have even been enjoying a quiet and as yet largely unsung renaissance.
Adventures in Digital Land: Why We Read the Classics
But reviews have shrunken drastically and, in some outlets, vanished altogether.9 The percentage of books sold electronically rather than in paper continues to rise. And, having driven out many small bookstores, Borders and Barnes and Noble now experience their death-throes.10 Publishing holds it breath. Readers, meanwhile, continue to hang in there, though more and more people buy and read their books online, where they in fact (recent surveys show) buy and read more books than the average print user.11 Writers and readers—yes; publishers and reviews—maybe or no: We can’t have a healthy climate for books with so few currents of production flowing, unless, of course, we open others. If I had my way—and of course I don’t, on my own—I’d revise and even chuck the bottom line mentality that has been publishing’s milieu for at least the last decade.12 We’d return to the earlier idea that’s still often the reality at most presses: some books, especially rare best sellers, support worthy but less sellable others. Writers would feel freer to explore and to try something new. Editors, agents, and authors would concentrate on nurturing a relationship. I’d amp up two models that seem to be emerging on their own: online self-publishing (so much faster) working hand-inhand with hard copies from established presses; more small presses that take more risks and settle for lower profits.13 As I write, I don’t yet know how my new book Picnic in the Dark will appear. But I feel sure it will work within emerging models. In the end, the bottom line might remain more or less the same—with some books making profits or even becoming break-out best-sellers and most simply not. It might improve. Even if the bottom line crashed and burned, at least we would have stood by our feeling for books, which are different online but nonetheless remain writing that reaches readers, though with fewer intervening barriers. Wouldn’t that be a greening indeed? At the spine—with the potential, at least, for regeneration? 9
The most celebrated example is the Los Angeles Times but the New York Times Sunday Book Review, if not in danger, is still much thinner than in the past. 10 As of this writing, Barnes and Noble, while closing stores, is still afloat. 11 When introduced in 1999, these electronic readers bombed. By 2010, they’d taken hold, especially after introduction of the ipad. 12 Bertelsman purchased Knopf in the late 1990s—a notable change. But the consolidation of publishing under big business was already underway. Andre Schiffrin (who had founded Pantheon books) lamented the situation in The Business of Books: How the International Conglomerates Took Over Publishing and Changed the Way We Read (New York: Verso, 2000). 13 Some changes would need to follow. For example, there would need to be a reviewing system that recognizes self-published books. Academic standards for appointment and tenure might need to change from pre- to post-publication review.
Some good may yet come from the internet for the life of books. It’s debated persuasively both ways.14 And, as a writer, I’ve got to hope that’s true. But right now, the fact remains that writing has a shorter and shorter shelf life. Blogs update every ten or twenty minutes. Like movies, books get judged by their first weekend in print, their first week, first month, first three—sometimes long before reviews (if reviews were even still as common) would appear. The whole system contradicts the very essence of books as something permanent, with the potential to last. The fate of books has often been posed either in apocalyptic terms or in terms decidedly non-alarmist. Pundits claim either that the situation we face has never happened before; or they claim that things never change completely, they just recur in a different key. In fact, I think both views describe condition of writing today. It’s unprecedented. And it forms a surprising but not necessarily reassuring connection to the classics. For in an unexpected way, the contemporary network of book publication and circulation approaches, from the opposite end of time, the precariousness of oral narrative—the condition that produced the early classics. Limited always to a specific number of bodies, were all the tellers and the listeners to an oral narrative to vanish, the tale would vanish too. Were the internet or “the cloud” to be compromised or to disappear, where would we be? We’d be like orphans, seeking clues to our origins. We’d be like the sole surviving members of a family, wanting information a relative would have known—except that they’re dead now. What seems to be a chasm of difference between how ancient and contemporary narratives circulate has evolved, then, into an eerie similarity–one perhaps felt with special acuteness in countries like my host country, Kuwait, where digital literacy has (I am told) outpaced book culture far more than in the United States.15 The classic and the contemporary bracket or frame the post-Gutenberg era of mass-produced and mass-read books, housed in multiple libraries—what we used to think of as the normal condition of reading and writing. The classic pre-dates it; the contemporary hovers on the cusp of the electronic. No Dark Age has befallen the internet and might never. Yet we know by instinct that it’s
14 See, for example, Nicholas Carr, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains (New York: Norton, 2011) and Adam Gopnik, “The Information: How the Internet Gets Inside Us,” The New Yorker (87, Feb. 14, 2011), pp. 124-130. The landscape changes rapidly on the topic. 15 My colleague Miriam Cooke who teaches Arabic cultures at Duke University and has traveled far more widely in the Middle East than I have pointed this out in a conversation after my visit.
Adventures in Digital Land: Why We Read the Classics
possible and even likely. So that the contemporary is haunted by the digital. Can the classics save us? It is and always has been pretty to think so.
2. Silver Bullets Blood, gore, refugees, dislocation, and death. With the disasters of World War I all around him, here is Georg Lukács, writing in 1916-17 about ancient times versus his, now our, own: Happy are those ages when the starry sky is the map of all possible paths illuminated by the light of the stars. Everything in such ages is new and yet familiar, full of adventure, and yet their own. The world is wide and yet it is like a home, for the fire that burns in the soul is of the same essential nature as the stars; the world and the self, the light and the fire, are sharply distinct, yet they never become permanent strangers to one another. 16
When “the fire that burns in the soul is of the same essential nature as the stars” and “the world and the self” are never strangers, it’s unified and radiant and pretty great. It’s buoyant and attuned to higher, luminous things. In stark and tragic contrast, says Lukács, “Our world has become infinitely large and each of its corners is richer in gifts and dangers than the world of the Greeks, but such wealth cancels out the positive meaning– the totality upon which their life was based.” Frustrated and doomed by its own material success, modernity’s “urge to be at home everywhere” yields instead a universal feeling of alienation and exile that Lukács calls, in one of criticism’s most supple phrases, “transcendental homelessness.” Now, writing in 2010, here are Herbert Dreyfus and Sean Dorrance Kelly identifying decisiveness of action in a luminous “then” versus a bewildering multiplicity of choices: The world doesn’t matter to us the way it used to. The intense and meaningful lives of Homer’s Greeks, and the grand hierarchy of meaning that structures Dante’s medieval Christian world, both stand in stark contrast to our secular age. The world used to be, in its various forms, a
The indented quotation opens and the phrase “transcendental homelessness” is repeated often in Georg Lukács, The Theory of the Novel: A HistoricoPhilosophical Essay, trans. Anna Bostock (Cambridge: MIT Press, 197l). Lukács attributes modernity as the “urge to be at home anywhere” to Novalis.
Chapter Three world of sacred, shining things. The shining things now seem far away (xi). 17
Hear Lukács in these sentences? Though the passage has flatter footed prose, I sure do. 18 All Things Shining: Reading the Western Classics to Find Meaning in a Secular Age got a New Year’s boost from New York Times pundit David Brooks and the book took off. It got lots of reviews and settled solidly into one of Amazon’s best-seller niches. For those who know the classics (including, shortly after columnist Brooks, the Sunday New York Times’ book reviewer), the book seems both entirely worthy because it advocates for the classics in the contemporary work—and maddeningly wrong.19 In both Lukács and the recent example, the view of the classic era offered is, quite simply, too wildly idealizing.20 They’re textbook cases of mistaking a limited part—the appearance of gods to men in Greek epics— not just for the whole of Greek literature but also for the conditions of everyday Greek life. That makes about as much sense as someone centuries from now maintaining that real-life (real-death) vampires walk among us because the Twilight series, True Blood and The Vampire Diaries show them doing so. [ I note for the record the high degree of recognition of these vampire genres among the student audience in Kuwait.]
Hubert Dreyfus and Sean Dorrance Kelly, All Things Shining: Reading the Classics to Find Meaning in a Secular Age (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2011), p. xi. 18 Lukács subtitled his book an “historico-philosophical essay” is Lukács’ subtitle. Hubert and Kelly belong to the same discipline. Yet, very oddly, the recent writers do not acknowledge anywhere in their “philosophical and literary book” (ix). I’m agnostic on the reason, casting no stones. But the omission, if that’s what is, remains quite shocking. 19 David Brooks, “The Arena Culture,” The New York Times, 31 December 2010, p. A23 (New York edition); Susan Neiman, “What It All Means,” New York Times Sunday Book Review (20 January 2011), accessed online, 5 April 2011 http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/23/books/review/Neiman-t.html. 20 More academic versions of similar concepts appear in Francois Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, trans, Geoffrey Bennington and Brian Massmi, Theory and History of Literature, v. 10 (1979; Minneapolis: Univ of Minnesota Press, 1984) and Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno’s Dialectic of Enlightenment, Trans. John Cummings (1944; New York: Herder and Herder, 1972). Lyotard writes in crisis mode. Horkehimer and Adorno tried to trace the roots of Nazism in the post-Enlightenment world’s denial of magic and enchantment.
Adventures in Digital Land: Why We Read the Classics
Lukács was a savvy literary critic and would not have based his case on such dubious evidence as a single passage. His elegant and supple speculations fly like stealth bombers under the radar of refutation. Philosophers both, Hubert and Kelly less gracefully make the most basic of critical mistakes. They take single passages in single works as exemplary of both an author and of his entire culture. Compounding that error, they ignore the possibility of irony and assume that the same uniform mindset links authors, their characters, and their auditors or readers. But all narratives include multiple perspectives within their plot and language—what Russian critic M.M. Bakhtin called dialogic or carnivalesque form.21 And any individual piece of writing—let alone any era—incorporates multiple points of view, with a gap to be expected between an author’s intention and the story individual readers perceive.22 In literary critical terms, Hubert and Kelly ignore the most basic tenets of both close reading and narrative theory. And because their individual readings are bad, their thesis about development across time becomes untenable. Why do smart, well-read people, like Lukacs, Hubert, and Kelly go gaga about the Greeks? Why do they posit a past so idealistic it makes no sense psychologically, let alone historically, at a time when the ancient Greeks represented in classic texts resembled pirates and relished looting, rape, and enslavement? Partly, it’s human nature to idealize the good old days and what we do not have—cities if we live in the country, the country if we feel trapped in a city.23 But we’re kidding ourselves if we read the classics to immerse ourselves in a perfectly balmy world. If the classics still seem on-point today, as they do, it’s not because everything in them is so very different, all bright and shining, but because it isn’t.
M.M. Bakhtin, The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays (Austin: Univ of Texas, 1991). The essays were written much earlier but unknown in the West. The terms synchronic and diachronic come from Linguistics and are associated with Ferdinand de Saussure. 22 Lukács famously reverses himself during his career on certain books, including Flaubert’s Sentimental Education and Tolstoy’s War and Peace in the Introduction to his later book, The Realistic Tradition. 23 See Raymond Williams, The City and the Country (New York: Oxford, 1973).
3. Greenings at the Spine24 Over and over, at every twist and turn, every classic, modern, and contemporary book we find classic deals at its core with war, mortality, love, and literature—its powers and its limitations—in ways subject to so many permutations that the recurrence seems not mechanical, but fecund. Something more organic than “influence” happens that we dismiss at our peril by using so vapid a phrase as “classic themes.” 25 The grouping of subjects may be a coincidence of my personal choices of classic books— Homer, Dante, Vergil, Austen, Dickens, War and Peace and, among the moderns, To the Lighthouse, Lolita, Austerlitz, Atonement—but I truly don’t think so.26 Only a very idiosyncratic selection of books would avoid these four themes. Of the four, love and mortality form the acme and the apex, speaking strongly to all of us. We read the classics, I believe, to gain a sense of understanding and control over things we yearn for, like love, and those we find terrifying and fascinating all at once, like death. The classics give the pleasure of expanded, vicarious experience and also a don’t-look-now / we-can’t-stop-looking kind of thrill.27 They visit places few of us would willingly go—mass slaughter, incest, patricide, matricide, the sacrifice of families, sin, crime, the death of cities. They tweak the interest we feel in watching pain—other people’s pain, fictional characters’ pain—safely, from a distance. Aristotle theorized long ago in the Poetics that the classics create empathy to generate “pity and fear,” which in turn effect “catharsis,” a sense of thrilling change. The classics mime our wants and terrors, inflaming our dreams, uncovering and inoculating our fears. They show that, for centuries, people have experienced similar trials and emotions; in our psychological age, they comfort and reassure us that we’re normal.
My Duke colleague Joe Donahue’s phrase. It echoes Lukacs’ famous ending to his book, which invokes “the greening of the world.” Marching to the same beat, Hubert and Kelley end by invoking “a contemporary Polytheistic world that will be a wonderful world of shining things” (223). Their examples—savoring a morning cup of coffee or cheering with a crowd a sporting events – fall rather flat. 25 I trace in Picnic in the Dark, for example, links that run from the Greek classic unities, through Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, to Ian McEwan’s Atonement. Think too of Mrs, Dalloway and Michael Cunningham’s The Hours. All constitute strong instances of literary influence, the classic in the contemporary. 26 Some significant others: Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Pat Barker’s The Regeneration trilogy,Arundhati Roy’sThe God of Small Things, Jeffrey Eugenides’ Middlesex, Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom. 27 The view here is a fairly standard theory of the novel.
Adventures in Digital Land: Why We Read the Classics
A whole lot divides the ancient world from the present: size, speed, religions, rituals, the presence versus the absence of slavery, the proportion of rich to poor, technology, levels of education, what men and women do everyday, and, yes, the proliferation of choices in everything from breakfast cereals to where to click on the internet. You can’t look just anywhere in the classics and find an echo that speaks. But a whole lot still links us. A sense of war not just as glory, but as expenditure and waste. Ambivalence about the choices we make and their effects on ourselves and those we love. Family as what people say they value most. Shared perceptions of nature. Fear of and fascination with death.
4. Common Causes No one example can dramatize all the links between loss and change, memoir, family, and death, the classics and the living tissue of storytelling. But a terrific sequence from a recent novel helps to bring them home. The episode retells Priam’s visit to Achilles camp in Book 24 of the Iliad to ransom Hector’s body. It’s an exciting, original, and spectacular reimagining of Homer’s text. After the death of Hector, the aged King Priam of Troy comes to Achilles stripped of all signs of rank—not as King, but as Father. This Priam is a man who, in his youth “had experienced something I could not unexperience and would never forget” that marks and names him.28 Claimed as a war prize by the hero Heracles after her city fell to the Greeks, Priam’s sister was offered any gift in exchange for a cheerful bedding. His sister chose her last surviving brother, disguised as a filthy beggar and doomed to death if he were recognized as a prince and to lifelong slavery if he were not. Ironic and even sceptical about her choice (wouldn’t gold be better? Heracles must have thought, and was this miserable slave really her brother, Prince Podarces?) Heracles responds ironically by freeing the boy but renaming him Priam: “the price paid.” As the boy becomes a man and then a king, he keeps that name as the sign and talisman of his inner self. He does not share his secret history with anyone, even his wife, Hecuba.29 Consumed by unworthiness, the Priam of David Malouf’s 2010 Ransom remains “open at any moment to presences in the air around him that, when they settle out and take a bodily form, have the names of gods.” 30 Outside, 28
I love the coined word “unexperienced,” which is also from David Malouf’s Ramsom (New York: Pantheon, 2010). 29 The incident is apparently original to Malouf, p. 75. 30 I note the brother-sister theme here, frequent in classic books.
he is a grey-haired, stolid King. Inside, like his daughter Cassandra, he seethes with prophecy. When he first enters Achilles’ tent, Priam’s inspired thought is that the man is not just the killing machine who has slain Troy’s Prince Hector, but himself a son and “the father of a son you have not seen for more than half his lifetime,” Neoptolemus (183). He senses that identities can make his case and, in fact, he’s right—Achilles is a sitting duck. The Greek warrior has been thinking of his son, Neoptolemus as Priam arrives and had recently sent for the boy, now a man, to come to Troy. And when Achilles first looked up and saw Priam in his tent, he mistook him for his own father, the aged, mortal Peleus. Unaware of these details but sensing his moment, Priam takes it: “Achilles, he says, his voice steady now, you know, as I do, what we men are. We are mortals, not gods. We die. Death is in our nature. Without that fee paid in advance, the world does not come to us. That is the hard bargain life makes with us–with all of us, every one–and the condition we share… Think, Achilles. Think of your son, Neoptolemus. Would you not do for him what I am doing here for Hector? Would your father, Peleus, not do the same for you … and entreat the killer of his son, with whatever small dignity is left him, to remember his own death, and the death of his father, and do as these things are honourably done among us, to take the ransom I bring and give me back my son” (184-85). As Priam utters these words, falling to his knees in supplication, Malouf’s Achilles stands outside time, himself open in an unusual way to intuition and vision. He sees his grieving father, Peleus. Knowing that he is fated to die at Troy, Achilles feels “the coldness of that distant star that is the body’s isolation in death.” He feels “the breath of a hot sword in the air” and “sees, as through a momentary opening in eternity, the old man Priam go sprawling” (186). He knows (as Priam does not) that his own son Neoptolemus, now on his way to Troy, will wield the sword. The combination of images unnerves Achilles. Exclaiming “No more! Please!” to end the moment, he offers Priam his hand, to rise. Having fleshed out and amplified a brief scene from The Iliad, Ransom then goes completely where Homer does not. In its final pages, the young Neoptolemus overtakes Priam in his palace and slays him clumsily, “his palms …slippery with sweat” (213). As the old man dies, smiling faintly, Neoptolemus has an epiphany of his own: “The rush of exhilaration that had claimed him has leaked away. In a sudden swift reversal is replaced by crushing disappointment, heartsickness, animal sadness, despondency” (214). He has killed his first man, a King; he has botched the job badly, turning triumph into slaughter.
Adventures in Digital Land: Why We Read the Classics
When Aeneas recounts the Fall of Troy in Vergil’s Aeneid, Neoptolemus still slays Priam, but the act forms a brief and brutal killing among others and we’re not privy to the young man’s epiphany, rather suspecting that he would not have one. In the same way, in Homer’s the Iliad, neither Priam nor Achilles experiences an intuition of eternity and we know very little about Priam’s actual journey to Achilles’ camp. Malouf’s Ransom takes the living tissue of Homer’s and Vergil’s classic tales, by now immortal, and allows it to grow. No competition exists necessarily about which version—early or late—is more “inventive” or “fecund”; they’re members of the same family and only need, on a given reading, to seem satisfying, convincing, or even merely pleasurable.31 Whether in print or on e-readers—the medium seeming less important to me today than it did a short while ago—we read the classics for the reasons that narrative and story-telling are almost universal. From the ancient Greeks to headhunting tribes in remote place, from the early moderns up to us, narrative allows us to share experiences, to shape them, and to immortalize the characters and the people in our tales. When we read classic books, we feel suspended and afloat in a network that is in ourselves and yet outside us too. We’re like Dante at the end of The Divine Comedy, the seeker in samahdi. We’re like Priam and Achilles in Malouf’s novel, supported by the knowledge of familiar stories, open to revision and attuned to the inevitability of death. We feel part of a dialogue, a conversation, a family, a network, a universe larger than ourselves but, for now at least, centred here, now. We read the classics to feel something very like an intuition of embeddedness. We are all of us fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, friends and lovers—upheld and suspended by relationships, with mortality as our gift and curse. Narratives tell that story again and again, with twists and differences that make us feel it all anew. Births, marriages, places, graves, bones—such things mark our space in the universe. To that list, we might add story.
Ransom illustrates various possibilities with regard to the classics. Without much fertile invention, it’s first half recounts the battle between Hector and Achilles and creates the sense that Homer did it better; far more expansive, the second half of the book, on Priam, is terrific.
Works Cited Adorno, Theodor and Max Horkheimer. Dialectic of Enlightenment (Cutural Memory in the Present. Trans. John Cummings. 1942; New York: Herder and Herder, 1972. Print. Bakhtin, M.M. The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays. Editor, Michael Holquist. Trans. Kenneth Brostrom. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1991. Brooks, David. “The Arena Culture.” The New York Times. 31 December 2011 (New York edition), A23. Print. Buck, Pearl. The Good Earth. New York: John Day, 1931, 1932. Print. Carr, Nicolas. The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains. New York: Norton, 2011. Print. Cooper, Merian and Edward Schoedsack. Director. King Kong. RKO: 1933. Film. Dickstein, Morris. Dancing in the Dark: A Cultural History of the Great Depression. New York: Norton, 2009. Print. Dreyfus, Hubert and Sean Dorrance Kelly. All Things Shining: Reading the Classics to Find Meaning in a Secular Age. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2010. Print. Emmerich, Roland. Director. The Day After Tomorrow. 20th-Century Fox: 2004. Film. Feist, Felix. Deluge (KBS Productions: 1933). Film. Freud, Sigmund. Beyond the Pleasure Principle. ADD Gopnik, Adam. “The Information: How the Internet Gets Inside Us.” The New Yorker. 87 (Feb. 14, 2011), 124-130. Print. Hilton, James. Lost Horizon. London and New York: Macmillan, 1933. Print. Lukács, Georg. The Theory of the Novel. Trans. Anna Bostock. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1971. Print. Lytotard, François. The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge. Trans. Geoffrey Bennington and Brian Massuni. Theory and History of Literature v.10. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984. Print. Malouf, David. Ransom. New York: Pantheon, 2010. Print. Neiman, Susan. “What It All Means.” New York Times Sunday Book Review. 20 January, 2011. Webpost accessed online April, 2011.http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/23/books/reviews/Neimant.html
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Page, Max. The City’s End: Two Centuries of Fantasies, Fears, and Premonitions of New York’s Destruction. New Haven, Yale University Press, 2008. Print. Schriffren, Andre. The Business of Books: How the International Conglomerates Took Over Publishing and Changed the Way We Read. New York: Verso, 2002. Print. Williams, Raymond. The City and the Country. New York: Oxford, 1973. Print. Zizek, Slovoj. Welcome to the Desert of the Real: Five Essays on Sepetmber 11 and Related Dates. New York: Verso, 2002. Print.
CHAPTER FOUR ENGLISH LITERATURE OR LITERATURE IN ENGLISH: APPROPRIATING THE LANGUAGE OF THE COLONIZER IKRAM A. ELSHERIF
In the early seventies, just before I entered my early teens, I received my first independently issued Egyptian passport. Before that time, I was appended to my mother’s passport as a minor. Proudly turning the pages of the passport, a document representing for me at the time a formal acknowledgement of my independence, I wanted to study every word in it. However, I was greatly surprised and somewhat annoyed that the textual part of the passport was written in Arabic and French. I was annoyed because my knowledge of French at the time was next to nil; and was surprised because I knew for a fact that almost all the Egyptian people I knew used English as their second language and that English was more widely used in Egypt than French. Contenting myself with the fact that at least I had the passport, I became resigned but was not really happy until a few years later I was able to read every word written in it. What stayed with me over the years, however, was my surprise and inability to understand why French and not English was used. The question was not momentous enough to be always on the surface of my conscious thoughts, but I came to realize that it was lurking in the back of my mind when in the early eighties I stumbled on and eagerly read an article in an Egyptian newspaper discussing the issue. The writer (the name of whom I cannot recall, just as I cannot vouch for the absolute validity of his argument) claimed that the revolutionary forces in Egypt, which had overthrown King Farouk and terminated British control over the country in the 1952 Revolution, sought to abolish everything related to British control and imperialism, not least of which was the English language. The use of
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French in formal government documents, along with the neglect of English language education in government schools at the time, the writer claimed, was an attempt to ‘spite’ the British. The argument seemed to me at the time plausible, but not very convincing, especially as French too was the language of an imperialistic power which had also colonized Egypt before the British. However, it was the only answer available for me at the time and I accepted it. Some years later, however, by the late eighties, Egyptian passports started to be issued in Arabic and English and the question posed itself again: why? A little research on well-known facts of Egypt’s modern history revealed that Egyptian passports were issued in French at the time when Nasser, the revolutionary president of Egypt, adopted an Arab Nationalistic ideology and formed an alliance with Syria, uniting the two countries as The United Arab Republic to defy the forces of imperialism. Nasser also formed friendly political and military relations with The Soviet Union, as opposed to the imperialistic West. However, the alliance between Egypt and Syria was short-lived and the two countries separated, although Egypt retained the name of The United Arab Republic and Egyptian passports were still issued in French. This changed when President Sadat came to power in the seventies. Egypt became The Arab Republic of Egypt, and Sadat’s foreign policies favoured relationships with the West, particularly the U.S.A. By the late eighties Egyptian passports were issued in Arabic and English. It thus became clear to me as I was beginning my academic career that language, in this case the English language, has always been a site of cultural and political conflict and that it has always reflected shifts in power. This was even more strongly impressed on me as my academic interest, after my undergraduate years in the English Department of the early eighties where I almost exclusively read British Literature, shifted to the study of ethnic, minority and postcolonial literatures. For the reader, student and scholar of literature, the term ‘English Literature’ designated, until relatively recently, the literature which is produced by the English or the British and which expresses and communicates the English or British culture. Gradually, however, a shift in political and cultural power resulted in the expansion of the term’s designation to include American Literature. The postmodern movement towards cultural de-centering effected yet another shift, directing the academic interest towards the study of ‘literature in English’, that is, literature that is produced by non-British and non-American peoples, mostly peoples formerly colonized by the British or Americans, who employ the English language to communicate their own distinct cultural
values and experiences. These peoples, in the words of the NativeAmerican writer Joy Harjo, “reinvent the enemy’s language”. In a sense they colonize the language of the colonizer. This paper proposes to investigate the reasons and the ways in which the previously colonized appropriated and still appropriate the language of their colonizer, a language they were mostly forced to learn and which they distrusted and often struggled with, and are still sometimes struggling with, to be their means of expressing and preserving their own cultures which were/are misrepresented, denigrated and/or threatened. The paper also investigates a recent development in the way the English language is perceived as a liberating medium of expression, particularly by contemporary writers of Arab origins living in Anglophone countries. In the early 19th century, the British philologist William P. Russell advocated the teaching of the English language in the British colonies, stating that it would be the best preparatory step that Englishmen could adopt for the general admission of their commerce, their opinions, their religion. This would tend to conquer the heart and its affections; which is a far more effectual conquest than that obtained by swords and cannons (Quoted in Talib 9).
Education in English was thus, as Anthony Appiah argues, the colonizer’s “most formidable weapon” used “to tame the threatening cultural alterity” of the colonized (947). Along with the English language, English literature was also employed as a culturally colonizing weapon. Ismail S. Talib contends in his book The Language of Post-Colonial Literature that the extension of English literature as a subject to be taught in schools [in the colonies] went hand in hand with the rise of British imperialism. Literature was not merely taught for itself, but served a tacit ideological function … English literary education … was a way of imparting hidden values. It championed the ideal Englishman and was concomitantly a means through which [the colonized] could become estranged from their own culture. Through the educational process, they would readily accept British culture and domination (11).
Many postcolonial writers and scholars who had been exposed to colonial education confirm Talib’s contentions. The Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe states, in an interview with Jerome Brooks in the Paris Review in 1994, that in colonial schools he “read about adventures in which I didn’t know that I was supposed to be on the side of those savages who were
English Literature or Literature in English
encountered by the good white man. I instinctively took sides with the white people. They were fine! They were excellent. They were intelligent. The others were not … they were stupid and ugly.” In “Between Worlds”, The Palestinian-American Edward Said expresses a similar idea. He writes that educated in “elite colonial schools, English public schools designed by the British to bring up a generation of Arabs with natural ties to Britain,” he was “taught to believe and think like an English school boy,” but “was also trained to understand that I was an alien, a nonEuropean Other, educated by my betters to know my station and not to aspire to be British.” The Egyptian-American scholar Leila Ahmed also affirms in her memoir, A Border Passage, that her colonial schooling created in her as a child “false perceptions” and “unexamined prejudices” not only towards the Arabic language, but “even against our own kind and the most cherished people in our lives” who were marked as “native and inferior” (24) English was also used in America to ‘conquer the heart and its affections’ of the Indian/Native-Americans. In the 19th century and in an attempt to “civilize” the Indian and solve the “Indian problem”, Indian boarding schools, the program of which was designed to “kill the Indian and save the man” as Lieutenant Richard Henry Pratt declared1 , were established. In those schools, not only were the Indian children taught to believe that, as the Native-American writer Simon Ortiz states, “there was something wrong with being an Indian” (26), but they were also, as the Native-American critic Paula Gunn Allen affirms, “forbidden to speak their native languages, and indoctrinated to believe that their loved ones were naked, murderous, shameful savages” (15). In those boarding schools, as Brenda J. Child asserts in her book Boarding School Seasons, a “systematic … assault [on] tribal identity” was practiced through conversion, humiliation, punishment and separation from family, and the purpose was “forced assimilation” into mainstream white American culture (27-30). Education in English then was not only employed to displace the native languages of the colonized, but it was also a weapon which, as Bill 1
Lieutenant Richard Henry Pratt was the founder and for a long time principal of the first Indian boarding school, the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, at Carlisle, Pennsylvania. The school adopted a strict, harsh militaristic regime and was subsequently a model for other Indian schools. For a discussion of Pratt’s educational philosophy and the devastating effects of the regime adopted in Indian schools, see Brenda J. Child’s Boarding Schools Seasons (referred to below), and Ward Churchill’s Kill the Indian, Save the Man: The Genocidal Impact of American Residential Schools. City Light Publishers, 2004.
Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths and Helen Tiffin assert in The Empire Writes Back, “eroded” and “destroyed” the “valid and active sense of self” of the colonized. The question which poses itself at this point is not only why the previously colonized used, but also equally importantly, why are they still using the language of the colonizer? What makes this question both important and significant is the fact that it is clearly obvious from the statements of all the above quoted writers and scholars that though they use English, they are very much aware of its colonial and imperialistic history and its effects on their lives. Ashcroft, Griffiths and Tiffin offer an answer to this question. They argue that the languages of the colonized were either “systematically destroyed” or rendered “inadequate” or “unprivileged by the imposition of the language of a colonizing power,” which in turn resulted in “a profound linguistic alienation” (9-10) reflected in the postcolonial crisis of language and identity experienced by the previously colonized individual. Edward Said, describing himself in “Between worlds” as “a Palestinian going to school in Egypt, with an English name, and an American passport and no certain identity at all,” recognizes that his colonial schooling which robbed him of his native language also created in him “a sense of doubt and being out of place”, in a state of “standing civil war” in the “warring relationship between Arabic and English.” Similarly, Leila Ahmed’s A Border Passage clearly reflects Ahmed’s ambivalence as she appears torn between regret for having never been nurtured by a “wealth of Arabic Literature”, and her insistence that Arabic is not her language, but, as she says, a lingua franca, a “foreign tongue that I only somewhat knew” (253)2. Both Said and Ahmed can safely be said to have been left alienated from their own mother language and thus unable to completely express themselves in it. The added fact that both are immigrants living and writing in Anglophone countries makes it obvious that writing in English for them is not a choice, but an obligation. In spite of their ambivalence and sense of doubt, or more appropriately perhaps because of their ambivalence and doubt, they employ English in their writings to “critique colonialism … [and] lay bare its huge costs” as Ahmed says (34). In this sense, for them and many other postcolonial writers, as Ashcroft, Griffiths and Tiffin argue, English has become a medium to write back at the Empire; “the language, with its power, and the writing, with its signification of authority, has been wrested from the dominant … culture” (7) to carry 2
For a more comprehensive analysis of Ahmed’s ambivalence towards the Arabic language and identity, see Ikram A. Elsherif. “’I Got Slapped for Not Knowing I was Arab’: Marginality in Leila Ahmed’s A Border Passage.” Sahifatul Alsun, 27 (2011), 86-125.
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the burden of communicating the feelings and experiences of the previously dominated. Wresting the language and its power and authority from the dominant culture is what Native-American writers also did, especially in the first half of the 20th century. In spite of the fact that Native-American languages were ‘unprivileged’ and rendered ‘inadequate’ and almost destroyed by the dominant culture, many Native-Americans “didn’t trust the Mericano language” (25), as Ortiz declares; and writing in the “colonizers’ language” “is often still suspect in our tribal communities” (20), as Joy Harjo, the Native-American writer and critic maintains. However, left with little or no choice, Native-American writers had to adopt the English language and English literary forms to affirm their identity and their endangered cultures. In the first half of the 20th century, Native-American writers like Charles A. Eastman, Ella Cara Deloria, and D’Arcy McNickle, to name only a few, adopted and adapted the English written literary forms of the novel and the memoir to vindicate their cultures which had been pronounced as savage by the white colonizer. They attempted not only to record and preserve those cultures, but also, as Ortiz asserts, “help Indian people come into visible and meaningful existence within a nation that denied their lives and culture” (25). In Indian Boyhood (1902), Eastman writes of his life as a boy in his tribe before he was forced to go to an Indian boarding school at age fifteen. He details the day to day life and the cultural practices of his people and the tribal laws of kinship and support, the ‘natural’ education children were given and which helped them to live in harmony with their environment, and first encounters with white people which he uses to draw comparisons between white and Indian cultural practices. In dedicating the book to his son “who came too late to behold for himself the drama of savage existence,” Eastman was hoping to leave him a record of the life of “the Indian as a natural and free man.” In her novel Waterlily (1988)3 , Deloria traces the life and experiences of a young Sioux woman before the encounter with white people. Using her anthropological training and her knowledge of her people, the Dakota Sioux, Deloria wanted to write a book not only to record the life of her people before the imposition of the white culture, but also to “make the […Indian] people understandable, as human beings, to 3
The manuscript of the novel was finished in 1944, but was not published until 1988 because, according to P. Jane Hafen, in “Native American Literature,” A Companion to American Indian History, eds. Phillip J. Deloria and Neal Salisbury (Malden and Oxford: Blackwell, 2004), publishers feared that the novel “would be considered more for its ethnocentric information than its narrative of a Sioux woman’s life” (238).
the white people” (quoted in DeMallie 237). Her choice of the novel form was intended to portray her Indian characters as living human subjects in their everyday lives, and make her book accessible to a wide general audience. McNickle’s novels, particularly The Surrounded (1939) and Wind from an Enemy Sky (1978)4, both explore the failure of White-Indian relations, the impossibility of communications between the two people and the resulting misunderstanding that leaves his Indian protagonists tragically surrounded. These writers, like many other Native-American writers, use the English language, but adapt it to “tell [their] truths.” Employing different techniques like the speech patterns of oral storytelling, song, and Native words, they were and are “Reinventing the Enemy’s Language” (Harjo 23-24). This adaptation or ‘reinvention’, however, was not and is not an easy task. The omniscient narrator of McNickle’s Wind from an Enemy Sky tells us that the protagonist of the novel […] was named Bull – that was the English form of it. But the words men speak never passed from one language to another without some loss of flavor and ultimate meaning. Bull, it was, the animal, but really something that was man and animal, and neither. (2)
Translating the name into English had a double reductive effect, robbing it of its significant connotations of strength, endurance and leadership in its original language and culture, and simultaneously robbing the man of the dignity and respect conferred on him by that signification when “white men smiled as they spoke his English name.” Yet the difficulty is not merely in “translating a man’s name into another man’s language,” but in “how to translate from one man’s life into another’s” (26). In attempting to represent native life through the English language and literary moulds, Native-American writers were subject to contending forces. On the one hand, they needed to represent and champion the valid and intricate life and culture of their people, and on the other, they had to adapt to the linguistic and semantic limitations of the English language, as well as the ideologies and values of the dominant culture which inevitably influenced 4
Wind from an Enemy Sky was published posthumously in 1978. The manuscript of the novel was titled “How Anger Died” and dealt with the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, while the published novel focuses on the destructive impact of the Allotment act of 1887. For more details see Birgit Hans, “Wards of the Government: Federal Indian policy in ‘How Anger Died”, The Legacy of D’Arcy McNickle: Writer, historian, Activist. Ed. John Lloyd Purdy (Norman and London: University of Oklahoma Press, 1996).
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them. In this position, as the Native-American novelist and critic Louis Owens aptly puts it, “two maps of the mind struggled” (258). Owens’ ‘two maps of the mind’ recalls the dilemma of “double consciousness” identified by the African American writer W. E. B. Du Bois in The Souls of Black Folk. Du Bois’ culturally hybrid individual suffers from a “two-ness”, “a double self” in which “two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings” are constantly “warring” (5). This may be clearly seen in Eastman’s Indian Boyhood, where he states, in the dedication, that his purpose is to represent “the drama of savage existence.” Throughout the book he repeatedly uses the word “savage” in reference to Native people, apparently focusing on the positive connotations of the word, the “natural and free” condition in which the Native had lived before the imposition of white culture. Yet, he also dubs the “American Indian … the highest type of pagan and uncivilized man.” The inherent paradox in the statement is significant: the Indian is ‘highest’, but only among other ‘pagan’ and ‘uncivilized’ types. The paradox in the statement is intensified as Eastman throughout the book compares the Natives to other “civilized people” he knows, though the comparisons are often in favour of the Native. It also intensifies the reader’s awareness of the negative connotations inherent in the word ‘savage’, even as we acknowledge the positive meaning intended by Eastman. Eastman may have used these words for lack of better alternatives; yet the fact remains that the words ‘savage’, ‘pagan’ and ‘uncivilized’ were the common words used by the dominant culture to stress the ‘inferiority’ of the Indian. It may thus be suggested that having lived among and been educated by white people since he was fifteen, Eastman had absorbed white values, views and ideologies. At the end of the book he states that as his father led him to the settlement where he would live among white people, he understood that “now all my old ideas were to give place to new ones, and my life was to be entirely different from the past” (246). The old ideas, however, were not displaced by the new ones, but both existed side by side, creating the ‘two maps of the mind’, or the “double consciousness,” in which, as Du Bois says, one is “always looking at one’s self through the eyes of the other, […] measuring one’s self by the tape of a world that looks in amused contempt and pity” (5). Achebe gives another insight into the reasons he writes, particularly the reasons he writes fiction and in English. Like the subject of Frantz Fanon, in Black Skin, White Masks, “the black schoolboy in the Antilles” whose exposure to colonial education made him identify “with the explorer, the bringer of civilization, the white man who carries truth to all savages–an all-white truth,” and in whom could be observed “the formation
and crystallization of an attitude and a way of thinking and seeing that are essentially white” (147-48), Achebe as a young schoolboy, as mentioned above, identified with the ‘good white man’ and did not know that he should be “on the side of the savages”. However, as he grew older he realized that his identification with the white man and with the white man’s values clearly pointed out “the danger of not having your own stories.” Thus in his Things Fall Apart, he became “that historian” (Brooks) whose mission it was to reclaim and tell the truth about his people, and tell it in a language understandable to the colonizer who demonized or dehumanized them. While in the novel he does not portray his people’s life before the coming of colonial power as a utopia of perfection, he does show that they did have a history, a functional way of life and a viable culture that was devastated by colonialism. As one of the characters says, the white man “has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart” (2696). Things Fall Apart ends with the tragic death of the protagonist Okonkwo, the respected warrior of the Umuofia clan who tried to resist colonial intrusion to the end, and his death signals the final falling apart of the old traditional way of life of the people. Yet it is in the final few sentences of the novel that Achebe communicates to us the full force of the tragedy as the life and death of Okonkwo and the staggering loss of a way of life, a history and a culture is reduced to a mere “reasonable paragraph” (2709) in the book The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger which the colonial commissioner is writing about Africa. However, writing his own story and ‘writing back’ was not the only reason Achebe wrote in English. One of the effects of colonialism, which he comments on, was what it did to his Igbo language. In 1901 the forces of colonialism exercised its power on the Igbo language, fusing all the Igbo dialects into one standard written form, turning the language into a “heavy … wooden” language that “cannot sing” and “doesn’t go anywhere,” which for him was “a terrible tragedy” (Brooks). Though Achebe’s colonial education did not destroy his own Igbo dialect, which he still speaks, the powers of colonialism did destroy the possibility of all the Igbo dialects gradually and naturally growing and melting into one language that would still resonate emotionally and psychologically for the people. Forcibly standardizing the Igbo language, colonialism destroyed it as a possible written medium of expression for Achebe. Thus though bilingual, it seemed inevitable that English be his medium. All the above mentioned writers were in a sense forced to choose English as a medium to “write back”, to affirm and record their cultures, and to write their own stories and their own ‘truths’. By the end of the 20th
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and beginning of 21st centuries, however, other writers, particularly writers of Arab origins, have freely chosen English as a liberating medium of selfexpression. The trilingual Egyptian-American writer, Samia Serageldin, published her first novel A Cairo House in 2000. The novel is written in English and is heavily autobiographical, drawing on the life experiences of the author who was born to a prominent political family in Egypt in the 1950s. Segaledin’s wealthy and politically influential family was severely persecuted during Nasser’s regime after the 1952 Revolution. Leaving the world she has always known and which was now falling apart, Serageldin went to England in 1970 to continue her studies. Returning to Egypt in 1977, she witnessed huge political, social and economic changes taking place in her country, which finally drove her to migrate to the U.S. in 1980. A Cairo House draws heavily on these experiences through the character of the protagonist, Gigi Seifeldin. The novel represents life in Egypt in the colonial, pre-revolutionary period and then after the revolution and up to the 1970s and touches on many sensitive personal, social and political issues. The question that poses itself again here is, why did Segageldin, who is fluent in Arabic, English and French, choose to write her autobiographical novel in English? In her article, “The Coming Out of the Chameleon,” she explains the multi-layered reason: The easy answer is that, having spent my entire adult life studying or living in Anglophone countries, English is now my dominant language. But I know that the explanation is more complex and multilayered. By choosing to write in English, immigrant writers position themselves firmly on the side of their new reality in relation to their identity and to the readership they address. Language, moreover, is an entire codification of culture and cultural inhibitions; what a writer may express freely in one language she may feel far too inhibited to find words for in another. Add to that the particularity of Arabic: all native speakers of Arabic are diglossic. Rendering dialogue spoken in colloquial idiom into literary Arabic becomes a matter of some difficulty and considerable artifice (135-136).
Serageldin’s choice of the English language, then, is not simply due to the fact that English has become her dominant language, that she finds it difficult or artificial to express herself in standard Arabic, or that English is more suited to her new reality as an immigrant. What is also quite enlightening is that she finds writing in English more liberating. Language being a codification of cultural inhibitions as she expresses it, and “given the politically and personally sensitive nature of certain passages” in her novel, it must have been more liberating to write in “foreign” English than
in Arabic to “avoid feeling under enormous personal pressure to circumvent anything that could be construed as offensive” (135). What Serageldin explains here recalls and bears a great affinity with the reasons the Lebanese-American writer Fay Afaf Kanafani wrote her memoir Nadia, Captive of Hope: Memoir of an Arab Woman (1999) in English rather than in Arabic, although she maintains in the preface to the book that in the process of writing she sometimes had to “struggle to find the right word.” Kanafani traces in her memoir the traumatic events of her life: living a traumatic childhood in an abusive home environment; consenting, at age sixteen, to an arranged marriage to a Palestinian cousin she did not love to escape her father’s abuse; leaving home for the first time to live in Palestine with her in-laws; loss of status and wealth when Palestine was lost after 1948; traumatic return to Lebanon, involving poverty and privation and separation from her children; struggle to gain an education that could help her become independent; and loss of a beloved second husband and a beloved country during the Lebanese civil war. Kanafani thus needed a language that would enable her to both express her feelings and at the same time maintain a safe emotional distance as she explored her traumatic memories. She says, “writing in English let me pretend that the wars in the Middle East were someone else’s wars and that it was not me, but rather someone else, who endured their horror and suffered great loss.” English as a “foreign” language had for her “a neutral quality,” allowing her to work through and “deal with the cruelty of the wars that have dominated my life” (x). English thus became in a sense a liberating and therapeutic medium of expression. The Jordanian-British novelist Fadia Faqir gives largely similar reasons for writing in English. However, she also explores the difficulties she faced and is still facing as an Arab, Muslim woman expatriate in England, an Other trying to use the language of a prejudiced Other to manoeuvre her way around the taboos of two different cultures. Faqir explains, in her essay “Garand: Migratior, Hybridity and Transcultural Emcounters” below, that her Relationship with the Arabic language was a forbidden love, laden with danger and taboos. In a society governed by strict traditional values the use of language freely was hazardous […]. The tripartite of politics, religion and sex were neither discussed at the home nor in the classroom. I felt incarcerated both physically and linguistically (Granada, 70).
When she came to live in England, she initially thought that it was a country where “one could be whatever one wanted”; and the English language seemed to her “free of taboos.” But her experience seems to
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have been not as liberating as she thought it would be, and she suffered disillusionment as she realized that the English language “was not in love with me standing there in the margin, outside the whale.” Not only was Faqir made to feel her political and cultural otherness and marginal position, but she also came to realize that English had its own taboos. English was not made to express her culture or her concerns. To “get the language to speak the unspeakable” about both her culture and her experience of otherness, Faqir says that she had to “explore”, “woo” and “conquer” the language to be able to use it to “create ‘an Arab book’ in the language of the other” (Granada, 70-71). Probably her major success is reflected in her novel My Name is Salma where her female protagonist battles with issues of identity and exile. Her Bedouin female protagonist, Salma, committed one of the unforgivable sins in her village in the Levant, becoming pregnant out of marriage. She is subsequently held in protective custody for her protection as her tribe “had spilt [her] blood among them and all the young men were sniffing the earth” (53). After six years in custody where she gives birth to a baby girl from whom she is immediately separated, she is smuggled out of prison and the country with the help of a Lebanese nun, and is sent to England as Sally Asher, the adopted daughter of an English nun. In England, “Salma the dark black iris of Hima must try to turn into a Sally, an English rose, white, confident, with an elegant English accent, and a pony” (10). But turning into a Sally proves to be almost impossible. Not only is Salma haunted by her relentless yearning for the daughter she never knew and “the past, the dark shadow stalking” (33) her, but she is also battling with an identity too deep-rooted to be eradicated and a new identity too hard to assume or adapt to. Her “mountainous Arab stomach could not digest” English food (9) and the English language resisted her while her mother tongue asserted its power of rooted precedence. What complicates matters more is the physical difference which accentuates her otherness and makes her a visible and easy target for racial discrimination: “Hey, alien! You freak! Why don’t you go back to the jungle? Go climb some coconut trees! […] Go home!” (37). In this complex position “Salma resisted, but Sally must adapt” (90) and the process of adaptation entailed much. To fit in and be accepted, Salma must deny her origins because “if I told him I was a Muslim Bedouin Arab woman from the desert on the run he would spit his tea. ‘I’m Spanish,’ I lied” (30). To be a Sally, she must role-play, give up her headscarf and use costumes and make up in her attempts to find “a new name and history” for herself (58). Yet the result is a fragmentation expressed in her simple statement when she introduces herself to Parvin, “Many names I. Salma, Sal, Sally” (103).
This fragmentation pervades her life and is reflected in the non-linear, disjointed narrative of the book. And although she ultimately finds love, gets married and has a child, Salma’s past and her yearning for her first born and for her origins still tug at her heart and mind and eventually take her back home where she meets her final destiny. Faqir’s My Name Is Salma does not only represent the position of a woman under a strict patriarchal culture and its honour codes. Nor does it only represent the exilic condition, alienation and battles of an Arab woman “with a twisted neck looking both ways: backwards and forwards” (313). Most importantly, it does so using what Faqir calls “’Arabized’ English, an English selected carefully to convey a specific Arab flavour” (Granada, 76). My Name Is Salma is rife with Arabic sounds, words and expressions, Arabic images and smells and tastes. And, above all, an Arabic perception of the alien world of the land and culture of the other. Yet the other, represented particularly in Elizabeth, Salma’s abusive and constantly drunk landlady, is subtly revealed to be not too different after all. Elizabeth, who had lived in India and who represents the British Empire, had also had her traumatic past. Surrounding herself with antique furniture which represents relics of her haunting past in India, Elizabeth lives her inner life in “a place known only to her” (201) where she recalls and relives a love affair she had, when young, with an Indian who worked for her father. The class and race difference doomed the relationship and left her forever scarred and haunted. When this past is accidentally revealed in fragments to Salma, it draws a measure of sympathy from both her and the reader and seems to create a kind of bond, born of similarity in condition, between the two women. The multi-layered explanation Serageldin gives, at the beginning of the 21st century, for her choice of English as a medium of literary expression seems to nicely sum up all the collective reasons of all the literary figures mentioned above. Because of the forces of colonialism, all were/are alienated from their mother languages and consequently English has become for all the dominant language. All, because of colonialism and its political and cultural ramifications, lived/live a new reality in which they have to use a language suited to a new and/or global readership. All employ the language to ‘write back’ and/or to be liberated from the inhibitions of their mother cultures. However, the recent development, which clearly marks a shift of perspective as contemporary writers find in English a liberating and global medium of expression, calls for a revision of the postcolonial ‘writing back’ as the exclusive reason for writing in English. As Faqir points out, the concept becomes “reductive” when we take into consideration that “the
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process of engaging, adapting, adopting and deconstructing dominant and master narratives is complex and ongoing” (Granada, 75). ‘Writing back’ is still a valid and legitimate reason for many postcolonial writers, yet it is no longer the sole comprehensive reason for writing. In the face of overwhelming media misrepresentation and/or general misconceptions, many writers realize, the Arab-American Barbara Nimri Aziz says, that it is “write or be written” (xii). However, having appropriated the English language, those writers find in it a liberating, sometimes even therapeutic, medium which allows them not only to write their own stories, but also, and most importantly, to engage, revise, re-evaluate, negotiate and deconstruct the master narratives of the West and of their own cultures and histories. Probably this explains the fact that many of the writers of Arab and/or Muslim origins in the West who engage in this double discourse in English are women who need to deconstruct Western stereotypical misconceptions of Muslim and Arab women and culture, and at the same time re-evaluate their own patriarchal cultures. But this requires another study.
Works Cited Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Vol F. The Twentieth Century and After. Gen. ed. Stephen Greenblatt. New York and London: W.W. Norton & Company, 2006, 2624-2709. Ahmed, Leila. A Border Passage: From Cairo to America-A Woman’s Journey. New York: Penguin Books, 2000. Appiah, Anthony. “Topology of Nativism.” Literary Theory: An Anthology. Eds. Julie Rivkin and Michael Rayan. Massachusetts: Blackwell, 1998, 945-957. Ashcroft, Bill, Gareth Griffiths and Helen Tiffin. The Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in Post-Colonial Literature. London and New York: Routledge, 2nd ed., 2002. Aziz, Barbara Nimri. “Forward.” Scheherazade’s Legacy: Arab and Arab American Women on Writing. Ed. Susan Muaddi Darraj. Westport, Connecticut and London: Praeger, 2004, xi-xv. Brooks, Jerome. “Chinua Achebe, The Art of Fiction No. 139.” The Paris Review, (1994). June 5th, 2011 http://www.theparisreview.org.interview/1720/the-art-of-fiction-no139-chinua-achebe Child, Brenda J. Boarding School Seasons: American Indian Families, 1900-1940. Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 2000.
DeMallie, Raymond. “Afterward”. Waterlily. Ella Cara Deloria. Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1988. Du Bois, W. E. B. The Souls of Black Folk (1903). New York: penguin, 1989. Eastman, Charles A. Indian Boyhood (1902). New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1971. Faqir, Fadia. My Name is Salma. London: Black Swan, 2007. —. “Granada: Migration, Hybridity and Transcultural Encounters.” Present volume. Fanon, Frantz. Black Skin, White Masks. Trans. Charles Lam Markmann. London: Pluto Press, 1986. Gunn Allen, Paula. Spider Woman’s Granddaughters: Traditional Tales and Contemporary Writing by Native American Women. Boston: Beacon Press, 1989. Harjo, Joy and Gloria Bird. Reinventing the Enemy’s Language: Contemporary Native Women’s Writing of North America. New York and London: W. W. Norton and Company, 1997. Kanafani, Fay Afaf. “Preface.” Nadia, Captive of Hope: Memoir of an Arab Woman. New York and London: M. E. Sharpe, Inc., 1999. McNickle, D’Arcy. Wind from an Enemy Sky. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1988. Ortiz, Simon. “Speaking for Courage.” A Circle of Nations: Voices and Visions of American Indians. Ed. John Guttuso. Hillsboro, Oregon: beyond Words Publishing Inc., 1993, 24-30. Owens, Louis. “Afterward”. Winds From an Enemy Sky. D’Arcy McNickle. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1988. Said, Edward. “Between Worlds: Edward Said Makes Sense of His Life.” London Review of Books, 20:9 (7 May, 1998) http://www.lrb.co.uk/v20/n09/edward-said/between-worlds Serageldin, Samia. “The Coming Out of the Chameleon.” Scheherazade’s Legacy: Arab and Arab American Women on Writing. Ed. Susan Muaadi Darrag. Westport, Connecticut and London: Preager, 2004, 133-138. Talib, Ismail S. The Language of Post-Colonial Literature: An Introduction. London and New York: Routledge, 2002.
PART II THE GLOBAL IN THE LOCAL
CHAPTER ONE THE CARIBBEAN IN THE METROPOLITAN IMAGINATION RAYMOND RAMCHARITAR
The phenomenon of the Caribbean represents a unique and potentially transformative moment in the history of the world, and the history of the global imagination. Till the Renaissance in Europe, the more or less continuous geography of Eurasia and Africa had generated an impressive locus of ideas and conceptions of human civilization which had persisted for, literally, thousands of years, but which had reached its geographic and imaginative limits. With Columbus’s landing in the Caribbean islands of The Bahamas in 1492, the world suddenly became larger. Columbus thought he’d reached Asia but he had discovered a huge landmass which was, literally for Europe, a New World. But for the people who lived there, whom we call the First Peoples, it was not a new world. It was their world, where they had lived for thousands of years, with sophisticated science, art, and philosophy. The geographic and ecological circumstances (as outlined by Jared Diamond in his paradigm-altering Guns Germs and Steel) had denied them three things: one, iron and the consequent technology; two, horses and the range of territory that could be effectively explored, colonized, and policed; and three, a range of different civilisations which they could learn from and trade with, as the Europeans did with China, India, and the Arab world. Because of these deficiencies, which left the First Peoples helpless against the metallic weapons and mounted, armoured Europeans, what happened next was a slow-motion, low-technology holocaust, which lasted for more than a century. It was a systematic extermination of the indigenous inhabitants, first in the Caribbean islands, but later extending to the North American continent. Naturally there are moral implications to this, but as Diamond also reveals, this erasure of humanity was not unique; it had
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happened before in human history, and as we all know, it would happen again (1-89).1 I want to focus on the imaginative consequences of that erasure: the fact that it created a blank canvas for the European mind. I focus on the European mind because the moment of discovery (the late 15th century) marked the ascent of Europe in world affairs, where the countries of that small continent expanded dramatically, so much so that the amount of land and territory controlled by the European powers increased steadily over the next four centuries, reaching its apex around 1914, when Europe controlled about 85 per cent of the earth’s surface (Said, Orientalism, 41). This upsetting of the material geography of the old world led to the creation of what Edward Said called an “imaginative geography”, whereby “space acquires emotional and even rational sense…whereby the vacant or anonymous reaches of distance are converted into meaning” (55). That is, to conceive the New World in a way that allowed its exploitation, a specific regime of ideas and ways of thinking had to be established to, in a sense, provide a moral, as well as material justification of the conquest. It is easier for us to exploit a people if we believe they are “naturally inferior”, and that they would be enriched by our intervention in their way of life. This set of ideas and way of thinking, and indeed, worldview, was what Said called “Orientalism”, a body of knowledge, and a way of knowing, which pervaded and suffused the West from even before the Renaissance, and Europe’s ascendancy. The first chairs of Orientalist study were set up by the Roman Catholic Church in universities at Oxford, Paris, Bologna, Avignon, and Salamanca (50). Ironically, it was the experience of the New World, its products, and economic and social transformation of the metropolitan economy into a consumer economy, which would generate a series of social ideas like the morality of consumerism, and wealth, which would eventually result in the abolition of slavery. But by the colonial period (from the early 19th century, post-abolition of slavery) there existed a body of knowledge which pervaded European institutions and political thinking, encompassing the physical sciences, the arts, and the moral and political sciences, and which was established in the European imagination about the Orient. This, according to Said, was “an archive of information,” which was “commonly held”, and “bound together by a family of ideas” and a “unifying set of values”, which explained the Orient, and the Orientals (42). These values were held in the West until, and intensified at the start of, the 21st century with the destruction of the World Trade Centre in New York on Sept 11, 2001. However, I want to discuss the imaginative
conception of the Caribbean was shaped by these values, and some of the consequences of that shaping. An important dimension of Orientalism is that it is not just the way the West sees the Orient, but it is how the Orient is taught to see itself. As Said himself noted, in his later Culture and Imperialism the transference of political and epistemic strategies of Orientalism into the intellectual and ideative construction of European Imperialism and colonialism was inevitable (Said, Culture & Imperialism, xi). Of course, in Old World societies, this prescribed way of seeing themselves was never an easy proposition. It met with considerable resistance from the subjugated peoples. Yet it was enormously effective: it allowed one or two hundred thousand English civil servants, soldiers, and clergy to effectively occupy and subjugate India, China, and most of the Eastern world on the strength of ideas and perceptions (10).
The Caribbean Having identified a principal theoretical construct which allowed the European domination of most of the world for centuries (Orientalism), I will confine myself to examining how it affected the Caribbean. The Caribbean differed from the other places on the earth in a few crucial ways: x The region was cleared of its original inhabitants, creating a tabula rasa, and the majority populations were introduced as enslaved persons, and did not come there on their own accord; x There were (therefore) no histories, lore, or tradition which could offer a counter argument to Orientalism; x The developmental technology of the region was the institution of the Plantation (from the mid-17th century), a social system designed to stunt human consciousness, innovation, and social evolution, while producing wealth, in the form of sugar, for European consumption as described in Caribbean economist George Beckford’s classic study Persistent Poverty. So the Caribbean landscape and people were as close as a place could become to a tabula rasa, or an artificial environment, upon which the ideas of Europe were inscribed, and experiments could be conducted on a huge scale. The questions that need to be answered now are: what was inscribed; and by what means was it inscribed?
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The principal image of the Caribbean was that of a frontier or hinterland, which was ripe for exploitation–indeed, whose destiny was to be exploited–and a blank imaginative space to allow speculation that was simply not possible before, given the conception of a known, finite spatial world, where every piece was, if not explored or conquered, then at least was accounted for. One of the earliest such experiments was Thomas More’s early 16th century elaboration on Utopia, an island, whose existence is revealed by a narrator who claims to have heard of Utopia from an explorer who accompanied Amerigo Vespucci to the New World. The New World appeared in Elizabethan and Jacobean drama, and it was here, quite early on, that the most enduring image and representation of the region would be formed, by William Shakespeare, in his play, The Tempest, which introduces the figure of Caliban into the European imagination. Caliban is a brute, a slave, and the white magician, Prospero makes him his servant when he is shipwrecked on an island. This tableau, of the white master, the black slave, and the possession of the frontier, was one that would persist for centuries, and indeed, remains with us till the present. The theme has been varied, as in the Robinson Crusoe scenario, which presents the region as a kind of existential limbo, where the European subject could purge himself of the dross of materiality and reconnect to some vital spiritual core, and master it as he mastered the environment. This was the primary conception of the region, and it was added to by the necessity of commerce.2 If this were a frontier whose wealth was to be exploited, imperatives of commerce required advertising material. So from quite early on, writes Mimi Sheller in her Consuming the Caribbean, “Illustrated books about the Caribbean joined the flow of prints around the elite consumer markets of Europe which would later become the basis for a more popular print culture”. And by the 17th Century, “printed representations of the ‘texts of nature’… tied together the scientific works of Europe; printed texts presented a ‘reality grounded in the material world’”. These new facts caused “European intellectuals to digest novel, curious and disturbing information about the New World.” And in creating social, cultural, scientific, and intellectual contexts, the intellectuals were “bringing the New World into being rather than simply discovering it” (25). This digestion of the Caribbean into the metropolitan mind resulted in the creation of phenomena as varied as myths of fantastic beasts, cities of gold, and humanoid monsters, and, more abstractly, various tropes of status and civilization appearing in creative works. In Thackeray’s Vanity Fair, Miss Swartz, the woolly-haired girl from St Kitts is presented as an
oddity, possessing money, and being there in the centre of civilsation to trade her wealth, via marriage, for European civility. The trope appears again in Dickens, in Dombey and Son, where Dombey’s wealth flows from the Indies, and where the young Walter Gay is sent (to Barbados), to get him out of the way. It is in Martin Chuzzlewit, where antebellum America is shown to be a place of barbarism, death, and incivility. Charlotte Bronte presents a pivotal character, Bertha, the mad Caribbean heiress locked in Rochester’s attic in her novel, Jane Eyre. Stendahl, in The Red and the Black, uses “Creole French” to signify the childish crudity of servants and non-Europeans. From the 17th century, travel accounts were an enormously popular genre–according to Sheller, “each of the tropes of Orientalist discourse can be traced into the discursive construction of the Caribbean by the writings produced by travelers from the North Atlantic”, and these accounts filtered into popular culture (110-111). By the second half of the 19th century, quasi-official travel accounts had begun to appear, from novelists, like Anthony Trollope (The West Indies and the Spanish Main) and Charles Kingsley (At Last, a Christmas in the West Indies); and academics like Oxford historian, J. A. Froude, (The Bow Of Ulysses). By the end of the 19th century, report Ella Shohat and Robert Stam, the imaginative grotesqueries of the Caribbean (and other places in the empire) were packaged and embodied in travelling fairs and exhibitions which not only travelled in England, but through the empire, taking curiosities from a variety of the outposts of empire, packaging them, and displaying them. This assemblage disseminated the by-then mature ideas about the Caribbean to all levels of European society. The fairs were soon supplanted by the new technology of the cinema, the chief producers of which were the British, French, and Germans, the nations whose colonial empires were the most extensive (“The Imperial Imaginary”, 117-148). This dissemination of this material continued well into the twentieth century, when there was a change in consciousness, which coincided with the beginning of the postcolonial paradigm, and in the Caribbean, the move to independence and the emergence of nationalism. Let me digress a moment here to address the relevant geography of the Caribbean. There are actually four Caribbeans: A British, French, Dutch, and Spanish Caribbean, whose histories significantly diverged after the Second World War. Each Caribbean responded in its own way. In the Spanish Caribbean Cuba’s revolution saw communism reshape its society, and alter its trajectory; the French Caribbean became departments of France, as did the Dutch Caribbean; the British Caribbean, however, was
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left on its own at independence. Nonetheless, the perception of the region as a generic “fantasy island” persists. It is necessary also to emphasise the two-way relationship between the Caribbean and the Metropole, which is a very different story from the Orientalist trope of Europe bringing civilization to desolate nations. According to Sheller, Europe’s relation with the Caribbean was vampiric, one of consumption, which rejuvenated and enabled the Renaissance of science and art in Europe. From the region came “flows of natural substances, scientific knowledge, bio-power, real estate and cultural capital” whose effects continue to the present. More specifically, in using the life of Hans Sloane, one of the foremost scientists and doctors of his day (the late 17th and early 18th centuries), as a microcosm of the metropolitan colonizing subject, Sheller reports that his knowledge, and fortune, came from a period he spent in Jamaica in 1687-1688. There, he embarked on a project of collection and documentation of plant and animal biological material which was so extensive they formed the core of the British Museum collection. He also introduced the British public to the use of milk chocolate, which he saw being used in Jamaica. Sloane was President of the Royal Society from 1727-1740, and inducted into several scientific and societies in Europe in his lifetime. The plants he brought back were cultivated in gardens through Europe and used for medical compounds. This knowledge came from observing the indigenous peoples and African slaves in Jamaica. Indeed, Sloane managed to be a major agent for the “channeling of New World knowledge into the networks of European knowledge and industrial production” (Consuming, 17). Sheller also points out that the increased trade with the Caribbean enabled the growth of the British economy, and the emergence of a consumer economy in Britain and Europe. Indeed, in England, the wide availability of sugar, and the voracious desire for it as a sweetener, saw its entwining of sugar into many social rituals. The main one of these was and remains, as T. S. Eliot put it, “the taking of a toast and tea”, with condiments, like jams and sweeteners–which came to signify quintessential Britishness and civilization, despite being based in an alien substance. Sheller also observes that the growth of “coffee houses” in the 18th century in London was enabled by West Indian sugar. Coffee houses were places where evolving notions of democracy were developed by people reading newspapers, articles and pamphlets, and discussing them with each other. This contributed to the development of what Jurgen Habermas called the “Public Sphere”. And the growing consumer economy in Britain allowed the leisure time for a middle class to emerge and reflect on the morality of
consumption, which would contribute to the anti-slavery movement (Consuming 83-87).
The Post-Colonial Caribbean–Imaginative Responses Near the end of the colonial period in the Caribbean, the 1960s, Caribbean intellectuals and artists began to become more aware of the representational regime of the empire, and its role in causing the colonized to see themselves as subjects, and they responded to this in various ways. The Martiniquan psychiatrist, Frantz Fanon, deduced that the centuries of enslavement and colonialism had left the region in a state of psychological and psychic trauma. In The Wretched of the Earth and Black Skin, White Masks, Fanon theorized that the regime of colonial representation, and its imaginative conditioning, had been so successful, that the colonized had largely succumbed to them. The consequences included that the colonized had been left with various conceptions of whiteness–that whiteness symbolized power, light and progress, and that blackness signified the opposite: darkness, backwardness, and weakness. At that moment Caribbean artists, thinkers, and novelists attempted to create a counter-discourse, using inversion. One strategy was to appropriate and transform the image of Caliban, the brute of Shakespeare’s play, The Tempest, into a cultural hero who had survived and resisted the colonizer, symbolized by Prospero. This project was made real during the colonial period by major figures like the Barbadian novelist, George Lamming, and the Barbadian poet, Kamau Brathwaite.3 The Caliban trope was a metonym of a larger project which saw a search for the original essence, and materiality, the majority population of the Caribbean, the descendants of the enslaved Africans, had lost when they were taken away from Africa. This project was known as Black Power, and saw the creation of a new iconology, and the emergence of a political movement in the US. A seminal figure in the US Black Power movement in the US, incidentally, was Trinidadian Stokeley Charmichael, also known as Kwame Ture. Indeed, Caribbean people had been at the forefront of counter discourses to the dominant paradigms. A seminal figure in the Harlem Renaissance was Jamaican Claude McKay in the early 20th century, a Trinidadian, Henry Sylvestre Williams, formed the Pan African movement in London in the late 19th century, and another Trinidadian, George Padmore, who emigrated to the US in the 1920s was an influential labour organizer and the first black member of the Soviet Union’s Communist International (Comintern). Conversely, a visual and representational pop cultural counter-discourse, founded in the
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“Blaxploitation” film and soul music genres emerged in 1970s in artists like Isaac Hayes and Marvin Gaye, and films like Shaft and Superfly, would have enormous discursive currency in the Caribbean, conditioning attitudes, epistemologies, and cultures. The major problem with this return-exchange (from the US to the Caribbean) is that it did not transform the visual or ideative regime of colonialism into anything usable by the Caribbean at that moment in its historical trajectory, that is, anything that aided in the development of sustainable and confident societies. The needs of the societies at the moment of independence were freedom from atavistic traditions of the Old World and willingness (and capacity) to invent and experiment with society, science, and episteme. Instead of cultivating new ideas and ways of interpreting the region and its experience, the Caribbean response created the clichéd Eurocentric–Afrocentric binary, and attaching political authority to the Afrocentric position. (The best example of the continuation of this trajectory can be found in the novels of Earl Lovelace, like The Dragon Can’t Dance and Salt.) The politicization of Caliban has proven to be tragic, but rather than dwell on that, I would like to focus briefly on the other, more successful responses from the three preeminent Caribbean literary artists. These are the two Nobel Laureates, Trinidadian novelist Vidia Naipaul and St Lucian poet Derek Walcott, and Guyanese novelist and critic, Sir Wilson Harris. All three have responded in artistic and theoretical ways to the issues of the imagination and imaginative construction of the Caribbean – that is, in theoretical essays which address the issue directly, and creatively, which embody the independence and the use of the imagination, and the image of the Caribbean in the metropolitan mind, in creative/fictional narratives.
V. S. Naipaul Naipaul has written two historical works: the early one, The Loss of El Dorado is close to a conventional history, which focuses on Trinidad before it was colonized by the British, and the early days of colonization. (The second, A Way in the World, is more philosophical, but it is the more immediate approach to perceptions of the Caribbean in El Dorado that is of use to us here.) In conceiving the El Dorado narrative, Naipaul dissembles the idea of the “land of gold” as a trope for the fantastically wealthy Caribbean, which breeds the metropolitan fantasy of the region as a cornucopia of exploitable resources and pliable natives. Using primary documents, Naipaul collapses
the large history into a micro-historical narrative, with tragic protagonists like the Spaniard Antonio de Berrio, and his British counterpart, the Elizabethan privateer Walter Ralegh, as he attempts to identify the human elements of exploitation and conquest that are obscured, or overwritten by the Rankean historical and later fantasist narratives. The Trinidad (and Spanish Main) Naipaul’s adventurers find are rife with disease, cruelty, failure, and disillusionment, fuelled by “the legend of El Dorado” which “had become like the finest fiction, indistinguishable from truth”. In a single line, Naipaul conveys the reality of the frontier: “[de Berrio’s] expedition lasted three years, 25 out of 2,000 survived” (The Loss of El Dorado, 11). In a nine-year period, he isolates several incidents, and events, and phenomena, which had continued to be replicated in Trinidad society to the present. These include: x The society’s frontier nature and lack of institutions had led to a dependence on authoritarianism as the only viable form of authority, embedded in the cult of the personality, the archetype of which was Governor Thomas Picton. He also proposes that the environment configures personality in a particular way. The chief values of the society thus became cruelty, intolerance, and schizophrenia. x The relationship between free and enslaved Africans and whites had caused a complex ontology of resentment and a divided society. In effect there was a “daylight” society, and an “underground” society steeped in slavery, and traditions of resistance and racial retribution. This led to a particular attitude among the mass of the society, in terms of culture, humour, and general behavior which were never acknowledged. x The confusion of the clash of cultures, materialized in, for example the legal and political constitution of Trinidad: the laws were Spanish, rulers British, and social-cultural leadership was French. This meant, for example, English merchants and settlers who came to the island, and set up businesses, unaware of the Spanish laws which were considerably different from British in terms of protecting debtors. Many French and Spanish borrowed money they had no intention of repaying, and the British had no recourse. Naipaul’s insights into the Trinidadian personality and historical evolution have also been mobilized in his novels The Mimic Men and Guerillas, which have not been embraced in Trinidad and in the Caribbean, for reasons which I will not go into here.
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Derek Walcott Derek Walcott’s imaginative approach to the Caribbean has taken a different vantage from Naipaul’s. Where Naipaul approaches history and colonialism from the micro-historical perspective via conventional novelistic narrative, Walcott approaches the region through the lens of epic and in direct conversation with imaginary archetypes, and the European tradition, of which he sees himself an inheritor. In his epic Omeros, Walcott re-casts the Caribbean as the new Aegean, and compares the New World littoral to the Greek littoral. His epic imagines the heroes into the peasantry, casting Odysseus, Helen, Telemachus in the roles of peasants in St Lucia. Walcott’s credo is (in response to Vidia Naipaul’s more nihilistic vision of a place where nothing was created, and where nothing will be created), where nothing exists, everything is possible. He inverted Naipaul’s idea of mimicry, by pointing out it was a natural part of human existence to copy and learn from copying (“Culture or Mimicry?”). He addresses the figure of Crusoe as an existential trope of the monad seeking delivery–and casts the artist, instead of the explorer or exploiter, in the role of Crusoe. His poem, “Crusoe’s Journal”, makes this explicit: Perched between ocean and green, churning forest the intellect appraises objects surely, even the bare necessities of style are turned to use like those plain iron tools he salvages from shipwreck, hewing a prose as odorous as raw wood to the adze; Out of such timbers come our first book, our profane Genesis whose Adam speaks that prose… (92)
Walcott also addresses history and the imagination directly in his major essays, “The Muse of History”, and “What the Twilight Says, An Overture”. He proposes that history is a form of creative writing, and subject to memory and other impulses which make alternative interpretations possible. Unlike Naipaul, who has lived outside the region, Walcott lived in the Caribbean (in Trinidad) from the late 1950s to the early 1980s, and was active in theatre, visual art, and journalism–he worked as a critic for the Trinidad Guardian newspaper in the 1960s. This meant he was able to witness first-hand the transition from colony to independent nation, and the cultural and political excesses and enormities which accompanied. His essay, “What the Twilight Says,” attacks his artistic contemporaries for
sinking too deeply into the Calibanesque inversion, while abandoning what was useful from the wreck of colonialism, like the literary tradition, and its great writers and ideas.
Wilson Harris Wilson Harris is not so well known as Naipaul and Walcott, but is arguably the most penetrating thinker and novelist the region has produced. Harris, like the other two, is deeply concerned with the idea of the Caribbean imagination. But unlike the other two, in addition to engaging with the Western imagination on its home territory, and responding to existent works, and/or appropriating them, as Walcott did with Homer’s Odyssey, Harris chooses to examine the imaginative capacity of the region, and its exterminated inhabitants. He seeks the “imaginative traces” of the pre-Columbian civilisations. An awareness of the logic and imaginative capacity of these civilisations, Harris writes, can create an awareness of non-linearity, and “false absolutes” of the Western world. For example, he writes (in “Profiles of Myth and the New World”), of faces painted onto ancient pottery found in the Amazon which faces contain the features of ethnicities never seen in the region. These include Chinese, European and African faces. It is almost as if, he writes, “all ethnicities traveled to ancient America to become models for their craftsmen and artists” (201-211). What these curiosities (and there are more to be found in the fossil records of America) lead us to, he writes, is an appreciation of the preColumbian peoples’ acknowledgement of a creator whose essence was so vast and complicated, that it could never be fully apprehended. In other words, whatever we can imagine, the creator has already exceeded. Such a realization, writes Harris, brings us to an art steeped in “numinous inexactitudes”–the ability to create reality from several vantage points. This open-ended nature of the imagination allows us to expand our consciousness and our capacities for invention and interaction with difference. Mobilising these attributes, Harris is able to look at phenomena, like African vodun, and propose that its meaning was different in the New World than it was in the old. That is, for the descendants of African slaves in the new world, the practice was more ritualistic and nostalgic than it was for their forebears in their homelands. He relates this new capacity for the imagination to the intrinsic nature of the Caribbean–the bringing together of so many peoples can be useful for expanding the capacities for invention and innovation.
The Caribbean in the Metropolitan Imagination
Harris also extrapolates on this potential in his novels which are notoriously difficult to read, because of his experimental approach to narrative: the syntactical construction of reality, as well as the non-realistic perspectives with characters, events, and the nature of time. His first novel, Palace of the Peacock, creates a dream-syntax to accommodate the simultaneous journeys of two crews of men up river in the Guyanese interior in search of the El Dorado, or a native woman, Mariella, of whom he writes: Her race was a vanishing one overpowered by the fantasy of a Catholic as well as a Protestant invasion. This cross she had forgiven and forgotten in an earlier dream of distant centuries and a returning to the Siberian unconscious pilgrimage in the straits where life had possessed and abandoned at the same time the apprehension of a facile beginning and ending (61).
His protagonists’ journeys into the interior of Guyana, a metaphor for the mysteries of the human unconscious, are hundreds of years apart, but Harris presents them in parallel, as an illustration of the as yet unresolved psychic consequences of the contact of the known world with the unknown world.
Conclusion The Caribbean, from the preceding, is as much an idea-in-progress as a materialization of vagaries of geography, history, and technology. Unfortunately, its inhabitants are caught in the immediacies of early 21st century global capitalism, and its tentacles of metropolitan trade and immigration regulations. The ideative engines of the region remain crude evolutions of the tendentiously low-technology Plantation political technologies, which were meant to hold the region in stasis, to extract its material wealth, while stunting its ecological evolution. This does not mean the potential for achievement in arts, sciences, and every field of human endevaour does not exist, or is not realised. A current iconology of the Caribbean might include Olympic champion Usain Bolt, cricketer Brian Lara, singers Rihanna, Bob Marley, and Nicki Minaj, the festival Carnival, and backdrops of sea, sky, and sand. If the figures of the region’s three Nobel Laureates, Derek Walcott, VS Naipaul, and Sir Arthur Lewis (Nobel Laureate in Economics, 1979) are obscure, their existence is testament to proposition of endless, untapped possibility. And it is this conception of the Caribbean: as possibility, idea, or a dialectical nexus where most, if not all, cultures of the new, old, and
unknown worlds came into contact in a basin, a historical autoclave, and have had of necessity to reshape themselves to accommodate each other, is perhaps the most valuable of our time, where geography has been made irrelevant by technology. Everyone can be everywhere all at once. What everyone needs is a means to make those encounters creative rather than destructive.
See, for an outline of the history, BW Higman, A Concise History of the Caribbean, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011, pp 1–89. See also “History’s Haves and Have-Nots” pp 93-103, and p393, of Jared Diamond’s, Guns Germs & Steel, The Fates of Human Societies New York: WW Norton, 1999 2 For a collection of early writing about the Caribbean see Thomas W Krise’s (ed) Caribbeana: An Anthology of English Literature of the West Indies, 1657-1777, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999 3 See, for example, Lamming’s “Caliban Orders History”, pp118-121, in The Pleasures of Exile, London: Pluto Press, 2005; Brathwaite’s “Caliban” in Islands, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1968, and “Caliban’s Guarden” in Wasafiri, Vol 8, No 16 (1992). Caliban also recurs as a trope in critical works like Paget Henry’s Caliban’s Reason, New York: Routledge, 2000; and various essays in Diana Accaria-Zavala and Rodolfo Popelnik’s (eds) Prospero’s Isles: The Presence of the Caribbean in the American Imaginary, Oxford: Macmillan, 2004
Works Cited Beckford, George. Persistent Poverty: Underdevelopment in Plantation Economies in the Third World, Kingston, Jamaica: University of the West Indies Press, 1999. Diamond, Jared. Guns Germs & Steel, The Fates of Human Societies New York: WW Norton, 1999. Harris, Wilson. The Unfinished Genesis of the Imagination: Selected Essays of Andrew Bundy, ed. Wilson Harris. London: Routledge, 1999. —. Palace of the Peacock, London: Faber, 1998. Higman, B.W. A Concise History of the Caribbean, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011, pp 1 – 89. More, Thomas. Utopia; Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003 Naipaul, V.S. The Loss of El Dorado, A Colonial History, Oxford: Macmillan, 2004 Said, Edward. Culture and Imperialism, London: Vintage, 1994 —. Orientalism: Western Conceptions of the Orient, London: Penguin, 1995
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Shakespeare, William. The Tempest, London: Penguin, 1995 Sheller, Mimi. Consuming the Caribbean, London: Routledge, 2003 Shohat, Ella and Robert Stam. The Anthropology of Media. Eds. Kelly Askew and Richard Wilk, London: Blackwell Publishing, 2004 Walcott, Derek. Collected Poems 1948-1984. London: Faber & Faber, 1992 —. What the Twilight Says: Essays. London: Faber & Faber, 1998 —. “The Caribbean, Culture or Mimicry.” Journal of InterAmerican Studies and World Affairs, 16: 1 (1974), 3-1.
CHAPTER TWO GRANADA: MIGRATIONS, HYBRIDITY AND TRANSCULTURAL ENCOUNTERS FADIA FAQIR
Found in Translation When I returned to Britain in 1986 to start a PhD in critical and creative writing I read V. S. Naipaul’s essay entitled, ‘Jasmine’, in which he describes the difference between ‘jasmine’, the fascinating word, and jasmine the cold and uninteresting vegetation. ‘The old lady cut a sprig for me. I stuck it in the top button hole in my shirt. I smelt it as I walked back to the hotel. Jasmine, Jasmine. But the word and the flower had been separate in my mind for too long. They did not come together.’ Critics read it as an indication of Naipaul’s discovery of the colonial language English and its beauty and his aspirations to become a metropolitan writer. But for me it symbolises the challenges faced by authors writing in the language of the other. A lemon tree, for example, was part of my mentalscape and I didn’t have to continually look for the mot juste to describe it, thus perhaps fossilise it. My relationship with the Arabic language was like a forbidden love, laden with danger and taboos. In a society governed by strict and traditional values the use of language freely was hazardous then. The tripartite of politics, religion and sex were neither discussed at the home nor in the classroom. The difference of opinion with my father did not help. I felt incarcerated both physically and linguistically so I left my homeland and became an expatriarch, a woman who left her country because of domestic, political, and intellectual policing. The English language seemed free of taboos, but it was not in love with me standing like that on the margins, outside the whale. It had to be explored, wooed, and conquered mirroring the western colonial thrust into
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the Arab world in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It had to be liberated by Arab invaders. The whole encounter seemed easy. In England you could do whatever you want, be whoever you want and use any word you like-or so I thought. Nisanit as a result, is dotted with four letter words, an indication that the writer found the English language liberating and could not stop swearing. You could write about blood and gore and chapters in modern history that had been blacked out. This false feeling of liberation and ‘free for all’ did not last long. It took five years of living in self-imposed exile to discover a new set of taboos in an English society riddled with racism and burdened with a rigid class structure. Some in Britain today are born with a sense of entitlement and are members of the ruling elite and others are born without any prospects. An exploration of this continent called ‘English literature’ began in earnest. The dialogue and many parts of Nisanit were a direct translation from Arabic into English. My supervisor at Lancaster University, writer and poet David Craig, said, ‘Faqir spent days searching dictionaries and books, looking for the right word.’ What was this tree that I had never seen before, with serrated leaves, catkin flowers and acorns called? A search in the many references I have on Britain’s wildlife, plants, trees and flowers revealed that it was an ‘Oak’. So the word describing the tree was found, but the image of a trunk, branches and leaves did not match the word ‘Oak’. Another search began to find the Arabic equivalent: ϥΎϳΪϨγ ρϮϠΑ. With some practice the ‘oak’ of the mind became a reality as well as a word usable in future narratives. It was a complex and time consuming operation made harder by the choice of stream of consciousness and multiple perspectives. The American author and journalist Tom Wolfe said, ‘The problem with fiction, it has to be plausible. That’s not true of non-fiction.’ I read many books on the Palestinian issue written by Arab, American, British and Israeli academics and lawyers. It was important to corroborate the facts about Israeli human rights abuses to create a fiction that has a ‘truth’ in it. What also complicated matters is that the whole narrative began with the ending: the image of Shadeed wiping his backside with his lover’s letter haunted me for months. Slowly a narrative about the loss of Palestine, sanity and love began to germinate. Internal resistance to tyrants began also to be explored. Spatial images and vision were translated into linear narrative then Arabic was translated into English in some parts. History will judge whether this experiment of double ‘translation’ had succeeded. Like many Arabs living in the west I decided to cut out the middle man and create ‘an Arab book’ in the language of the other. The reasons behind each author’s decision vary, but what is certain is that our texts are a by-
product of the colonial encounter and of a rising awareness of ‘multiculturalism that provisionally disowns one’s self to listen to and to perceive, beyond differences, a kinship of gestures and of desire.’ (Trabelsi, 2003) The writing of some Arabs in the west treads the divide between two cultures and as a result suffers and benefits from occupying such a dangerous site, linguistically and otherwise. ‘Displacement urges transcultural writers to revisit their culture of origin by the essential questioning of their relationships with their body, faiths, rites, languages.’ (Trabelsi, 2003). Our transcultural writing problematises social issues, sense of identity and terms of reference. ‘The production of a new discourse defies the constraints and taboos of the culture of origin (such as the sacredness of the Arabic language or the subaltern status of women) by putting it in dialogue with a different culture. The purpose is neither softedged amalgamation nor slavish mimicry; instead, it is to propose creative new identities for the individual and the collective subject.’ (Trabelsi, 2003).
A Feminist Vision of Orientalism The late Angela Carter, who taught me at the University of East Anglia, said describing my second novel, Pillar of Salt, ‘It is compulsive reading . . . a feminist vision of Orientalism.’ She used to give each student a book as a comment on their writing. She gave me Rana Kabani’s book Europe’s Myth of the Orient: Devise and Rule, which analyses the demeaning of eastern women in western narratives, first as women and then as Orientals. This book led quickly to the writings of Edward Said. The misogynist story-teller wouldn’t have been born without feminism, Orientalism, postmodernism and travel writing. He also keeps a reservoir of oral tales mainly inspired by the Arabian Nights, folktales and quotations from the Qur’an. So the mélange turned out to be a novel about memory, representation, conflicting views of history and sexual politics. It had the unreliable narrator, the indigenous women and the mythic ending that was totally fabricated by the Orientalist story-teller. Pillars of Salt wouldn’t have been possible without the writings of Edward Said on T.E. Lawrence and his description of his version of history as ‘shabby’. Postmodernism with its intertextuality, unreliable narrators, parody and pastiche were used to heighten the plight of Maha, the main character, who is systematically misrepresented by the storyteller, a character who is paper-thin, a composite, and an empty shell. The simple and ‘truthful’ narrative of the native women, incarcerated in a mental institution, outweighs the framing fabricated tale.
Granada: Migrations, Hybridity and Transcultural Encounters
Madness is a theme that runs through most of my writings. I was influenced by R. D. Laing, the Scottish psychiatrist, whose views on the causes and treatment of mental illness were affected by existential philosophy. He saw madness as a miscommunication and the feelings of patients as valid descriptions of lived experience rather than mental illness. Maha and Um-Saad flew over the cuckoo’s nest and were penalised by a society uncompromising in its norms and customs. Both urban and rural women are punished for their transgressions, locked up in a hospital and then untimely institutionalised. I return to this theme in my short story ‘Under the Cypress Tree’, but this time the main character subjected to electric shocks is a white woman in 1940’s England. The saviour comes in the guise of a Bedouin native woman. The first encounter between colonizer and colonized, or between Europeans and so-called savages, has frequently given rise to the question as to what constitutes our humanity, and whether the strange peoples encountered are to be accorded full human status. In the short story the native invades the colonialist and interacts with her on her home turf. Timam, the Bedouin Arab, helps Doris, the symbol of the British Empire, die peacefully. When I was given the British citizenship someone said, ‘The riffraff are coming.’ They truly are and in the fullness of time they will deconstruct notions of European superiority and create an alternative literature that is as virile as mixed-breed dogs. In ‘Under the Cypress Tree’ the empire dies and a new era dawns. The alien midwife is perceived by the white majority as black, inferior, subaltern, other, ‘half-nigger’ and a ‘towel head Muslim’. Hopefully the result is a counter-narrative that is magnanimous and forgiving. The following is a description of the first encounter between the English native and the foreign alien “While fiddling with the decorations something blocked the light and cast its shadow on the floor. It went cold, a chill that penetrated the very marrow of your bones. She had swirls and stars tattooed on her chin and she wore a few turquoise stones stringed together. Little cloth bags full of God-knows-what and feathers were knotted to her belt. The smell of dung and incense rose up. The crone’s teeth were yellow. ‘Good morning! The weather not bad today.’ Doris pushed her glasses up and rubbed her arms. ‘Good morning.’ She put the broom down. ‘I Bedouin. Name Timam, your neighbour.’ Primitives rolled their eyes and bared their teeth on telly, somewhere in North Africa. ‘I go to market later, do you want anything?’ Her gold-clad tooth caught the sun.
Chapter Two Doris ran out of milk and bread. She hesitated. ‘No, thank you.’ Timam persevered. ‘What a lovely day! Cold, but sun. Is this Christmas tree?’ What did she bleeding know about Christmas, fresh from the desert? ‘Glad you like it.’ Timam sucked her teeth. ‘Honour meeting you.’”
Transcultural Encounters As an Arab writer, writing about the Arab culture, in English, I find myself preoccupied with themes of exile and representation. This transcultural position is reflected in the intricate process through which my writing is composed and through my endless attempts to carve a small territory within the English language for myself. Behind the all-embracing problems of creative duplicity from a post-colonial position emerges one writer’s struggle to comprehend an alien world and cope with the profound consequences of living a bicultural identity. The English language began to yield to my advances so much so that the locale of my narratives moved from the Arab world to England. All my work pre-2005 was set in Arab countries, albeit fictitious, and reflected an Arab sensibility. As a result of my literary consciousness becoming truly bi-lingual and an accumulation of my migratory experience for nineteen years a shift in perception and positionality took place. The setting in My Name is Salma complicates the notion of home by relocating it in what Palestinian author Fawaz Turki calls, ‘the geography of [the] soul’. Although I became a ‘mongrel’, the rules that white writing had set for me were unsuitable and had to be ignored. The dictates of what I must say, how I must say it and what boundaries need to be observed while saying it had to be questioned and challenged. Although invisible, marginal and misunderstood it was important to place Salma in the UK to create a postcolonial encounter where the native travels to the metropolis and ‘re’present it from her point of view. British society perceives her as an illegitimate member, but she was placed within its fabric as a thread of a different colour. She is here and now and the British either come to terms with her presence or begin a journey of self-examination. The spot light on the white, upper-class and affluent had to be shifted to the black, migrant, underdog to resist the tides of recorded history and give voice ‘to the fringe-dwellers of societies and civilizations, to the individuals who resist hegemonies’ (Anthony R. Guneratne: 2008). A Counter-narrative to some of the mainstream British fiction was gathering momentum. Writers like Soueif, Kureishi, Aboulela, Aslam, Hamid, Shamsie and Kassam wrote the story of the colonised and other. Salma was part of the momentum
Granada: Migrations, Hybridity and Transcultural Encounters
described reductively as ‘the empire writing back’. For the process of engaging, adapting, adopting and deconstructing dominant and master narratives is complex and on going. My Name is Salma is a classic example of trauma literature with its attempt to get language to speak the unspeakable when witnessing has collapsed and narratives fractured. It is a novel about the constraints of the human condition, migration and racism and it is written in a form that is lyrical, disjointed and punctuated with minute descriptions of daily life. Encompassing a 16-year time span, it switches almost at random between scenes from Salma’s life among her Bedouin family, her years of protective custody, her flight into a monastery and subsequent journey to asylum in England. These are interspersed with episodes from her life in Exeter as she attempts to find work, educate herself and establish a foothold in an alien environment. The disjointed narrative is meant to reflect her tortured self. Seen exclusively from Salma’s point of view, it illustrates her inextricable links with her past. The aim is to prevent the reader from feeling any sense of smooth progress towards a resolution. We are constantly torn, like Salma, between a brutal past, an alien country with its own cruelties, and the bonds of motherhood, family and culture. Novels are windows to the world. They humanise, bring injustices to the readers’ attention and build cultural bridges. The present and complex reality of England couldn’t be captured without placing the story of the immigrant Salma in the context of the British colonial adventure in India. The novel has no goodies or badies and all the characters are tragic figures even the English landlady Elisabeth, the symbol of the empire, who mistreats Salma. When we discover what Elisabeth had gone through in India and survived we forgive her excesses. If the discourse in the metropolis aims to de-humanize Arabs and make them disappear to justify ‘collateral damage’, my fiction and writings aim to humanize not only the Arabs, but the English, Americans, Indians etc. Is it harder or easier to shoot someone you know very well? What is important is to present the case gently, subtly and without any anger or self-righteousness. Intercultural literature is closely related to migrant and migration literature. It is written by authors, like me, whose points of view and subject matter are influenced by multiple cultural spaces. My novel My Name is Salma is not only holding a mirror to British Society, but being located within the discourse, it engages with it, which may lead to the breakdown of barriers and the development of new cultural roles.
Writing Back to the Centre In his book In Migration literature and hybridity Sten Pultz Moslund argues that Deleuze’s and Bakhtin’s works function as philosophical stepping stones that the author utilizes in innovative ways to explore ‘minor literature’ that does not conform to established codes, a literature which maps migratory geographies and articulates irreducibility and multiplicity. If it is possible to separate sensibility from language, then the body of my work has an Arab attitude, responsiveness, perception, flavour and identity, expressed through the medium of an ‘Arabised’ English, an English selected carefully to convey a specific Arab flavour. This is similar to what Indian authors did with the English language, but at a much smaller scale. In England authors are classified into categories and dealt with accordingly, but I am unclassifiable. I am neither an Arab author writing in Arabic, nor a British author writing about little England, nor a British author of Arab origins. I represent a new Arab/British breed if this is possible. I am a cross-cultural, transnational writer par excellence. You sit on the top of a volcano, a precarious, exciting place, and turn a critical face both ways, towards the country of origin and the country of reception. Traditions and customs of both counties are examined and criticised. The challenge, the alienation, the ‘offence’ are two-sided. But like Edward Said and many other immigrants and exiles I survive by taking shelter in the house of writing and songs. But the threads of this cocoon are under threat. ‘There is something rotten in the State of Denmark’, a malaise at the heart of the language we are using to spin our narratives. The English language is suffering from what Harold Pinter described in his essay ‘Oh! Superman’ as ‘a disease at the very centre of the language, so that language becomes a permanent masquerade, a tapestry of lies.’ (Harold Pinter, Opinion, Channel 4: 1990). He argued that American interventions in different parts of the world were justified by rhetorical gambits, sterile terminology and concepts of power which stink. The schism between the structures of language and reality were widening. ‘Does reality essentially remain outside language, separate, obdurate, alien and not susceptible to description?’ he asked. When I was a freelance journalist I encountered narratives about ‘us’ that were ahistorical, reductive and false. It was important to subject the English language to scrutiny and prove Carl Marx, who wrote, ‘They cannot represent themselves, they must be represented’, wrong. As author Abdulrazak Gurnah said, ‘I could not find myself in the mirror of [English] fiction.’ Claire Chambers conducted interviews with writers of
Granada: Migrations, Hybridity and Transcultural Encounters
Muslim heritage for her book British Muslim Fictions. She argues in the introduction ‘that taken together all these writers suggest, firstly, and in parallel with Charles Taylor’s identification of the “politics of (mis)recognition”, that “a person can suffer real damage, real distortion, if the people or society around them mirror back to them a confining or demeaning or contemptible picture of themselves”’ (British Muslim Fictions, Chambers: 2012). Derrida articulates the European subject’s tendency to constitute the other as marginal to ethnocentrism and locates that as the problem with all logo centric endeavours. Describing what he calls ‘white mythology’ Derrida wrote, ‘ [it] has erased within itself the fabulous scene that has produced it, the scene that nevertheless remains, active and stirring, inscribed in white ink, an invisible design covered over in the palimpsest” (Marges de la philosophie, 1972, Margins of Philosophy, trans. Alan Bass: 1982, p. 213). The task is to recover what ‘nevertheless remains, active and stirring, inscribed in white ink,’ and is active and stirring in what is otherwise ‘imageless’ (Marges de la philosophie, 1972, Margins of Philosophy, trans. Alan Bass: 1982, p. 175). Can we listen to the silences of history, come face to face with the other and negotiate a medium to represent the experience in all its complexity? When I first arrived in Britain twenty-eight years ago it seemed monocultural, monolithic, monological, monotheistic and it was too large or too small to include my vision and writing. Studying and writing at East Anglia I wondered lonely as a desert weed. Whenever my work was discussed in class I had to explain myself, justify my choice of language (English), subject matter, style etc. Some of the feedback sounded to my ears as ‘why are you here? Go back home!’ Being ‘other’ was a burden. But in the past fifteen years something marvellous happened. British authors of Arab and/or Muslim heritage began producing alternative histories while deconstructing myths propagated by the host society. Vibrant texts, which map out different crossroads of past legacies and present realities, were published. Transcultural and linguistic selves were being re(dis)covered and subverted through the intervention of other models. What was possible to read and think was made larger. A plurality of expressive modes and fresh forms flourished. A new identity was forged that is both open and closed to the other. It asserted itself at the point of contact between cultures, on the border of languages, in a site where oppression and misrepresentation from both sides of the divide were/are being challenged. Here is an extended metaphor for this cultural shift and disruption of the ‘master’ narrative. In 2003 a report entitled ‘Bluebells for Britain’ was
published. It stated that the UK has three different species of bluebells, but only one of them is indigenous. The distinctiveness of native bluebell could be at risk because it readily cross-breeds with two Spanish cousins, often planted in gardens and resulting in a fertile hybrid. Alarm bells rang. There was a serious threat posed to ‘our’ native bluebell despite the fact that the majority of records received were of pure native bluebell populations in its stronghold habitat, broadleaved woodland. The genetic integrity and ‘purity’ of the native bluebell was under threat. More research is urgently needed to understand the intermixing of genes between the species. Gardeners must take care to avoid planting Spanish or hybrid plants in the countryside or near native bluebell populations. It was too late for counter-measures. The Spanish invasion was complete and irreversible and the hybrid bluebell took hold. I see writings by authors of Arab and/or Muslim heritage as hybrid bluebells sprouting out here and there in their full ‘ugliness’. Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all? Which bluebell is the more beautiful, authentic or aesthetically pleasing? Is there grace in asymmetry? And who is going to judge this myriad of bluebells? An old don at Oxford University or a young academic in a metropolitan university? Will they completely escape the gaze of those who recognise the other by assimilation? Are hybrids less legitimate? Will they always be frisked at the borders to see whether they are alien, home-grown or native? Will they survive Charles Taylor’s ‘politics of (mis)recognition’? It was necessary to see an oak in both cultures, imagine it then represent it. An ‘Oak’, that is also a ‘sindian’, does not belonging to the English language and had become mine, yours, ours. It turned into a cultural product coloured not by subjectivity, but by its subject position. Planted there in the fertile land of the ‘geography of the soul’, there in Granada as I imagine it had been, it grows in other ways in the direction of light. A community of polyglots, which belonged to different ethnicities and religions, but acculturated in peace, is a vision I hold on to in these difficult times. It was a moment in history when colonisers and colonised, or travellers and settlers co-existed and interacted, even within asymmetrical relations of power. Was it possible? Granada is a ripe pomegranate I carry in my suitcase wherever I go. My mother said, ‘One seed out of the six hundred will lead you back to heaven.’ But as an Arab/British/ ‘Muslim’/ Woman writer, burdened and liberated by all these labels, that crossroad, where all intellectual cravens meet, that transcultural space, that Granada of the mind is paradise.
CHAPTER THREE LIQUID GRAMMAR, LIQUID STYLE: ON THE EAST-ASIAN WAY OF USING ENGLISH OR THE PHENOMENON OF “LINGUISTIC AIR-GUITARS” THORSTEN BOTZ-BORNSTEIN
“Thinking Logically to Feel Confident About Reading English” (from a Chinese Time-Newsweek subscription campaign)
1. At Full Love With Vivian The Western visitor of East Asia marvels at English expressions that he encounters in advertisements, in magazines, on T-Shirts, and elsewhere that seem to come “out of another world”. Single words and short adjective-loaded English sentences, rarely longer than five words, suggest something like the invention of a new language. In Japan and in Korea this phenomenon has been thriving for decades. In China it is more recent but it is developing along the same lines. The use of English in East Asia is linked to a certain part of East-Asian social history. “Japano-English” for example, is neither “real” English nor Japanese but symbolizes, within the domain of linguistics, the co-existence of two cultural spheres. In Japan, after the mid-1880s, an earlier uncritical and unsystematic acceptance of things Western gradually gave way to the view that Japanese and Western culture can exist side-by-side. From then on the question was: how can East Asia incorporate the West without being culturally overwhelmed by it? In the domain of language, Japano-English brought forward schemes of cultural coexistence of utmost sophistication. Wasei eigo (made in Japan English) is a well-known phenomenon. Most of the time, it concerns the invention–or rather re-invention–of words like arubaito (part-time
work from the German Arbeit) or mansion (a modern apartment block), attributing new meanings to foreign words. More fascinating–though much more difficult to analyze–are the peculiar English sentences in which words and grammar follow almost normal usage rules but which nevertheless express an unmatched strangeness. Because such English is common in Japan (Engrish), Korea (Konglish), China (Chinglish), and other East-Asian countries like Indonesia and Thailand, I suggest labeling this “language” as East-Asian English (EA English). I am well aware that there are differences between these national branches of English, but I think that a certain overall similarity enables us to speak here of a new “Pan-Asian language” based on a common East-Asian cultural experience.
2. For Your Tasteful Life Often it is simply the vagueness of these languages, as well as the lack of many prepositions, inflections, copula like ‘and’ and ‘or’, articles and personal pronouns in Japanese and Korean, and the indistinction of concepts, verbs, adjectives, etc. in Chinese, which makes a literal translation from an Asian language to English imprecise and confused. In these cases the result is a kind of East-Asian Pidgin: “Do not play water”, “400% expectation coffee”, “Classics of world translates into film…” However, EA English covers a range of phenomena much broader than the scope of Pidgin English. Therefore–though many cases might overlap– I distinguish simplified (Pidgin-like) English from EA English, defining it as an autonomous way of speaking determined by layers of an interculturally determined cognition that reside at deeper levels than those produced only by the grammar and vocabulary of the host language. The cognitive structure underlying the apprehension of EA English is not based principally on the process of derivation from an already existing language, but almost represents the creation of a new language.1 Already Donald L. Smith, who wrote one of the first academic essays on “Engrish” in 1974, stated that “[a]n educated Japanese using English will quite naturally feel uncomfortable with the language, especially as he tries to observe all the rules governing the new and exacting foreign terms, but with Engrish he is released from the elements of his industrialized society for precise terminology” (Smith 1974: 188). 1
Interestingly, Roy Andrew Miller has claimed that the Japanese education system has appropriated English for its own purposes and transformed the English language, through its particular way of teaching this language, into sort of a fictitious non-language (1982, 277).
Liquid Grammar, Liquid Style
In the present “Feature Scene” I will argue that the English fragments that appear in East-Asian contexts are experienced on a relatively immediate level of cognition that in many cases does not refer to linguistic models of the host language (Japanese, Korean, Chinese). I am aware that writing about a fluent phenomenon like EA English is difficult because the attribution of an expression to either decorative English, simply false English or a genuinely new way of speaking is often debatable. Many cases overlap. Still I will try to crystallize what appear to be the most general features of EA English.
3. Make Your Creativity Into Flowers Decorative English surfaces most often in fashion and beauty magazines. In specialized business-magazines it appears surprisingly rarely though one might expect a better knowledge of English among experts of economics than among housewives. However, what is at stake is not the understanding of this language. Most of the time, the words are printed in large roman letters that stand out from the vernacular script. The use of such words (French words for fashion or German words for cars) occurs, of course, in advertisements all over the world and is not particularly Asian. However, in Asia this phenomenon is more frequent. Foreign language words are often used as effective tools without creating language by relying on their visual function. These words are to be understood as silent (to be seen rather than heard), expressing a style rather than a clear semantic message. At the same time, their semantic meaning is not totally unimportant. They correspond to a concept that Benjamin has singled out as a typical phenomenon of modernity: they are “images [that take] the place of concepts: riddles and picture-puzzles of dreams that hide, that slip through the net of semiotics but which are still worth the effort of gaining knowledge” (1982b). Wasei eigo deals mainly with words that are written in the Japanese phonetic script katakana (though of course the Japanese write many English words in katakana without these words being recognized as belonging to the repertory of wasei eigo). The Koreans do the same with hangul and the Chinese, in lack of a phonetic script, use their ideographs to transcribe foreign words which turns out to be much more difficult (hambaobao for hamburger, and â er bei sî for Alpenliebe, for example). This transcribed language appears more like a secret language understandable–if at all–only to speakers of that language. The mystifying effect of such a secret national language is enormous. In Japanese, some “English” words become pronounceable only through their transcription in
katakana. A shampoo with the difficult name “Asience” (obviously a fusion of Asia and science) can be pronounced “ajiensu” only when employing the katakana transcription. “Buru rich tea life”, written in katakana, will most often only be understood by a Japanese person who knows that “buru” signifies “bourgeois”. Wasei eigo is a hybrid language which is based, like Pidgin-English or Spanglish, on a model of fusion. True, EA English shares with these languages the fact that it has no native speakers. At the same time EA English is more than a curious secret language because it has the more developed features of an autonomous language. Also, it is not restricted to the domain of advertisements and cannot be fully explained as an advertising ploy selling bourgeois sentiment. On a formal level, its particular character cannot be explained through binary (bilingual) schemes of fusion like code-switching, code-mixing, calques, insertion or alternation (all of them restricted to vocabulary and grammar). The scheme at work in EA English raises the phenomenon of “cultural coexistence” to a much higher level of sophistication. Only EA English is able to provide the stunning and dreamlike effect of sentences like this: “Recovery-Rediscovery: Re-experience vibrant, youthful looking skin as REVITAL realigns your skin’s inner strengths to overcome gravity, the appearance of wrinkles and dullness” [a Chinese Shiseido advertisement].
The fluent–perhaps too fluent–English is grammatically flawless and does not employ a single newly invented word. Still, unstable and fleeting as it is, it conveys a strangeness reminiscent of a dream language. There is the playful use of language (like children playing with words beginning with re-) inviting the reader to “re-experience vibrant youthful looking skin”. It is clear that it is impossible to experience one’s skin, either in English or in Chinese even if, through a playful device, the idea of “experience” is heightened by turning it into “re-experience”. The next example comes from a Shanghai real estate agency: “New center world. Its totally different. Maybe we can call this a kind of Shanghai memory”.
The assuring assertion that something is “totally” different is followed by a juxtaposition of “maybe”, “can”, and “kind of” (where all three are out of place). This is neither precise nor vague but simply strange. One might say that this is the opposite of “thinking in words” because here the words have been chosen only because they appear momentarily appropriate
Liquid Grammar, Liquid Style
on a–very unstable–emotional level. At the same time there is a lot of selfreflexive thought in this language, which makes it a far cry from a direct expression of emotions. There is some “thinking” at work, but it is not real analytical thinking; “thinking” is here guided–in an emotional manner–by words which are appreciated not only for their clear semantic content but as emotional-semantic fields whose borders remain unclear. This process is far from spontaneous. Often these words are selected from a dictionary and selectively italicized. For example, the following is taken from the slogan of a Shanghai Hotel: “Luxury flatlet and hotel establishment embody noblest verve”. Here are some Japanese examples: “We think that we want to contribute to society through diamond drilling and wire sawing”. Or: “Let’s carry out preservation at room temperature” Or: Beauty is anywhere around the world. AVE will change from uncertain to necessary the heart which feels beauty and is sharpened. AVE and you stir up the impression of people. It’s a AVE surrealism.
EA English is a reflective emotional language composed of “intellectualized word-emotions”.
4. Because it passes Soon, Pleasant Time is Lonely EA English is representative of a more general process of a particularly paradoxical style of “Westernized” East-Asian culture. One paradox is the particularly strange combination of Orientalism and Occidentalism. Orientalism signifies the Western appropriation of the Orient and can be encountered by “Occidentalism”, through which the “Orientals” attempt to reconstruct the West as their Other. However, as is well known, Occidentalism is not necessarily an inverted form of Orientalism. To the extent that Orientals strive towards an integration and coexistence of two cultures, they do usually not aim at the straightforward degradation and submission of the West. In the domain of language, the complex character of these cultural techniques is particularly evident. By using EA English one intends:
1. To be respectful towards the English language (and thus to degrade oneself because “we cannot say these things in Chinese or Japanese”). At the same time, by distorting it, one is disrespectful towards this language. 2. To colonize the English language by using it, though at the same time being aware that one is colonized by it through its use. Edward Said’s assumption that the cultural appropriation of the Other is either an act of imperialistic colonization or one of self-colonization is not true with regard to EA English. Both Orientalist and Occidentalist schemes remain trapped within a dialectics of “Oxford English” vs. “Pidgin English” and disregard the possibility of combining both approaches in a paradoxical way.
5. The Bag Means Your Mind It is, of course, no surprise that English has been chosen as the new Pan-Asian language. While after the war the Korean language was not taught at any Japanese university, the use of English spread very quickly. What spread most significantly was a variation of English determined by a form of cultural paradox that is typical for a region marked by Pan-Asian “revolutionary” history. Pan-Asianism represented a movement of Asian cooperation launched around 1903 by Kakuzo Okakura and meant to halt the Western advance. All Asians should recognize their own cultural values and “weather the storm under which so much of the Oriental world went down” (Okakura 1905: 241). Being aware of the worldwide rise of colonial peoples and the possible decline of imperialism, Pan-Asianists tried to organize a cultural stronghold which could serve as an orientation mark to “second rate” nations that would otherwise be lost in a sea of individual civilizations and fall victim to European imperialism. However, due to the curious geopolitical position of Japan, much of the identity of the “Orient” as well as the identity of Japan remained in the domain of the imaginary. As Kang Sanggjung said: “Japan constructed such an identity in terms of the relation between its idea of the ‘Orient’ (which was discovered or created by both its identity with and difference from the West) and its imaginary geography and history of Korea, Manchuria, and China. Herein lies the aporia that was repeated throughout Japan’s process of modernization”.2 For Kang the “very category of the ‘Orient’ is nothing but an ‘imaginary time and space,’ one that emerged 2
Kang 2005, 90.
Liquid Grammar, Liquid Style
from the suffering common to non-Western societies in their attempt to reconcile civilization and culture, difference and identity (93)”. One of the results was the construction of Pan-Asianism as a kind of “anti-imperialist imperialism” under Japanese leadership, an attitude which turned out to be a constant producer of cultural paradoxes.3 However, because a large part of Pan-Asianist aspirations took place in the domain of the imaginary, these paradoxes could be accepted. Indeed, PanAsianism is characterized by the coexistence of a series of paradoxical elements: colonialism / anti-colonialism, conservatism / revolutionary attitudes, individualism / totalitarianism, and nationalism / internationalism. Notably, “Western culture” was never celebrated as a geographical and historical reality but existed from the beginning in the form of an imagined and fictionalized Western culture (films, fashion, life style, etc). This is one of the reasons why pacific warfare failed to eradicate a hidden admiration for the United States of America. Today, the paradoxes cultivated by colonized colonizers can thrive even better than in the 1920s. The reason is that since the times of Sun Yat-sen the linguistic and cultural reality of what is called “Western culture” or “English language” has constantly shifted towards a sphere that is predominantly playful and dreamlike. East-Asian “westernized” culture appears less than ever to be a “real world” in which objectified elements from eastern and western cultures have merely been combined. The emergence of EA English as an autonomous language represents one further step in a series of attempts to construct a “Western” Other capable of embracing all cultural paradoxes of Westernized East Asia.4
6. These Pleasing Days Children approach the linguistic reality of adults by incorporating new sentences into “old”, childlike grammatical structures. By and by the old structures get expanded until they overlap with those of adult language. Even bilingual children do this, taking care not to put the two languages 3
I explain this in detail in Botz-Bornstein 2008, 90. A phenomenon that works in parallel with the development of EA English is that of East-Asian “cute (kawaii) culture” that spread from Japan all over the continent. As Larissa Hjorth has pointed out, “the kawaii can articulate how migrating cultural objects, people and odors are re-imagining what it means to be local and global; this ‘scape’ may well be forming well-pocketed ‘wallet communities’ that micro-coordinate already established social realities that privilege the individual and a corresponding identity predicated or gender, age, class and sexuality rather than a nation-state” (Hjorth 2005, 49-50).
into a subset relation.5 Children abandon incorrect grammatical patterns in order to acquire correct language. This language represents a concrete reality for children, as they hear correct grammatical structures very often (linguists estimate frequency measures of 100,000 inputs until the child drops a wrong form, cf. Roeper, 167). More importantly, children need to acquire this correct language in order to survive in the linguistic reality made by adults. How do these things work with regard to EA English? It is clear that the linguistic “reality” of EA English is inscribed into a completely different cultural schedule because with EA English an objectified model reality within which one can have concrete experiences does not exist. What exists is a linguistic imaginary of “English and the West” shaped with regard to one’s own imaginary Asian identity.
7. The Premonition that Happens to be Pleasant In truth, “the West” is to most East-Asians still as unfamiliar as it was sixty years ago. Any “familiarity” is not natural, rather, it is constructed by transforming Western reality into an allegory of itself. While the symbol symbolizes something, an allegory conveys a supplementary meaning in addition to the original meaning. Most East-Asians seem to take EA English for granted as a cultural symbol; indeed EA English’s disquieting, “strange” character is noticed mostly by foreigners. A serious amount of allegorical discontinuity is reflected in EA English expressions as they “represent” Anglo-American culture. In this sense, EA English is exemplary of Fredric Jameson’s characterization of the postmodern episteme as dominated by an “allegorical spirit [which] is profoundly discontinuous, [which is] a matter of breaks and heterogeneities, [and] of the multiple polysemia of the dream rather than the homogenous representation of he symbol”.6 EA English “represents” Western culture allegorically. Thus, EA English is comparable to Walter Benjamin’s conception of the allegory as an eternally strange quality that remains inaccessible to scientific analysis. Allegories contain a certain amount of feeling, but because they remain 5
The cognitive linguist Thomas Roeper explains that children, when acquiring “grammar”, move from smaller to larger sets: “Each step of a child’s acquisition of grammar must involve movement from a smaller set to a larger set and cannot involve the reverse. The steps are motivated by pieces of input data (adult sentences) which fail to fit into the smaller set, thereby forcing an expansion of the set” (Roeper 1988, 161). 6 Jameson 1986, 73.
Liquid Grammar, Liquid Style
hazy and fleeting, they cannot be grasped with the help of empathy. For Benjamin, modernity is “the world governed by its phantasmagorias” (1983 V, 1: 77)7 and the phantasmagoric world of modernity is a dream. The world of modernity transforms itself into a kind of dreamlike writing in which some words “flash” like allegories. Contemporary East-Asian culture has produced this type of writing in a more literal way than Benjamin could have thought. EA English allegories “dart (…) past only as an image flashing at the very moment [they] can be recognized but then disappear (…) immediately and for good” (Benjamin 1983, I, 2: 695).
8. Discover the Taste of Food In fashion and life-style magazines, EA English is used as a structuring element providing titles to columns, features, and sections. Here EA English adopts an allegorical technique of fragmentation. It is wrong to describe its role as being reduced to “decorative English”. The English headings in magazines read–as perhaps any headings should–like fragments from a larger piece. However, the way articles are synthesized in these headings looks either incomplete and inconsistent or tautological. In this way, they are allegories par excellence because in them we encounter a “fixed image and a fixed sign in one” (Benjamin 1983, I, 1: 359). Some examples: “I Deserve the Best of All” (on a designer). “For the Beauty of Stone” “One Person in Brazil” “Engine for Architecture” “Seeing Believing” “Bold Beautiful Pieces” “So Attractive for Date” “Origins of Love”
9. Lovely Water – You Are Free On the one hand, the use of EA English is similar to children’s language; on the other hand, there is no expansion towards adult language because this model or ideal is absent. Therefore, EA English remains a largely “intuitive” way of speaking: instead of appealing to a mental representation determined by a functional role (through practical or theoretical reasoning), it appeals to a “non-subjective” cultural consciousness 7
All quotations from Benjamin 1983.
and not to linguistic schemes of cognition. The concrete phenomenon of language passes through this non-subjective consciousness in the form of pre-linguistic experience; only afterwards do the utterances of the speaker become concrete language. This means that the English language elements, in the way they are used in these contexts, have not been objectified by a subject beforehand, they are not experienced as objective elements but immediately contribute to the formation of a new linguistic consciousness. These EA English expressions do certainly have an emotional appeal, but the way in which “emotion” is present in this language is intriguing. It is not present in a linguistically objectified form but rather as “pure emotion” that speaks indirectly though the choice of words and their combination. Although linguistic reflection often takes place on a conscious level, the choice of words is often determined by emotional, pre-linguistic patterns of reflection. The cultural experience of EA English comes close to “pure experience” as it has been elaborated by the philosopher William James. For James, pure experience “is as if there were in the human consciousness a sense of reality, a feeling of objective presence, a perception of what we may call ‘something there,’ more deep and more general than any of the particular ‘sense’ by which current psychology supposes existent realities to be originally revealed”.8 These experiences are “pre-conceptual” in the sense that they are not mastered by a conceptualizing intellect but excel in the combination of non-objectified (imaginary) elements of Eastern and Western culture within linguistic experience. They are real without being objectified which brings them close to virtual phenomena. The linguists Clore and Ortony have analyzed “emotion terms” in language: “If someone refers, for example, to ‘being alone’ in some situation, we would not necessarily assume that they are experiencing an emotion; but if they refer to ‘feeling alone’, we would. Hence, the failure to control the implicit linguistic context in which words are considered may be responsible for terms such as ‘alone’ sometimes being rated by subjects as emotions”.9 Clore and Ortony claim that “‘being neglected’ does not satisfy the requirements of an emotion on any count [because] it does not necessarily involve a mental state” (374). ‘Feeling neglected’ on the other hand, does communicate an emotional reaction. The authors also designate so-called “nonemotion terms” like “abandoned” and “alone”. These terms refer to conditions that, being 8 9
James 1985, 56. Clore & Ortony 1988, 370 (italics mine).
Liquid Grammar, Liquid Style
absolute, are too abstract to produce emotions. Clore and Ortony point out that it is for example impossible to say that a person is “somewhat abandoned” or “somewhat alone” (377) because “somewhat” relates to a concrete situation incompatible with abstract signifiers. Even though “feeling neglected” does transmit an emotion, the emotion is present in the form of a linguistically objectified state of emotion. However, this is not the only way that emotions can be transmitted in language. Look at the sentence “Lovely Water–You Are Free”, an advertisement by a Chinese water supplier. “You are free” is obviously an emotional idiom–understandable to many Chinese persons–that expresses something positive in the most general sense. The same can be said about the names of Chinese restaurants, which are “Promising Restaurant” or “Wishingfood”, about a Japanese hair salon which advertises “Fresh Hair” or tissues that are sold with the slogan: “Living Tissues: Scent of a Woman”. This does not mean in a concrete sense that this water makes you free, that this restaurant promises something, etc. The idea is rather that this water or this restaurant gives you a general positive feeling that EA English attempts to capture with the expression “you are free” or “promising”. However, the connection between a word and such a remarkable abstract generality can be attained only because these expressions are immediately drafted in EA English. Notably, these expressions are nonsensical in both English and Chinese/Japanese.
10. The Power to Amaze Yourself All this explains why EA English remains resistant to conventional linguistic analysis. If you want to compare, for example, the semantic difference between the English word ‘anger’ and the German word ‘Wut’ you will set out to evaluate the cultural context within which these words are embedded. You will then notice that within the German context there are also other words, like ‘Angst’ and ‘Zorn,’ all of which will help you to evaluate the meaning of ‘Wut’. Taking it a step further, the ethno-linguists will try to adopt a “German perspective” on these culture specific words. How can this work with a language whose Western context is imagined and whose Eastern existence is inscribed in an equally imagined cultural universe? How can this work with a virtual language which expresses a dream (or which is a dream) of Western culture that is floating and fluid and only loosely held together by an Anglo-Saxon linguistic Über-ich?
11. What Gets You Noticed Now? Often it might seem ironic but–beware–it is not. It’s all dead serious. The Japanese Romantics tried to introduce irony to the Japanese in the 1920s, at the time when the Pan-Asian movement was thriving. They did not have much success and it is clear why. People who use irony are convinced that there are contradictions that have to be overcome through irony. The aim of German Romantic dialectics had been to sublate contradictions within aesthetics. EA English, as the colonial-anti-colonial paradox that it is, does not need to be resolved through any form of dialectics because it is already a purely aesthetical phenomenon.10 What is at work is not the dialectical combination of several real realities but a superposition of several aesthetic realities. This is a technique that is current in the aesthetics of dreams.11
12. The Technique of Getting Stoned is the Trick of Marihuana EA English is not real if real means “present”, “strict”, human, and “necessary”. EA English words are not “strong” (“strong” enough, for example, to teach a child the correct use of English) because EA English itself is not a matter of Being but of imagination: from the outset EA English was not supposed to be “real English” but what people imagine English to be. The words in magazines, pictorial as they are, ask to be entered like one enters a dream or an immersive Virtual Reality. The words and sentences are silent and mysterious and the opposite of concrete: they have the fleeting character of words overheard on television or of words written by a talented computer which has language but no 10
Did you ever hear a Japanese say “soooo desu ka?” This is neither affirmative nor negative nor the ironical synthesis of both. It is simply aesthetic. 11 There is at least one striking difference between Japanese and Chinese EA English. While in Japanese magazines a considerable proportion of the words is represented by the expressions “happy”, “pleasure”, “fun”, and “fantastic”, in Chinese magazines, among the words most employed are “luxury” and “enjoy”. In men’s magazines, the titles are strikingly authoritarian which might be a due to Chinese authoritarianism or simply a hangover from communist times though it also projects masculinity, a type of masculinity that is rarely found in Japan. Her, in Chinese magazines, the authors clearly state what one is supposed to do in the emerging capitalist world. Still, the dreamlike effect of EA English prevails: “Well Dressed Men Have Nice Shoes”; “Eight Key Words to Text Your Understanding of Luxury”; “Skirts or Trousers for Everyday Beauty”; “We Invented Casual”.
Liquid Grammar, Liquid Style
thought processes. They also resemble the language of e-mails because they have neither the presence of spoken speech nor the documentary commitment of traditional letters. Another reason why EA English appears like a dream language is that it is often slightly out of context. As English fragments lacking a cultural frame, these elements stand out in any East-Asian environment. The words are there in front of our eyes, but we do not immediately recognize where they came from. It is as though they are spat out by a madman who does not really expect to be understood, who just says what he says, letting us more or less guess if he really means it. It is this disconnectedness which seems to make EA English fascinating for EA-readers. Often the words are there as if they had sprung out of the deepest layers of somebody’s linguistic consciousness, layers in which words are not primarily items to be used in real life but rather intimate companions of our ruminating childlike fantasy. These words and sentences might have no sense in the real world but somewhere they certainly mean a lot to someone. If a native English speaker spits out these words, so we believe, the result must be amazing. Though these cherished words are only fragments, they are original and emotionally charged. Is this not exactly the way that we–the non-native English speakers–would like to speak English? We know very well that we cannot learn such an English by attending a language school. We’d rather watch as many American films as we can and listen to pop-songs. Then, perhaps, one day, we will be able to play the linguistic air-guitar so virtuously, tenderly and powerfully that we look just like our idol: the English-speaking Westerner. EA English is the fulfillment of a dream.
13. Heartful Quality These stylish, self-contained and fluent expressions are also like a virtual world. EA English has never had the intention of bringing Asians into a meaningful relationship with concrete objects. From the beginning the EA English world has not been about concrete objects with names and properties but about style. The modern world is not really an environment made of things but a stylish universe. EA English captures this selfcontained modern universe in which style can be so pure because it is unrelated to any concrete Western (or Eastern) reality. EA English is exclusively based on the experience of a non-objectified quantity of “something Western” or, in other words,
Chapter Three It’s the realization of my aspiration I hope to play along with the heartiest gadgetry manifesting my sensibility. So I cannot help being particular about the every surrounding.
13.1. Born to be Chicken Do you know baby talk? It’s the language with which we colonize our children. Children would never invent expressions like pee-pee or bowwow. Contrary to what many people think, we do not learn this language from our children but from other parents. Another word for baby talk is Pidgin. Pidgin is concrete and material (it combines existing codes), and it contains lexical borrowings of real words that will be used in a new real context. Pidgin is objective, matterof-fact and related to trade and technology and is not complicated (having only a few hundred words). Of all non-native-speakers languages, EA English is the most opposed to Pidgin-English. EA English is a high standard language that is rich, imaginative, and creative. It transmits emotion something that baby talk or Pidgin is unable to do (or did you ever hear somebody say “lovy-lovy” to his children)? In this sense, though some people might find it paradoxical, EA English counts among the most successful attempts to overcome colonization.
13.2. An Excursion to the Chinese Suburbs: Charming Prunk There was a time when style was more or less concrete. Even during the structuralist era style could appear as a kind of grammar or structure embedded in a reliable social context. Style was “something” and not just a chimera, it was so “hard” that it could even be cut into two halves that were called the “higher” and “lower” social spheres, good style and bad style, etc. Developed in Europe by class-conscious designers, it might come as a surprise that the notion of style would one day conquer the world. But actually it did: Today, former Chinese peasants who have become recently rich not only buy Maseratis but also read Vogue. The Eiffel Tower is a symbol of Western structural concreteness. Surprisingly, today you find an Eiffel Tower on almost every roof of onefamily houses of the suburbs of Eastern Chinese cities. Though these towers do also function as antennas they are also designed to convey social prestige to its owners. Rich people have very high Eiffel Towers (while poor people do not even have homes).
Liquid Grammar, Liquid Style
Compared to this, Disneyland is solid stuff since its still recognizable codes have been smoothly transferred from the adult world to the world of children. Disneyland is baby talk in architecture: concrete and understandable for everybody, it is a real world made of architectural Pidgin. But what fantasy of liquid forms can have inspired an Eiffel Tower on a family home?
14. Colorful as my Will Deleuze’s and Guattari’s division of human language into vernacular language (here), referential language (there), vehicular language (everywhere), and mythical language (beyond) leads our analysis of EA English to original conclusions.11 EA English is not a referential language that has been vernacularized (that is, transferred from there to here) but a vehicular language that has been mythicized (that is, transferred from everywhere to beyond). Not being based on vernacular (childlike) linguistic structures, but at the same time consistently refusing the (adult) world of referential English, EA English remains grounded in an adventurous cultural nothingness on which it can do only one thing: turn into a ritual combination of the vehicular and the mythical (that is, becoming a kind of “everywherebeyond”). The ritual is opposed to both the vernacular and the referential and EA English ritually combines the “everywhere” and the “beyond” in order to become the “myth of the vehicular”. Thus, EA English does not resemble baby talk but rather the subtlest kind of teenage talk: in EA English half-intellectualized emotions, selfcontained in immature fantasies, lead an ever-liquid existence. Here everything is ritualized and everything is purely aesthetic. Being without formal vernacular roots and referring to nothing, EA English is a little like what teenagers do when they belt out English-sounding words while singing in the shower. Also this is a ritual and purely aesthetic. Paradoxically, it is not in spite of its fluidity, but because of it, that EA English can so easily be integrated into our lives. The aesthetic world of EA English is not the “hard” kind of artistic style that those artists who were engaged in idealistic projects like the Arts and Crafts Movement or Pop Art tried to introduce almost violently into life and society. On the contrary, the vaguely palpable quantity of EA English contains no real life: it is a liquid style that cannot be seen and hardly be felt but only overlooked.
15. Let’s Fighting Love The aforementioned constellation of the referential and the mythical makes clear that within this linguistic universe it is impossible to experience one thing: sex. Sexual vocabulary is always vernacular, or at least referential; sex cannot be mythical or vehicular; and this is why in EA English we look in vain for vulgar vocabulary. Involuntary slips that make an erection out of an election cannot be counted and are not even interesting from a Freudian perspective. The sexual neutrality of EA English is, of course, no coincidence. After all, EA English is still fed by its Pan-Asian history. In the past, Asia not only refused to be colonized through Pidgin. It also had to fight century-old western attempts to feminize the Orient. For the Westerner, as said Edward Said, Asia was “silent”, “penetrable”, and “malleable”.12 The Orient was a predominantly feminine continent imagined by male fantasy.13 It is clear that the new Pan-Asian language needed to be ungendered, and the sexlessness of the language of the new Pan-Asian fantasy has been attained by shifting its existence away from Freudian (vernacularreferential) symbolism towards the vehicular-mythical domain of pure aesthetics.
16. Pure Sandwiches for Now People The most remarkable fact about EA English is perhaps that it does not offend anybody. This is the reason why it can enter our lives faster and faster as its producers copy each other over the internet. In the end, perhaps, an immense heap of misunderstood sentences from some other part of the world will create a virtual network of global nonsense. Sexless, silent and liquid, EA English glorious exalted aesthetics of living unexampled elegance and talent of Century penetrates the body of late capitalist reality. Each style breaks away from oneself and enjoys high reputation and dimless sophistication of life on top.
Deleuze & Guattari 1975, 43ff. The scheme vernacular-referential-vehicularmythical was first explored by Henri Gobard. 13 Said 1978, 207.
Liquid Grammar, Liquid Style
References Benjamin, Walter. 1983. Werke ed. by Rolf Tiedemann. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp. Botz-Bornstein, Thorsten. 2008. Space in Russia and Japan: A Comparative Philosophical Study. Lanham: Lexington Rowman & Littlefield. Clore, Gerald L. and Andrew Ortony. 1988. “The Semantics of the Affective Lexicon” in Vernon Hamilton, Gordon H. Brower & Nico H. Frijda (eds.) Cognitive Perspectives on Emotion and Motivation. Dordrecht: Nato Asi Serie, Kluwer. Deleuze, Gilles & Félix Guattari. 1975. Kafka. Pour une littérature mineure. Paris: Minuit. Hjorth, Larissa. 2005. “Odors of Mobility: Mobile Phones and Japanese Cute Culture in the Asia Pacific” in Journal of Intercultural Studies 26: 1-2, 39-55. James, William. 1985. The Varieties of Religious Experience. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press. Jameson, Frederic. 1986. “Third-World Literature in the Era of Multinational Capitalism” in Social Text 15. Kang, Sangjung. 2005. “The Imaginary Geography of a Nation and Denationalized Narrative” in Richard Calichman (ed.): Contemporary Japanese Thought. New York: Columbia University Press. Miller, Roy Andrew. 1982. Japan’s Modern Myth. New York: Weatherhill. Roeper, Thomas. 1988. “Formal and Substantive Features of Language Acquisition: Reflections on the Subset Principle and Parametric Variation” in Stephen Schiffer & Susan Steele (eds.): Cognition and Representation. Westview, Boulder. Said. Edward. 1978. Orientalism. New York: George Borchardt.
CHAPTER FOUR GLOBAL SHAKESPEARE PIERS MICHAEL SMITH
‘Global Shakespeare’ can refer to a narrowly chauvinistic cult, dating from the nineteenth century and still alive and kicking today, in which Shakespeare stands alongside the British Council and Manchester United as a rallying-sign of English and Englishness.1 It can also refer to grander, more rootless spaces of international Shakespeare production, in which English and Englishness have become non-speaking parts or have been displaced altogether. Recent critical approaches to Shakespeare often have a postcolonial, historiographic or textual focus. In each case, there is a tendency to contextualize Shakespeare and his works as English or British or Western or Elizabetho-Jacobean or Tudor and Stuart, and to unpack linguistic items in, say, a sixteenth century Boar’s Head tavern or to pursue intertextual resonances across a silver sea and through a sceptered isle on the one hand, or to emphasize race/class/gender issues within the same geographic markers on the other. Where the textualists may confine themselves to bar tabs and verbal anomalies, the postcolonial critics address themselves to the political implications of the self/other dyad and cultural difference. If a Shakespeare play is produced outside that well-trodden circuit, the work becomes multi- or inter- or trans-or cross-cultural where the unchanging root term in those formulations (cultural) signifies not some diffuse, agreeably ecumenical plurality but, ultimately, the same dominant cultural centre that produced the author and his works in the first place. We can take a less circular, less conventional route; we can swerve off, crashing
See Robert J. C. Young, The Idea of English Ethnicity for an elucidation of the global Shakespeare cult. Young identifies one beginning in William Ruskin’s 1847 claim that Shakespeare is ‘a real, marketable, tangibly useful possession’ (2008, 227).
through the privet hedges; we can stick a finger up at tradition and canonical readings while gesturing towards a global generic. Referring to ‘articulatory spaces,’ which are zones of contact performers, auditors, readers, speakers and people everywhere have with Shakespeare at any level of experience, the performance theorist and Shakespeare scholar Bryan Reynolds uses the term ‘Shakespace’—a term that ‘encompasses the plurality of Shakespeare-related articulatory spaces and the time, speed, and force at which they transmit and replicate, like memes, through places, cultures, and eras’ (6-7). This approach has the virtue of releasing Shakespeare or Hamlet or Othello or Caliban from the cellarage, and letting him wander off, over rivers and mountain ranges, through swamps and jungles, slums and penthouses, into other cultures, times, languages, souks, barrios and malls without always being answerable to the police or an Immigration officer. Obviously, there are problems with such so-called transversal poetics, particularly in its seeming indifference to historical contexts and its implausible air of freedom.2 I’ll be a little more circumspect in what follows, though not always. While exploring one or two of Reynolds’ articulatory spaces, I will make Shake-scene, rather than Shakespace, the catchword of the moment in order to sound a jarring, faintly rebellious note amid the sensurround consonance of academic discourse. Let me explain: In 1592, fifteen days after the writer Robert Greene died, a pamphlet was published now mostly referred to as Greene’s Groatsworth of Wit in which a player is castigated as ‘an upstart crow, beautified with our feathers’ who can ‘bombast out a blanke verse as the best’ and who, with his ‘tyger’s hart rapt in a Player’s hyde,’ conceitedly imagines himself ‘the onely Shakes-scene’ (Greene) in the country. The plural possessive in ‘our feathers’ alludes to the plumage of the University Wits of that time—men of the first degree, like Greene and his friends, whose metrical and dramaturgical authority had been acquired properly at university, not by pacing the boards of playhouses, or picking crow-like through the leavings of others. The ‘Player’ of this 2
Transversal theory concerns subjectivity, alterity, performance and social change. Bryan Reynolds coins the term ‘transversal poetics’ for the cross-disciplinary application of the theory, its ‘investigative-expansive mode’ of analysis, and related aesthetics. With transversal poetics, Reynolds ‘has sought to resolve or expand on aspects of other critical methodologies and philosophies, from seventeenth -century absolutism and dualism to twentieth-century reductionism and poststructuralism, in an effort to create an approach to critical inquiry, sociohistorical investigation, and pedagogy that is conscientious, adaptable, collaborative, and fun’ (uc-ipc).
Groatsworth is, most scholars would agree, none other than William Shakespeare,3 who had transgressed boundaries of schooling and sumptuary laws not only by doing what the Wits had done but by doing it so much better, acting, writing the Henry VI plays and Richard III and also establishing himself as a poet fully equal to Sir Philip Sidney or Sir Walter Ralegh, without being able to name a wolfish earl amongst his ancestors, or going to a university. His work was shaking the Elizabethan scene, big time, making others jealous and unforgiving. That original dynamic—of the preposterous and presumptive, of upstart crowing, bombast and strutting one’s stuff in other people’s finery—is what I want you to keep in the back of your mind. When Ben Jonson characterized William Shakespeare as not of an age but for all time,4 perhaps he knew that he wasn’t so much eulogizing a friend or fellow poet as describing one of the functional properties of an author—that of the writing subject that transcends time and place.5 Jonson’s ‘Shakespeare,’ who has survived from the seventeenth century to the present day virtually intact, eluding even the wrecking-ball of cultural criticism, looks down upon us all now, faintly quizzical and aloof, forever retreating behind the several doubtful portraits and the distracting impact of his language. If as Michel Foucault says, the author-function is ‘located in the breach,’ among the ‘discontinuities’ that ‘give rise to new groups of discourse and their singular modes of existence’ (105-108) then this Shakespeare presides over a host of singular discourses, and a veritable global Shake-scenery. ‘Shakespeare’ does not only refer to a man from Stratford, or Oxford, or London, though questions of who William Shakespeare was (questions which occasion considerable debate, much like the ones that ask who was behind the killing of JFK, or that claim that global warming is a hoax designed to soften up the global population for higher taxation and greater 3
The phrase ‘tyger’s hart rapt in a Player’s hyde’ alludes to a line in Henry VI, part 3, where York apostrophizes Queen Margaret: ‘O tiger’s heart wrapp’d in a woman’s hide! (I, iv, 132). In the sixteenth century, a tiger was associated less with courage and ferocity than with deceit. Greene is abusing Shakespeare for his perceived trickery and thefts. 4 The line ‘He was not of an age, but for all time!’ comes from Jonson’s ‘To the memory of my beloved, The Author Mr William Shakespeare and what he hath left us,’ from the First Folio edition of Shakespeare’s works (1623). 5 Michel Foucault’s essay displaces critical attention from the author onto the function, onto the meanings associated with the name, as in ‘Shakespearean’ or ‘Foucauldian,’ rather than leaves it resting forlornly on the frail shoulders of a crumbling biographical relic.
authoritarian control, or that argue that lizard-people run the world) are indeed a subset of the Foucauldian paradigm. The name also refers to a plethora of book, theater and film publications, paintings and song, academic fields, courses in humanities’ programs, a style (Shakespearean), TV programs, libraries (Folger Shakespeare) and book editions (Variorum, Arden), video games, merchandise (posters, t-shirts, dolls, costumes, keyrings, fridge magnets, fishing tackle, military communications hardware, a type of beer and a brand of soap) and a theatrical tourist industry. Even as I write,6 the fruit-machine dials are spinning at the globetoglobe shakespearesglobe.com website, where punters can book seats at a reading of the sonnets in the Aboriginal Noongar language, or Venus and Adonis in Yoruba or a performance of Romeo and Juliet in Mandarin Chinese, all within the circular walls of the Globe Theatre, London.7 It seems no accident that they can then go on to attend the Olympic Games in Stratford (a stone’s throw away in the London borough of Newham), contributing even more substantially to the British economy and standing in the world. Brand Shakespeare is up there with Brand Beckham. The space this Shakespeare inhabits is just as geographically vast as the spaces occupied by celebrities of sports and the media, forever expanding as the dials spin and the tills ring and whirr, no longer confined to the Anglophone world or the US/UK axis, driven as much by market indicators as the ideological bell-wether of the global Shakespeare cult. While many Shakespaces celebrate a location, a culture, and a history, like the globetoglobe website, others provide the setting for critique of a home-setting or a cultural adventure, Shake-sceneries way beyond the bounds of global geo-political decency. In an effort to explore these spaces, I will examine three occasions, snatched out of the near continuous traffick of ‘Shakespeare’ since Jonson’s ringing endorsement: first, Will in the World, Stephen Greenblatt’s best-selling 2004 book; second Hamlet as produced and performed in Bangkok in 2007; and third Sulaiman al-Bassam’s versions of Hamlet between 2002-2004, Richard III in 2009 and Twelfth Night in 2012.
April, 2012 The globetoglobe.shakespearesglobe.com website is or was a mouthpiece for the Globe to Globe part of the World Shakespeare Festival 2012, which in turn is or was part of the government funded London Festival, 2012. ‘Globe’ and ‘World’ in these formulations are euphemistic: the Festival took place in London 2012, and was timed to coincide with the London Olympics and the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. 7
Will in the World Greenblatt’s Will in the World is not a biography in the usual sense of that word; it is not drawn from irrefutable data, for, as Greenblatt is at pains to point out, there aren’t any. It is an imaginative reconstruction of Shakespeare’s life, aiming to put flesh on the bones of the Stratford man’s life, using the few documented facts and contemporary comment to tell a compelling and occasionally persuasive story of how the son of an illiterate glove-maker could become the ‘greatest playwright not of his age but of all time’ (11). Given the scarcity of data, the invitation to ‘let us imagine’ that introduces most chapters and almost all the narrative set-pieces is not egregious, even if it does sometimes sound like the prelude to a bedtime story, but it can be incredible. One such chapter, for example, asks us to imagine an encounter between the youthful Shakespeare and the fugitive Jesuit Edmund Campion, which encounter is suggested by nothing more conclusive than a similarity in names between the man from Stratford and another man called Shakestaff who had not even met Campion but had been somewhere in the vicinity of the great man at the time and place mentioned. Greenblatt seems to want to give substance to Shakespeare’s rumored Catholicism, as much as to fill in another piece in the puzzle of that 400 year-old life.8 Another chapter sets up an encounter with the acerbic Robert Greene of the Groatsworth, who, Greenblatt keenly speculates, would go on to model for Falstaff by virtue of his charm, scurrility and girth. The death of Shakespeare’s only son Hamnet is made to resonate with the psychological operatics of Hamlet (the son Hamlet mourning the father mourning the son Hamnet, as the mother diverts herself with the uncle), while Shakespeare’s own attitudes to women are symptomatized not only by the heartless Gertrude but also by the sweaty and carnal Venus of Venus and Adonis, the precocious Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, and the profoundly psychotic Lady Macbeth—leaving the reader uneasy about what sort of woman Ann Hathaway was. In conjuring up this quasibiography, Greenblatt draws on his scholarly knowledge of Elizabethan England, transmuting available fact and context (or as he might have called it, in his earlier less populist incarnation, co-text), in the alembic 8
Shakespeare’s mother was Catholic, his father may have espoused the faith and hidden away the evidence in an attic, and Catholics like Friar Lawrence in Romeo and Juliet are generally treated well in the plays. If this is fictionalized biography then Greenblatt’s yardstick seems to be Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Coincidentally, he seems to have based his analysis of Hamlet on Stephen Dedalus’ theory in Ulysses.
of effective story-telling to distill the intoxicating liquor of exactly how and why Shakespeare straddles the world’s stage today as he does: not of his age but of all time. Greenblatt’s echo of Jonson’s wordplay indicates the surprising and often contradictory ideological underpinnings of the book. In mining the historical context, the book places Shakespeare in a world which is both Elizabethan and timeless and universal. At the same time as it paints a gritty picture of sixteenth-century English life, in and outside London, Greenblatt’s reconstruction effortlessly restores Shakespeare to his latenineteenth century Golden Treasury status as messiahnic centerfold to the book of literature that we now know as the canon, which probably tells us why his book was so successful.9 Greenblatt’s Shakespeare is the ideal Western Occidental Gentleman, if I may be allowed a vulgar Shake-scenic pun—liberal, humanistic, worldly, possessor, as Greenblatt says, of a ‘double-consciousness,’ capable of sympathizing with the despised Jews of the time ‘(When you prick us, do we not bleed?’), even as he condemns Shylock for his debt-collecting techniques. The term ‘double consciousness’ is taken over directly from W. E. B. Dubois, without comment or any sense that this treatment of his great white bard of Avon’s consciousness might be incompatible with Dubois’ understanding of the self-perception of his American Negro.10 Significantly, given the appropriation of Dubois’ term and Greenblatt’s sensitivity to race issues, Shakespeare’s representations of Othello, Cleopatra and Aaron are missing from the book’s analyses of the tragedies. Instead, Greenblatt seems intent on creating a non-threatening unproblematic master of human psychology, whom he places alongside two other populist male writers Charles Dickens and Mark Twain to create a kind of man-in-the-street’s literary trinity. Will in the World is Universal Man: he straddles cultures and times, speaking to all and sundry with majestic indifference. This view flatters and reassures the unreconstructed metropolitan reader: it is populist, ordinary and thoroughly boring. It rocks no one’s boat but everyone’s world. Greenblatt made a fortune out of it. But this Shakespace of Greenblatt’s has competitors, even in the US. Its glorious summer is shadowed by several gloomy winters of discontent, Shake-sceneries that chill its ambient glow. The Shakespeare scholar and New Media theorist Richard Burt, for example, describes ‘an American ambivalent postcolonial identification with British colonial culture, at once foreign and native, especially prevalent in Hollywood action films,’ where 9
It was on the New York Times best-seller list for 9 weeks. The notion of ‘double-consciousness’ comes from The Souls of Black Folk (1903). 10
Shakespeare is perceived as ‘a figure both of a revolutionary break with Britain and of a pre-Revolutionary identification with it’ (130). For Burt’s Americans, Shakespeare is an icon that simultaneously needs to be destroyed and worshipped, cast out and absorbed (130)—which perhaps explains why symbols for Shakespeare theatres, companies and festivals can darken a map of the USA like a pox or tattoo11 while, at the same time, so many of the sites and organs devoted to unmasking William Shakespeare are US-based.12 Anglophone Canada, too, is ambivalent in its identification with British Shakespearean culture, an ambivalence complicated by the nation’s relationship to the United States (Ormsby 19). Shakespeare and the British high culture he represents have often been used to conceptualize and manage the effect of American popular culture on Canada; one powerful nationalist narrative about the development of post-war Anglophone Canadian theatre turns on the idea of a third space, a sort of border zone that exists between Shakespeare and the United States (19). This space (or this Shakespace), the Canadian critic and theatre historian Don Rubin argues, can be used to redirect the powerful cultural influences coming from the US, even freeing Canadian creative effort from its fly-like entrapment in the amber of US cultural hegemony (7). For this to work, Shakespeare has to be Canadianized, and his origins (along with Canada’s colonial past) expunged (7). As practice, this idea can move from defensiveness—the Canadian Shakespace as the McLuhanesque antienvironment of the US environment (that serves to make the latter fully comprehensible to the rest of the world)13—to aggressively indifferent Shakesceneries everywhere else. Indeed, Shakespaces of this type can be found all over the globe these days, though without such explicit anti-colonial trappings. In Asia and the Arab world, they swarm and disperse, acquiring their own Shake-sceneries and local intensities; they may test genre limits or personal range, attract 11
See One might also note that most of today’s better known Shakespeare scholars come from the USA: these include Stephen Booth, James Shapiro, Marjorie Garber, Harold Bloom, Gary Taylor, Bryan Reynolds and Stephen Greenblatt himself. 13 Marshall McLuhan makes Canadian exceptionalism key to understanding globalized existence: ‘Since the United States has become a world environment, Canada has become the anti-environment that renders the United States more acceptable and intelligible to many small countries of the world; anti-environments are indispensable for making an environment understandable’ (quoted in Ormsby, 19). 12
local audiences, evade the censor for their own political, social or aesthetic purposes, and gain international notice and funding; and by the strength of their bombast and the blithe energy of their presumption, their tyger’s hart rapt in a player’s hyde, they can twist, wrench apart, and stuff Shakespeare back together again, transforming the name and the work.
‘When I Slept Over the Night of the Revolution’ In 2007, the Bangkok based Naked Masks Group produced a version of Hamlet called ‘When I Slept Over the Night of the Revolution.’ The play was part of a year-long project that included versions of The Merchant of Venice, Twelfth Night and King Lear. Referring to this, the theatre and performance arts critic Kathy Foley suggests that new monied and educated middle and upper classes, influenced by Australian and US theatre (the latter-day standard-bearers of Shakespeare in the East) have been instrumental in turning Shakespeare into a Southeast Asian cultural item (13). But that is where any resemblance to the Shakespeare of Western Shakespaces ends. The Bangkok Hamlet was in Thai, with little surviving of the original script or much English at all. The Thai-language version was, however, interspersed with Beatles songs, sometimes sung by Hamlet himself, without any explanation or self-evident dramatic logic. Foley who saw one performance was mystified: In a tiny gallery space an actor dressed in a local high school uniform portrayed a student preparing for his English literature exam on Hamlet on the night of 19 September 2006, the day when the government of Thaksin Shinawatra, the Thai billionaire prime minister, was overthrown by a military coup. The yawning student took a break from the studying to pick out the Beatles tune “Imagine” [sic] on a keyboard. Soon he was joined by his dream—a pancake-white Hamlet who filled in the chords but changed the tune. Then Hamlet’s “Hey, Jude, don’t make it sad” morphed into a hurdy-gurdy banging, loud enough to wake the dead: Something was rotten in Denmark. The whole cast poured into the playing space in a jerky, nightmare dance of death. I watched in fascination segues between Beatles pop-dreams and Shakespearean scenes—Ophelia was assured by Polonius, “He loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah” (10)
Another spectator was also bemused, and also enraptured. In her blog, she writes: ‘I don’t understand the political subtext … The story of this play happened during the night of the military coup in Thailand last year, but I’m not quite sure how the story of HAMLET is connected to the story of the Thai coup d’etat. Though I don’t think I really understand this play, I still tremendously enjoy it. I think this is one of the strangest
Shakespeare’s [sic] adaptations I have ever seen’ (celinejulie). The blogger was particularly enchanted by the scene where the student and Hamlet switch roles, though she couldn’t say why. I’ll venture an explanation. Foley’s and the blogger’s uncertainties reflect, and reflect upon, Hamlet’s indecisiveness and the sorts of confusion, contrariety and identity issues that trouble anyone with access to literature or the Internet, not just the young. The director Ninat Boonphothong claimed that the play was right for the times and that it spoke directly to the immediate political concerns of Thailand; it was a call to disaffected Thai youth to engage (Foley 10). From Foley’s conversations with the director, we learn that the Ghost represented Thaksin Shinawatra, and Claudius and Gertrude the Thai army generals who had overthrown him. They were presented sympathetically as parties that did what they did for the good of the country. Foley observes: ‘Thai Hamlets who might be upset by the seeming usurpation of Thai democracy should consider the whole picture before indulging in a Hamlet-like funk’ (10). The mess and redirections (Hamlet doesn’t kill Laertes, and no one dies at the end) are meant to recall the confusions and hesitations of the Thai electorate after the ousting of Thaksin. As for the use of Beatles’ songs, for Boonphothong this was an attempt to tap into the energy of that band’s youth-friendly social criticism (Foley, 10). Finally, the student swaps roles with Hamlet because each is as indecisive and uncertain. The identification is complete. Hamlet is Thai.14
An Arab Shakespeare Trilogy But he is also Kuwaiti. In another Shakespace we have another Shakescene, this time courtesy of Sulayman al-Bassam, the Kuwaiti director and actor, and his collaborators. This space is fluid, evolving, protean, first taking shape in 2001, with an English language production called ‘Hamlet in Kuwait,’ which al-Bassam’s London-based Zaoum Theatre Company brought to Kuwait ten years after the Gulf war as part of Kuwait’s hosting role as Cultural Capital of the Arab World. This production then evolved 14
So is Macbeth. The Thai-language film Shakespeare Must Die (2012) adapted from Macbeth was banned in Thailand for its perceived threat to social and political stability. The shadow of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra still darkens contemporary politics, and the state censors judge that the film with its pervasive red symbolism (the Thaksin-backed red-shirt Phuet Thai colour), use of news footage of Thai political protests, Thaksin’s funding, and themes of greed and power are socially divisive. See BBC News 4 April 2012 .
into two more English language productions, ‘The Arab League Hamlet’ and ‘The Al-Hamlet Summit,’ which finally transformed into ‘The AlHamlet Summit’ in Arabic, as commissioned and co-produced by the 2004 Tokyo Arts Festival. Like the Thai version, the script for each of these productions was written by the producer, only the characters, their relationships and one or two plot features surviving from Shakespeare. The first production aimed to give English-speaking audiences, al-Bassam says with touching optimism, ‘a richer understanding of the Arab world and its people’ and to show how Arab people’s ‘fates are inextricably linked to the West’s’ (Sabab). Later, he would claim his use of Shakespeare was to enable him, under cover of an internationally revered name, to introduce and explore controversial topics in the Arab world (BBC Interview). On a darkened stage, lit only by spotlights, Prince Hamlet seeks to identify a role for himself in a place of disorder and ruin. Polonius, also spot-lit, attired bizarrely like a North American Football mascot, advises him with ludicrous peacock-like shrieks to conform to tradition and Claudius’s wishes. The Ghost moans from hidden speakers. Gertrude offers glum and ineffectual reassurances. Hamlet, it seems, is Kuwaiti youth, ‘disillusioned,’ as the program notes insist, but ever resourceful, misunderstood yet eager to take charge of the country’s reconstitution and development after war. The Ghost is the Gulf War itself, sonic reminder of the wounds that have cut so deep into the Kuwaiti psyche (Sabab). The later productions move the scene away from Kuwait into an unnamed Arab state on the brink of war, rather than in the aftermath. Now the setting is a TV-style conference room and Shakespeare’s characters are delegates seated behind summit-style name-plates and microphones. The back-story is that the dictatorial president of the state has become dependent on arms dealers and US dollars. His attempt to Westernize the country has run up against a politicized Islam from within and an enemy state from without. At the same time, his predecessor’s powerful son is plotting revenge for his father’s death. A new character to the Shakespearean storyline, the anonymous Arms Dealer, enters the scene; he is vociferously and grotesquely propositioned by the delegates at the summit. On the wall behind, meanwhile, there are live feeds and a screen showing George W. Bush using English with his customary restraint. The 2004 Arabic version does not dispense with Shakespearean verbal echoes altogether. In Al-Bassam’s view, it combines ‘aspects of the Arab oral poetry tradition with the rhetoric of modern-day politics’ (Sabab). And yet, the play aims to be global in outlook and impact: ‘it presents a composite of many Arab concerns that affect peoples from the Arabian
Gulf to the Atlantic and beyond’ (Sabab). Utilizing the rhetoric and imagery of arms, petro-dollars, political Islam, Westernization, George W. Bush and dictatorial rule, Al-Bassam’s purpose has moved from the narrowly parochial to the grandly geopolitical, from the returning Kuwaiti’s desire to contribute to his homeland’s recovery after a ruinous war to an impersonal dramatization of the dynamics, events and expectations that have driven the whole of the Arab World since the 1990 Gulf War. This was the first part of what would become Al-Bassam’s ‘Arab Shakespeare trilogy,’ and would be followed by the second and third parts in 2009 and 2012, versions of Richard III and Twelfth Night. ‘Richard III: An Arab Tragedy’ famously caused Bashar Al-Assad to leave the auditorium in the Damascus performance in 2009, a gesture which, even if it exposes how thin the skin of a despot, or his advisors, can be, at least shows that drama does not have to be epic theatre in order to provoke rational self-reflection. It also reveals something of the sensitivities that surround theatrical expression in the Arab world, and the verbal gymnastics dramatists must perform in consequence. Graham Holderness has addressed Al-Bassam’s ‘layering’ technique, which is used for non-Arab performances, particularly for the version of Richard III. Al-Bassam first adapts Shakespeare’s text into modern English with an Arabic twist; this version is translated into Arabic for performance; supertitles convert the Arabic into the primary language of the audience; and the Arabic script is finally turned back into English for the purposes of publication (2). ‘The Speaker’s Progress,’ which uses Twelfth Night as a ‘jewel that refracts … freedom’ (Sabab), started out as a black satire on the previous decade but was rapidly reconfigured by those events in the Arab World that became known as the ‘Arab Spring,’ and what would have been a cry of despair was turned into an expression, necessarily inarticulate, of ‘a new unwritten text’ (Sabab). The play has the Speaker as representative of a repressive regime addressing the audience from a lectern on the nature of seditious literature—represented by Twelfth Night—that he reconstructs for the purposes of public deconstruction and denunciation. However, the actors become drawn into the performance, fluffing their party-lines, returning to the spirit of the piece, engaging with one another, scoffing at the Malvolio character (who in an elegantly ironic echo turns into a spokesperson for the state’s religious orthodoxy) and asserting a new kind of dramatic community over and against that of the state. It is the Speaker and his task that is finally and irrevocably deconstructed and denounced. The audience enjoys the joke, and becomes complicit with this mode of dissent. The applause at the end has an unexpected edge.
What of Shakespeare in all this? Global Shakespeare has very little to do with William of Stratford or Will in the World, and even less to do with the English and the London Shakespeare Festival. Indeed, al-Bassam describes Shakespeare as little more than an alibi for the presentation of covert or public political theatre. He even (jokingly) elides the name altogether, making use of a well-known tradition of comic appropriation, in which Shakespeare becomes Shaikh al Zubayr, an imaginary Iraqi playwright of antiquity whose work the nefarious British had purloined along with the Rosetta stone. But the appropriation is fond rather than foolish: Shayk al Zubayr is the ‘perfect bedmate, co-conspirator and alibi’ (‘Shaykh al Zubayr’). He enables joyous utterance where before there had only been enforced silence. Al-Bassam argues that his work makes of use of Shakespeare, or Shaykh al Zubayr, in order to evade state censorship: because Shakespearean texts are ‘old, established, and revered pieces of High Art that carry [with] them,’ wherever they go, ‘the stamp of global accreditation, of a global institution, of a global industry, the radical theatre maker has, vis-à-vis the censor, not merely a mask but a bullet-proof face’ (‘Shaykh al Zubayr’). Shakespeare and Shaykh al Zubayr give Arab theatre the opportunity to inquire into the concerns of Arabs in the Arab world as well as the concerns of non-Arabs everywhere else, without being silenced or inked out.15 Al-Bassam’s Arab Shakespeare trilogy speaks to Arab and Anglophone audiences indifferently, beyond national borders, addressing each, articulating a glocal16 space for each to traverse without the sentimentalism of an arrival. The English, British or Western Shakespeare, meanwhile, retreats into the cultural white noise of other worlds, other places, other times.
In the Arab world Al-Bassam’s Arabized Shakespeare plays have had to be performed in English, as transparent (i.e. Arabic) productions communicate too widely for the tastes of watchful state censorship. However, a recent production of ‘The Speaker’s Progress’ in Kuwait (May 15, 2012, Al-Shamiya Theatre) was performed in Arabic with English subtitles (projected onto a backcloth). 16 ‘Glocal’ is a term coined by Japanese economists in the late 1980s. It was popularized by the sociologist Roland Robertson who used it to describe the modifying influences of local conditions on global pressures. A much-cited example is the McDonalds restaurant chain’s replacement of its Ronald McDonald mascot in France with Asterix the Gaul. See Wikipedia (June, 2012).
Works Cited Al-Bassam, Sulaiman. ‘Sulayman Al-Bassam Interview by Gabriel Gbadamosi.’ BBC-Radio 3 Night Waves. 9 May 2006. —. ‘Shaykh Al-Zubayr, an alibi for dissent.’ The Guardian. 24 July 2005. Burt, Richard. Unspeakable ShaXXXspeares: Queer Theory and American Kiddie Culture. New York: St. Martin’s, 1988. celinejulie. ‘When I Slept Over the Night of the Revolution.’ Limitless Cinema in Broken English. November 20 2007. 8 June 2012.
Foley, Kathy. ‘Shakespeare-Asian Theatre Fusions: Globe-“alization” of Naked Masks (Bangkok), Shadowlight (San Francisco), and Setagaya Public Theatre (Tokyo).’ Asian Theatre Journal. 28. 1. (Spring 2011): 7-43. Foucault, Michel. ‘What is an Author?’ The Foucault Reader: An Introduction to Foucault’s Thought. Edited by Paul Rabinow. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1991. Greenblatt, Stephen. Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare. New York: W. W. Norton, 2004. Greene, Robert. ‘Greene’s Groatsworth of Wit.’ Renascence Editions. 8 June 2012
Holderness, Graham. European Journal of English Studies 12. 1 (2008): 59-77. Ormsby, Robert. ‘richardthesecond: Adapting Shakespeare to the Local in a Culture of Global Celebrity.’ Modern Drama. 52.1. (Spring 2009): 19-37. Reynolds, Bryan. ‘Transversal Poetics.’ uc-ipc. University of California. 8 June 2012 Rubin, Don. ‘Creeping toward a Culture: The Theatre in English Canada Since 1945.’ Canadian Theatre Review. 1 (Winter, 1974): 6-21. Sabab. Sulayman Al-Bassam Theatre. ‘Index of Works.’ 2004.8 June 2012
Young, Robert J. C. The Idea of English Ethnicity. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2008
CHAPTER FIVE GREAT TEXTS AND LITERARY APPRECIATION: AN ALGERIAN UNIVERSITY EXPERIMENT YASMINA DJAFRI
Introduction The present argument stems from the observation of the inefficiency of Algerian EFL students in coping with literary texts in English. I do, on one hand, join Cook (1991) in his assertion that the study of literary English has rarely been adjusted to the foreign students’ needs. Yet, on the other hand, I am of the opinion that even native learners face difficulties when they engage in the process of reading literary texts. The obstacles met while reading literary texts could be attributed to two levels of confusion. First, the literature in English delivered to Algerian university students is exclusively made up of canonised texts which belong to former centuries and which most of the time appear as either irrelevant or uninteresting to these learners. Second, the argument for the necessity for all kinds of readers to possess a literary competence (Culler, 1975) in order to proceed with the text appropriately seems to impede and restrict Algerian learners’ potential engagement with most texts of literature in English. The presupposition that underlies this investigation then is that the teaching of canonical texts to Algerian university learners prevents them from appreciating these texts and therefore decreases their competence in the literary field. Thus, I propose an empirical experiment which exposes the same population of readers to two short stories, one canonical and the other more contemporary. The objective is to put to the fore some evidence of the necessity to reconsider the position of readers, notably Algerian ones, in relation to literary texts in English and accordingly offer them more autonomy out of the conventions which have for a long time under-utilised their capacities.
This project will progress in the following steps. It will first start with the description of the university context in which literature in English is taught. Second, it will point out the arbitrariness that guides the design and teaching of canonical texts to non-natives. Third, it will attempt to present arguments, along with theoretical foundations, against the absolute necessity to possess literary competence. Finally, it will implement a rereading paradigm devised by Dixon et al. (1993) involving 24 university students who will read two short stories around the same theme.
1- Literature in the Algerian University Degree of English The starting point of this discussion points out the crucial role the institution plays in shaping the status of literature in the university degree of English in the Algerian university. While the level and amount of the non-native literature taught in the university degree of English language in Algeria do not meet the teacher’s expectations, the students’ literary equipment is still regarded as conductive to cultivation of critical thinking skills and aspirations. The role of the literature of a foreign language in fostering foreign language acquisition is unfortunately impeded by a set of truths that goes beyond teachers’ control. Research conducted by Djafri (2009) helped understand three important truths. First, it has been noted that despite the existence of an official syllabus designed by the authority and in which the teacher is asked to teach a particular kind of literary texts, canonical ones most of the time, teachers often manoeuvre to adapt the syllabus according to the particularities of the teaching context. While in this particular frame teachers might be regarded as unproblematic agents of education, helping a more appropriate delivery of the syllabus, they might, on the other hand, seem to compromise the original stated objectives of the degree. Therefore, and here I would join Hall’s view (2000) in wondering about the necessity of imposing a syllabus if this syllabus can be altered or changed in ways not intended by the designer. Indeed, the most striking revelation of the study lies in the fact that a great number of teachers of literature in English have expressed their desire to embark upon the adventure of designing their own syllabi. They seemed optimistic about the promising results that might be obtained by their involvement in shaping the content of the literature courses. More explicitly, they noticed that the disregard of power from the syllabi could be an opportunity to enrich cross-cultural exchange and facilitate their students’ acquisition of knowledge. Yet, they also showed poor understanding concerning their learners’ future professional worries. Finally, these same teachers, who should have acquired an expertise from the observation of their learners’
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worries, refused to involve their students in the formulation of their syllabi. Unfortunately, teachers of literature seem to deliberately perpetuate Freire’s (1972) notion of a ‘bank’ of education, where the traditional status of teacher and learner is maintained. Apparently no room is granted for innovation. The will to perpetuate the dichotomy teacher vs. learner rather than the reconciliation teacher and learner is in itself a canonisation that operates as an obstacle to the genuine transmission of literature in a foreign language. The implications from the above observations seem to point out the necessity to reshape the content of the foreign literature syllabus in the Algerian university degree of English. However, in the meanwhile, teaching literature in English does take the shape of a set of unrelated experiments undertaken here and there as a result of individual teachers’ initiatives and for the purpose of promoting the love of literature in their students.
2- Why Canonical texts? Literary canons are widely read, respected, included in university syllabi and are thought of as indispensable. They are the ones which dominate the history of literature and enjoy power over the new texts which have not become canons yet. However, it goes without saying that comparing one text to another is nonsensical, as there is no acknowledged standard to measure art. One cannot say Austen’s novels are better than Woolf’s novels or vice versa. Yet, it actually happens—consciously or unconsciously, we don’t know! For instance, Shakespeare is never omitted from any syllabus of English studies, for Shakespeare is believed by many to convey universal truths which apply to all ages and nations and even to different cultures! And most surprisingly, canons of the same kinds and for the same reasons are included in Algerian syllabi despite their inaccessibility for Algerian readers of today who consider them obsolete in their use of language, among other oddities. Canons do not exist in English literature only, but they are also common to other literatures in other languages around the world. This leads us to wonder whether such representations of texts are built around the literary qualities inherent in the text or other factors which might not be relevant to literary merit. What is most striking, is that even readers, whatever their literary background, prefer to deal with canonical texts because these texts have gained the fame and prestige of the “people-in-the-culture,” as Shavit discusses: The dominant institution gains the mandate, which has nothing whatsoever to do with ‘poetic justice’ nor with the question of the value of the texts….A
Chapter Five text gains a high status not because it is valuable, but because ….someone has the political-cultural power to grant the text the status they believe it deserves. (1991: 233)
This, in turn, represents a danger in that these texts are pronounced canonical as the result of the views of theorists and critics and even other non-professional practitioners, at a particular moment of time and in a particular place. The canonisation process appears, then, to be the repository of many fields not only literature, leading once more to a lack of literary innocence, which in a university context like Algeria complicates things further.
3- Arguments against literary competence Jonathan Culler coined the term literary competence and argued that a reasonably practised reader would not read a poem, for instance, in the same way a reader lacking that competence would, To read a text as literature is not to make one’s mind a tabula rasa and approach it without preconceptions; one must bring to it an implicit understanding of the operation of literary discourse which tells one what to look for.(1975:115-6)
The concept of literary competence proposed by Culler supports the idea that readers should bring some machinery to process the text and that machinery could not be achieved unless readers are aware of the different existing reading conventions, significant works, theories and forms. One should not forget, however, that even if polysemy, as claimed by many theorists, is the most highly distinguishing feature of literary texts that should not minimise the power of institutionalised discourse on it. In other words, the literary texts’ interpretation has to fit within the literary conventions established by critics and theories. At the same time, however, Luberda’s (1998) support of literary competence does not neglect the ability of readers to read a text or arrive at some meaning out of it. Again, for Luberda, polysemy is the principal challenge for readers and it presents itself regardless of one’s training. He thus holds that literary competence. ….may aid at distinguishing more or less significant meanings and the practice of literary interpretation will provide structure upon which to array these meanings. (1998: 36)
In his distinction between literary and instrumental languages, Luberda attributes the differences primarily to the degree of impact they have on
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readers. In its success to fulfil mere communicative expectations, the instrumental language is processed without affecting readers, whereas the literary language violation of the communicative expectations leads readers to process differently and activate new cognitive mechanisms that would help them reach meaning. Thus, regardless of readers’ literary competence, Luberda seems to support the idea that the literary text exercises power over them. The literary text has the power to make even the inexperienced readers go beyond the surface meaning and proceed to a deeper level of understanding (Luberda: 1998:39, Cook: 1994). Luberda goes further and puts under scrutiny those readers who consider the possibility that language may ‘fail’. In more accessible terms, he seems to point at those readers who, when unable to arrive at a meaning, may conclude that the author has not succeeded in communicating his meaning; a recurrent remark that many readers make when the process of reading has met an obstacle and is therefore necessarily abandoned. Consequently, in his argument against literary competence, Luberda considers the potential effect that a literary text may have on many readers and that may lead them to continue processing the text again and again. Therefore, it is with the assumption that the text’s impact on the reader surpasses any training in the literary field that I am going to conduct an experiment of literary reading on a group of university students of English language.
4- Experimentation 4- A Experiment The present experiment assessed the depth of appreciation of two short stories. The first one was “The Confession” by Guy de Maupassant, one of the canons of French literature. It is classified under the genre crime fiction and is acknowledged in the literary circle as an interesting example of good literature. The experiment tested whether the story is literary using the criteria and measures developed by Dixon et al. (1993). The literariness of the short story was compared to that for a control text that I assumed has less literary value. In this case, I used a story entitled: “Letter from the Understudy” by Kathryn Simmonds, a contemporary creative writer. The story is available online and is not accorded any literary canonical status. The two short stories are superficially similar in that both depict a character’s confession after having committed a crime.
4-b Population and Sample The population of readers I was interested in can be described as skilled readers of English but having little background or systemic exposure to literature or literary criticism. My sample consists of 24 third year students of English from the University of Mostaganem who volunteered for the experiment. As already mentioned, these students were accustomed to extensive literary reading neither in their native language nor in the English language, and the only source of literature they were receiving was the weekly obligatory lecture of foreign literature that is part of the syllabus of English at university level. My assumption was that this sampling procedure would provide information that would be representative enough of the intended target population.
4-c Measurement Procedure/ 1st Stage Participants in the experiment were tested in two separate groups. They were given a handout containing a short preamble about the nature of the study they were participating in and each group was asked to read one of the two short stories each. Subjects were told that they would be asked a number of general evaluative questions about the story they read. Half of the subjects were given “The Confession” (1721 words) to read, while the other half were given “Letter from the Understudy” (1766 words). Both short stories were re-written so that they would have similar length and share nearly a similar structure. After reading the story for the first time, participants were asked a series of 10 questions about the story. The answers required a response on a numerical rating scale (from 1 “strongly disagree” to 6 “strongly agree”). The same battery of questions was asked after the participants read the same short story for the second time. The instruments used were called Post-test (1) and Post-test (2) and included a small part in which the participants were asked to write down their overall impressions of the short stories after their first and second readings. The objective of this experiment was to assess whether there was a slight shift of appreciation between the first and second reading of the same literary text. In the present research, I was primarily concerned with responses to 4 questions concerning the overall appreciation of the short stories. “I find the story interesting,” “I find the story a good example of literature,” “I appreciated the story,” and “I would recommend it to a friend,”. The remaining questions of the Post-tests were considered relevant to the nature of the study, but not directly linked to the assessment of depth of
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appreciation and that is why I concentrated my analysis on the above mentioned four questions. For each question, an index of the general evaluation of the story was compiled by calculating the Grand Mean rate to the four general appreciation questions. The shift of the Grand Mean values from the first to the second reading of “The Confession” and “Letter from the Understudy” by both groups of participants is shown in Figure 1 and Figure 2 respectively. As can be seen, the evaluation of both stories improved from first to second reading. However, “Letter from the Understudy” improved substantially more than “The Confession”, even though initially it was less appreciated. In other words, “Letter from the Understudy” showed more depth of appreciation (0.28) than did “The Confession” (0.54). It is thus assumed that the greater depth of appreciation of “Letter from the Understudy” is due, in part, to the literary effects that emerge on second reading, and that there are few literary effects generated by “The Confession”.
Figure 1: Grand Mean Overall Evaluation of First and Second Reading of The Confession
Figure 2: Grand Mean Overall Evaluation of First and Second Reading of ‘Letter from the Understudy’.
4-d Measurement Procedure/ 2nd Stage The second part of the experiment consisted in asking participants who read the short story “The Confession” twice to replicate the experiment with the short story “Letter from the Understudy” and vice versa. Unfortunately and since the experiment was undertaken by volunteer students, only 10 participants out of the original 24 who started the experiment agreed to carry on with the second part and provide us with explanations of their preferences. The objective of this second part of the experiment was to assess the difference in depth of appreciation of both short stories for the same participant and analyse why and on what grounds one short story was more appreciated than the other. Put differently, I aimed to demonstrate empirically that the nature of the literary texts taught to non native students does not determine their appreciation of them and that these same students are capable of generating an appreciation of texts of literature in a foreign language regardless of their canonicity. The findings reported correspond to the results obtained after having undertaken the second part of experimentation. They show the difference between the first and second reading for both stories for the same participant. Interestingly enough, the means obtained, translated to Figure 3 & 4, actually confirm an improvement from the first to the second reading for each individual participant, except for participant 3 and 5 in their readings of “The Confession”. Once more, the greater depth of
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appreciation was of “Letter from the Understudy” which again confirms the appearance of more emergent literary effects at the second reading (see Figure 5). An index of those literary effects can be obtained by subtracting the depth of appreciation for “The Confession” from that of “Letter from the Understudy”. Thus, in this study, the “literariness” of “Letter from the Understudy” in comparison to “The Confession” was: D.A. Ļ L.F.T.U.
D.A. Ļ T.C. 0,54 - 0,28 = 0,26ĺ “literariness” of L.F.T.U.
Figure 3: Mean Evaluation of first and second reading of The Confession for each participant
Figure 4: Mean Evaluation of first and second reading of Letter from the Understudy for each participant
Figure 5: Grand Mean Overall Evaluation of ‘The Confession’ and ‘Letter from the Understudy’ after First and Second Reading.
4-e Some participants’ Written Protocols Writing down their overall impressions about their first and second readings of both short stories has allowed the researcher to understand the reasons that resulted in the participants’ appreciation of one short story
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over the other. Here is a written protocol sample recorded for participant n°=6. Four written protocols by the same participant are recorded and analysed taking into account the length of the protocol and its content. Participants N°6 The Confession
“It is a good example to motivate people to love life as it is, and not as they want to be. It is a very interesting story that aims to make people satisfied by what they have in their life because if they don’t, they will be jealous. This short story shows the danger of that feeling.”
“I find the story so interesting. It is written with great way that makes it easily understood. It shows the danger of teenagers’ age when they can do anything, they are not wise enough. Sometimes, one little mistake can destroy their whole life. For instance, Marguerite in her 12 years old, fell in love with her sister’s fiancé, then, decided to kill him the way dogs are killed. There were no values, no religion which dictated her what to do. Marguerite killed Henry and thought that when she refused marriage, she was scarifying her life for her sister. This story shows the importance of confessing but it would be better to do it as soon as it is possible. At last, this story emphasises the importance of wisdom in life which makes people love their life as it is not as they want it to be.”
N°6 Letter from the Understudy
“At the first time, I found some difficulties but through the story I became more eager to know the end of it. The vocabulary was somehow difficult, but I could grasp the whole idea. I like the idea the protagonist has followed to confess his crime. I have learned a very essential moral which is that confession is very necessary even if it is too late.”
“to begin with, I adore the theme of the story which is confession even if it is too late. I like the use of the metaphor: “Theatre is my life” and how it is related to theatre. I find that Garvin regrets deeply his crime by stating all the reasons behind his act. I appreciate the structure of the story and how the ideas are ordered. On one hand, I have shared the reaction of Garvin when he felt worried about his future career. On the other hand, this will never make him innocent, but the fact of calling the ambulance shows that he did not want to commit his crime. I like Garvin’s bravery to daresay the truth about his social class and family. At last, I could know the psychological personality of Garvin and how melancholy pervaded his life.”
Table 1. Some Participants’ Written Protocols
5- Results and Discussion The written protocols of the participants helped confirm earlier obtained results, but more importantly they contributed to shedding light on the reasons that led to appreciation. The participants were neither restricted by space nor by time; they were, on the contrary, asked to generate a maximum of words that could translate their overall impressions after the first and second readings. They did not hesitate to produce accurate written productions after their respective readings. The first striking remark has to do with the length of the protocols. As Table 5 shows, first protocols are shorter than the ones produced after the second reading, which could be attributed to the creation of new schema capable of enhancing and improving the process of comprehension, thus making it necessarily longer. (See Figure 6)
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Figure 6: Number of Words of 3 Participants’ Protocols after First and Second Reading
On the other hand, despite the recurrent use of verbs like “appreciate,” “like,” “love,” and even “adore”, which represent interesting evidence of common appreciation of both literary texts, the content of the protocols differed from one participant to another and from one reading to another. The majority of protocols produced after first readings were related to the importance of the clarity of the structure, the organisation of ideas, and most importantly the accessibility of vocabulary. Being non-native readers of foreign language texts of literature justifies, to my sense, the participants’ preoccupations with such elements of the reading process. It is quite inconceivable to aim at a comprehension of a literary text without having understood its structure and vocabulary. Hence, their systemic competence is primarily required to overcome foreign language barriers, and it is only after second readings that participants could appeal to their schematic competence in order to approach the text more easily. For instance, some participants moved beyond the unfolding story, mainly reporting feelings towards the protagonists’ involvement in committing the crime, while others expressed value judgments on their acts and the reasons behind them. Feelings of empathy were very present in the protocols produced after second readings, which again confirms the appearance of new schemata that were not present during their first readings and which helped participants enlarge their scope of understanding and comprehension of the texts. More amazing is the fact that these protocols offered a deep insight about life. Put differently, participants’ comments helped depict them as
sensitive to aspects of life that they consciously or unconsciously ignore. Many participants emphasised the moral that could be deduced from both stories and highlighted the importance of repentance after committing a mistake, a sin, or a crime. Only one participant showed concern with the literary values of the text and linked her appreciation to the continual emerging beauty of literature after many readings. This could probably be attributed to her having better literary equipment than the other participants.
Conclusion The results of this experiment support the conclusion that “Letter from the Understudy” generates more emergent effects than “The Confession”. Presumably, the effects that emerge on second reading contribute to the appreciation of the story, which, in turn, produces an improved summary evaluation of the story. In this sense, “Letter from the Understudy” is more literary than “The Confession” for this population made of non-natives of English language, and this despite its being a non-canonical text of literature. Although this conclusion is not the one expected by specialists of literature, who would have supposed a more substantial appreciation of a literary text written by the great Guy de Maupassant, it is actually the conclusion we, teachers of literature of a foreign expression, face every day with our students. The canonicity of a text written by Guy de Maupassant is not sufficient to justify a better appreciation of it and should not determine curriculum designers in imposing it on non-native students of English. It is not my intention, however, to depict a text like “The Confession” as a text that does not deserve attention; on the contrary, the results obtained confirm an interesting appreciation on the part of the students, yet, these same results show a more interesting appreciation of a text of literature that does not fall within the great known canons. Such a finding should be primarily credited for shedding light on non-canonical texts’ capacity to enhance a re-appreciation of literature in general in the Algerian students of English. Furthermore, initially it was quite inconceivable that our group of readers, who have limited reading skills and comprehension abilities, would appreciate the short stories’ art and style and would show the depth of appreciation we observed in our experiment. Actually, it might be surprising to some scholars that the untrained and unsophisticated readers in our sample were able to appreciate both short stories. The implication from such an empirical finding may lead literature specialists to rethink the assumption about literary competence and the skills acquired through
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literary training especially for our non-native students of English. This by no means suggests that literary training is not necessary for the appreciation of literature, and that the readings of all untrained readers are just as profound and enlightening as those of informed and skilled readers. It does seem, though, that unsophisticated readers are sensitive to intrinsic values of the literary text that surpass any extrinsic impact. A crucial result from our perspective is the demonstration of the use of new methodological tools for investigating literariness and interpretation as devised by Dixon et al. in a sample of Algerian readers of literary texts written in English. Following the instructions of Dixon et al., the experiment helped verify that emergent effects can be measured in a rereading paradigm in which participants are asked for their evaluation after both first and second readings. Moreover, the relative larger change from the first to the second reading obtained in relation to “Letter from the Understudy” suggests that the emergent effects were associated with the literariness of the story. In this sense, the results are consistent with my assumption that literary effects may guide the appreciation of the text regardless of its canonicity or the literary competence of its reader.
Bibliography Culler, Johnathan. Structuralist Poetics: Structuralism, Linguistics and the Study of Literature. Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1975. Cook, Guy. “Texts, Extracts and Stylistic texture” in C.J. Brumfit & R.A. Carter (Eds.) Literature and Language Teaching, (pp. 150-166). Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991. —. Discourse and Literature. Oxford University Press. London, (1994). De Maupassant, Guy. The Confession. Available at : http://www.eastoftheweb.com/short-stories/UBooks/Conf830.shtml, (1884)2010. Dixon, Peter, Bortulussi, Marisa, Twilley, Leslie C., & Leung, Alice. “Literary Processing and Interpretation: Towards Empirical Foundations” in Poetics 22, 5 –33, 1993. Djafri, Yasmina. “Innovation vs. Canonisation: Foreign Literature Content in the Algerian Degree of English” in Revue des Lettres et des Langues, Université de Tlemcen(Algeria), Vol. (19): 54-73, 2012. Friere, Paulo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Penguin Books Ltd, England, (1972)1975. Hall, Graham. Redefining the syllabus: An Investigation Into Whether Syllabuses Can Meet Learners’ Linguistic and Social Needs, 2000, available at:
http://www.ling.lancs.ac.uk/groups/crile/docs/crile45hall.pdf. Luberda, James. Literary Language and Complex Literature. A thesis presented to the department of English in candidacy for the degree of Master of Arts. Northwest Missouri state university. Maryville, Missouri, 1998, available at : http://members.aol.com/jamesL4242/English_1044/luberda_thesis.pdf. Simmonds, Kathryn. Letter from the Understudy, 2007, available at: http://www.eastoftheweb.com/short-stories/UBooks/LettUnde.shtml. Shavit, Zohar. “Canonicity and Literary institutions” in E.Ibsch, D. Schram, & G. Steen (Eds.), Empirical studies of literature: Proceedings of the second IGELConference, Amsterdam 1989 (pp. 231- 238). Amsterdam & Atlanta, GA: Rodopi, 1991.
Great Texts and Literary Appreciation
Post Test(1)* Instruction: Please indicate your opinion about each of the statements below by circling the number that best describes your agreement or disagreement. 1- strongly disagree 2- slightly agree
2- disagree 5- agree
1- I find the story interesting 2- I find the story a good example of literature 3- I find the language of the story accessible 4- I find the structure of the story clear 5- I like the idea of confessing one’s mistake 6- I appreciated the story 7- I would recommend it to a friend 8- I felt pity for the protagonist 9- I have already lived a similar situation 10- I find the protagonist courageous enough for having dared confess their crimes
3- slightly disagree 6- strongly agree 1
1 1 1 1 1 1 1
2 2 2 2 2 2 2
3 3 3 3 3 3 3
4 4 4 4 4 4 4
5 5 5 5 5 5 5
6 6 6 6 6 6 6
Write your comments on the story. ……………………………………………………………………………… ……………………………………………………………………………… ……………………………………………………………………………… ……………………………………………………………………………… ……………………………………………………………………………… ……………………………………………………………………………… ……………………………………………………………………..……...... ………………………………………………………………………………
* To be filled after the first reading.
Post Test(2)* Instruction: Please indicate your opinion about each of the statements below by circling the number that best describes your agreement or disagreement. 1- strongly disagree 2- slightly agree
2- disagree 5- agree
2- I find the story interesting 3- I find the story a good example of literature 4- I find the language of the story accessible 5- I find the structure of the story clear 6- I like the idea of confessing one’s mistake 7- I appreciated the story 8- I would recommend it to a friend 9- I felt pity for the protagonist 10- I have already lived a similar situation 11- I find the protagonist courageous enough for having dared confess their crimes
3- slightly disagree 6- strongly agree 1
Explain in which way you appreciated the short story. ……………………………………………………………………………… ……………………………………………………………………………… ……………………………………………………………………………… ……………………………………………………………………………… ……………………………………………………………………………… ……………………………………………………………………………… ……………………………………………………………………..……...... ………………………………………………………………………………
* To be filled after the first reading.
PART III CASE STUDIES
CHAPTER ONE PETER ACKROYD’S HAWKSMOOR (1985) AND THE CASE OF THE LOST DETECTIVE MARTIN ROSENSTOCK
In 1665, the plague, deadliest scourge of the Dark Ages, visited London for the last time and killed up to one hundred thousand inhabitants; a year later the Great Fire destroyed most of the medieval city. Samuel Pepys entered in his diary on September 7, after the conflagration had ended, that he “saw all the towne burned, and a miserable sight of Paul’s church, with all the roofs fallen, and the body of the quire fallen into St. Fayth’s” (405). With the detachment made possible by three intervening centuries, one might say that these events marked the end of one era and the beginning of another. Six years before, in 1660, a group of RestorationAge luminaries had founded the Royal Society. A ‘memorandum’ opening the Society’s first journal book states that the attendants, after hearing a lecture by Christopher Wren, conversed on the topic of founding “a Colledge for the promoting of Physico-Mathematicall Experimental Learning” (Encyclopedia Britannica 791). The Society put its plan into action, and this new form of learning, embodied most comprehensively by the Society’s member and later president Isaac Newton, made enormous progress from the latter third of the seventeenth century onward. In 1687, Newton published his Principia Mathematica, explaining the motions of the heavens and ushering in what Thomas S. Kuhn has called a ‘paradigm shift’: The impact of Newton’s work upon the normal seventeenth-century tradition of scientific practise provides a striking example of these subtler effects of paradigm shift. Before Newton was born the “new science” of the century had at last succeeded in rejecting Aristotelian and scholastic explanations expressed in terms of the essences of material bodies […]. In an earlier period explanations in terms of occult qualities had been an integral part of productive scientific work. Nevertheless, the seventeenth century’s new commitment to mechanico-corpuscular explanations proved
Peter Ackroyd’s Hawksmoor and the Case of the Lost Detective
immensely fruitful for a number of sciences, ridding them of problems that had defied generally accepted solution and suggesting others to replace them. (104)
Already before Newton there had been progress beyond scholastic models, but this progress had not deposed the existing paradigm; with the ‘new science’ as a basis, Newton pushed scientific inquiry beyond a critical threshold and thus revolutionized the perception of the universe and of the human being’s position in it. In the wake of churches collapsing in a burning medieval city, not only did modern physics claim her position as explicator of natural phenomena, but Western culture was confirmed in its trajectory towards scientific modernity. For over three decades now, Peter Ackroyd has been with near obsession charting the geography and history of the city that in so many ways constituted an epicenter of this transition. London features in the majority of his works, sometimes as backdrop, more often as a shaping force in the lives of the text’s characters, and occasionally as its overt theme, such as in London: The Biography (2000). Via the depiction of the metropolis’s changing face, of the developments in its inhabitants’ beliefs, and of the shifts in the perception of events that molded the city, Ackroyd’s texts achieve parabolic significance. They are commentaries upon Western (intellectual) history and upon the echoes and recastings of past beliefs and notions of the world in contemporary late modernity. In his 1985 novel Hawksmoor, both science and “explanations in terms of occult qualities” as well as the plague and the Great Fire (and a plethora of other discourses, historical events, and literary texts) constitute reference points. The text tells two stories in alternating chapters: one set in London between 1711 and 1715, the other in present-day London. In the earlier narrative, the architect Nicholas Dyer relates how he murders young boys to offer them up as sacrifices in churches that the city of London has commissioned him to erect as beacons of a rational, humane religion; in the later narrative, told by an apparently objective third-person narrator, the detective Nicholas Hawksmoor is baffled by inexplicable murders of boys on the grounds of London churches.1 The text’s first locus in time marks Western humanity’s fitful departure on a quest to explain the world on the basis of rationality and science; the second locus constitutes the point of arrival, at 1 For a discussion of the uncanny aspects of Ackroyd’s depiction of Dyer’s building projects and for an evaluation of how the text conceives of the (contemporary) urban landscape in general, see Alex Link. “‘The Capitol of Darknesse’: Gothic Spatialities in the London of Peter Ackroyd’s Hawksmoor.” Contemporary Literature 45.3 (2004): 516-537.
which reflection sets in and questions arise as to whether the voyage was worthwhile, even whether the direction was the right one. This notion of Western culture coming full circle finds embodiment in the detective Nicholas Hawksmoor, whom a time-transcending doppelgänger-relationship links to the eighteenth-century murderer, Nicholas Dyer, who, in turn, is modeled after the historical architect Nicholas Hawksmoor (1661-1736), a collaborator of Wren’s in rebuilding and expanding London after the fire.2 The detective is in pursuit of himself; in an allegorical sense, Western culture is searching for those of its traits it had to slough off in the process of its modern constitution.3 The Oxford English Dictionary records the first instance of the term ‘detective’ as occurring in an 1843 issue of Chambers’ Edinburgh Journal: “Intelligent men have been recently selected to form a body called the ‘detective police’” (266). Again London was at the forefront of a cultural shift; a year before, the authorities had created the service as a unit within the Metropolitan Police. The tasks of the intelligent men destined to be the first of their kind lay outside of routine police work. Usually, they worked on cases requiring observation and inquiry, that is, the uncovering of evidence; hence, the neologism of their title, from the Latin ‘detegere’, ‘to uncover’. Their establishment within the force was a response to the mobility of criminals in the ever-growing city, which necessitated investigations across police district borders.4 The new profession also reflected legal reforms since the mid to late seventeen hundreds that in turn traced back to changes in the relationship between state and citizen throughout the eighteenth century, with roots reaching as far back as the late sixteenth century.5 Ernst Bloch identified these new standards of judicial practice and their links with the widespread demand for detective work in the modern era: 2
For a discussion of the historical Hawksmoor’s building projects, in particular of their relationship to early Christian thought, see Pierre de la Ruffiniere du Prey. “Hawksmoor’s ‘Basilica After the Primitive Christians’: Architecture and Theology.” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 48.1 (1989): 38-52. 3 This essay focuses on those aspects of Hawksmoor that render it a play on the detective narrative genre. For a wider consideration of the theme of crime in Ackroyd’s works, see Petr Chalupský. “Crime Narratives in Peter Ackroyd’s Historiographic Metafictions.” European Journal of English Studies 14.2 (2010): 121-31. 4 For a history of the early London detective force, see Kate Summerscale. The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher. London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2008. 5 In his essay ‘Of Cannibals’ (1578-80), for instance, Michel de Montaigne compares the torture practices of his home country of France unfavourably to the violence committed by ‘savages’.
Peter Ackroyd’s Hawksmoor and the Case of the Lost Detective
Above all, why does the detailed hunt for evidence appear at such a late date? The reason is that earlier legal procedures did not depend on it. Justice was dealt out in cash, so to speak, whether or not extorted. Because the trial by evidence demanded that evidence be sufficient for both the initial arrest warrant and the trial, criminal investigation arose with the detective in the foreground […]. Prior to the middle of the eighteenth century there were absolutely no evidentiary trials, at least none that were deliberate. Only several eyewitnesses and above all the confession, which was called regina probationis, could sustain a conviction—nothing else. Since it was rare that enough witnesses were available, torture was instituted to elicit the regina probationis […]. The effect was unthinkable atrocity, the worthless extortion of guilt, against which the Enlightenment rebelled for both humane and logical reasons. (246)
From the mid-eighteenth century onward, a groundswell of pressure by the intellectual avant-garde led to the gradual abolishment of torture in European legal regimes.6 Interwoven with this process were changes in what one might call the loftier regions of the intellectual landscape. Bloch points to these when he writes that it was not only humanitarian but also logical concerns that prompted Enlightenment thinkers to argue against torture. The practice is illogical because the victim might confess to a crime he or she has not committed so as to avert further pain. Torture is no safe conduit to knowledge, but may in fact elicit untruths. The police detective, by contrast, in his efforts to provide evidence for the prosecution must adhere to the standard of truthfulness, as only a case that meets this requirement can hold up in court. This pursuit of truth in the legal realm meshed nicely with an episteme of mathesis, “a universal science of measurement and order” (Foucault The Order of Things 56), that had come to dominate the natural sciences. In combination, these two factors gave rise to a profession that has left its mark on popular literature like few others. The halting beginning, only discernible in hindsight, was Edgar Allen Poe’s ‘The Murders in the Rue Morgue’ (1841), whose hero, Auguste 6 In 1734, Sweden became the first country to ban the practice entirely; in Prussia, Frederick William I had already restricted the use of torture significantly in 1721, before his son, Frederick the Great, outlawed it altogether in 1754. England gradually did away with the so-called ‘Peine forte et dure,’ the crushing to death of a suspect who refuses to plead guilty or not guilty, over the 1730s and 40s. France abandoned the rack and flogging in 1789, and the Revolutionary Assembly eventually did away with torture altogether, at least in criminal investigations. All major European countries had banned torture by the beginning of the nineteenth century. See Mark P. Donnelly, Daniel Diehl. The Big Book of Pain: Torture & Punishment Through History. Chalford: The History Press, 2008. 133, 4.
Dupin, is in fact never called a ‘detective’, since the word had not yet been coined. Poe’s mantle passed to Émile Gaboriau who introduced his first detective, Monsieur Tabaret, in L’Affaire Lerouge (1866). Twenty years later, Gaboriau finds a worthy successor in Arthur Conan Doyle. In his 1887 novel A Study in Scarlet, the Scottish doctor presents the world with Sherlock Holmes, a figure that will not only haunt its creator to his dying day, but will in fact far outlive him.7 G. K. Chesterton in 1906 described Holmes as the “one figure in our popular literature which would really be recognized by the populace […] the only really familiar figure in modern fiction” (103). Since then, the pantheon of omnipresent, quasi-mythic figures in popular culture has expanded (to include, for instance, comic book superheroes of American provenance), but Chesterton’s main point remains as true as it was more than a century ago: the most iconic of detectives commands a key position in the Western and today, perhaps, even the global popular imagination. Literary figures achieve this kind of status because they bring to life principles underpinning a culture’s belief system, because narratives organized around such figures establish a “community of feeling” (Poulet 47) with the reader. Holmes embodies the Western scientific ethos,8 an example of what Jean-Francois Lyotard in a wider context has called a “hero of knowledge.”9 The feats of ratiocination and the forensic expertise of Holmes and his kind save the day time and again and thus in ritualistic fashion confirm the efficacy of the West’s cultural values. Small wonder the detective became so popular.
For an account of Conan Doyle’s struggles with his creation, see his autobiography, Memories and Adventures (1924). 8 Stamford, the mutual acquaintance who introduces Watson and Holmes, says: “He [Holmes] appears to have a passion for definite and exact knowledge.” (Arthur Conan Doyle. A Study in Scarlet. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993. 8). When Watson meets his future friend, Holmes is standing amongst “retorts, test-tubes, and little Bunsen lamps, with their blue flickering flames” (9), engaged in an experiment. 9 “I will then use the term modern to designate any science that legitimates itself with reference to a metadiscourse of this kind [philosophy] making an explicit appeal to some grand narrative, such as the dialectics of Reason, the hermeneutics of meaning, the emancipation of the rational or working subject, or the creation of wealth. For example, the rule of consensus between the sender and addressee of a statement with truth-value is deemed acceptable if it is cast in terms of a possible unanimity between rational minds: this is the Enlightenment narrative, in which the hero of knowledge works toward a good ethico-political end—universal peace.” Jean-Francois Lyotard. The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1984. xxiii, xxiv.
Peter Ackroyd’s Hawksmoor and the Case of the Lost Detective
For roughly half a century these heroes of knowledge rush from success to success, until in 1942, Jorge Luis Borges begins his project of “doubling Poe” (Irwin 73) and publishes ‘Death and the Compass’. The story, a “literary reading” (30) of Poe’s ‘The Purloined Letter’, features a detective by the name of Erik Lönnrot who “thought of himself as a pure thinker, an Auguste Dupin” (129), but, alas, is not granted the successes of his idol and predecessor. Lönnrot loses his way in a maze of literature and language and ends up as the victim of a criminal mastermind, rather than as explicator of the world. Rationality fails to unravel the mystery, and the literary paragon of the modern sensibility experiences his first defeat. While Poe may have been the unwitting father of the detective story, Borges is the writer who consciously sends the genre through the looking glass and thus becomes the ancestral figure of what William Spanos has termed the postmodernist “anti-detective story”.10 This innovation subverts the classic detective story’s conventions, most notably by dramatizing the detective’s failure in a world of impenetrable opacity: “what in an antidetective novel seems suspense that promises fulfillment actually proves unfulfilled suspense by the end of the reading, while the delay of the solution becomes nonsolution” (Tani 42). Though the new arrival on the literary scene did not displace the generic paradigm, the anti-detective story found practitioners in the post-World War II West. Writers who followed Borges include Alain Robbe-Grillet (The Erasers, 1953), Friedrich Dürrenmatt (The Pledge, 1958), Thomas Pynchon (The Crying of Lot 49, 1966), and Paul Auster (The New York Trilogy, 1987). Just as the classic detective story had reflected the optimism and self-confidence of Western societies at the turn of the twentieth century, the anti-detective story articulated Western self-doubts and anxieties from the mid-twentieth century onward. The episteme of mathesis, of measurement and order, had become suspect: the innocence of Western science had fallen casualty to the lure and coercive authority of totalitarian regimes or the cooptive powers of military-industrial complexes, legitimizing and facilitating genocide or providing the blueprints for weapons of mass destruction. Furthermore, science itself had been pointing for some time towards the contingent nature of certain natural phenomena and the limits of calculability, Werner Heisenberg, for instance, when he formulated his uncertainty principle in 1927. In addition, new lines of philosophical 10
“[I]t is […] no accident that the postmodern literary imagination insists on the disorienting mystery, the ominous threatening uncanniness of being that resists naming, and that the paradigmatic archetype it has discovered is the anti-detective story.” William Spanos. Repetitions: The Postmodern Occasion in Literature and Culture. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1987. 24.
inquiry, likewise tracing back to the 1920s—e.g., Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus of 1921—but achieving widespread currency in the academy from the 1960s onward, eroded the faith in the ability of language to describe an independently existent reality, and the pervasiveness of mediated sense impressions as well as the alienating quality of sprawling cityscapes (particularly in the US) suggested an increasing unreadability of the world. Even Sherlock Holmes might have had trouble navigating the moral conundrums, intellectual aporias, and urban labyrinths of the late twentieth century. Ackroyd’s Hawksmoor, written in the context of the 1980s postmodernist debates, adds its own to the challenge of the Enlightenment grand narrative and its conception of history as a progressive movement towards human and social optimization, “a good ethico-political end”.11 A more narrowly literary phenomenon underscores Hawksmoor’s relationship to the intellectual and cultural disposition of its time. Taking his cue from Yuri Tynjanov’s theory of the ‘dominant’12 as the “focusing component of a work of art, [which] rules, determines, and transforms the remaining concepts [and] guarantees the integrity of the structure” (6), Brian McHale has arrived at what he calls “a general thesis about modernist fiction”: [T]he dominant of modernist fiction is epistemological. That is modernist fiction deploys strategies which engage and foreground questions such as […]: ‘How can I interpret this world of which I am a part? And what am I in it?’ […] What is there to be known?; Who knows it?; How do they know it, and with what degree of certainty?; How is knowledge transmitted from one knower to another, and with what degree of reliability?, How does the object of knowledge change as it passes from knower to knower?, What are the limits of the knowable? And so on. (9)
Given this diagnosis, it seems only logical that the detective narrative should come into its own during the same time as high modernist literature. In fact, this literature and detective fiction appear as two sides of the same coin, sharing the same metal base, a dominant concerned with the acquisition and validity of knowledge. While, however, the narratives of, 11
See footnote 9. In On Literary Evolution (1927), Tynjanov writes: “Since a system is not an equal interaction of all elements but places a group of elements in the foreground —the ‘dominant’—and thus involves the deformation of the remaining elements, a work enters literature and takes its own literary function through this dominant.” Ed. David Richter. The Critical Tradition: Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 1998. 727-734. 732. 12
Peter Ackroyd’s Hawksmoor and the Case of the Lost Detective
say, Joseph Conrad and Franz Kafka featuring quasi-detectives (Marlow in search of Kurtz; K, trying to find out of what he stands accused) display high degrees of self-reflexivity and linguistic awareness, but are pessimistic regarding the protagonist’s quest for knowledge, detective fiction commonly lacks self-reflexivity and linguistic awareness, yet holds faith in the quest’s soundness. If therefore the goal is to critique, subvert, or satirize mainstream beliefs of Western culture in a manner even more radical than the high modernist authors working within the epistemological paradigm, there are no better targets than the detective and textual worlds concerned with the acquisition of knowledge: The dominant of postmodernist fiction is ontological. That is, postmodernist fiction deploys strategies which engage and foreground questions like […]: ‘Which world is this? What is to be done it? Which of my selves is to do it?’ Other typical postmodernist questions bear either on the ontology of the literary text itself or on the ontology of the world which it projects, for instance: What is a world?; What kinds of world are there, how are they constituted, and how do they differ?; What happens when different kinds of world are placed in confrontation, or when boundaries between worlds are violated? (10)
These lines of McHale aptly describe Hawksmoor’s salient ideological, structural, and narratological features. The novel comprises two ontologies defined by different linguistic practices and their articulation of mutually incompatible belief systems. The hero of epistemology, the detective, inhabits one sub-world, while his second self, the killer, as well as the solution to the mystery lie hidden away in the other. Ackroyd’s early poetic manifesto, Notes for a New Culture (1976), shows his indebtedness to postmodern thinking; he argues, for instance, that there “is no more important reading […] than the work of Jacques Derrida” (142). Of traditional British fiction, Ackroyd has little good to say, stating that there “has been a systematic ignorance or misreading of the European movement in England, which only recently has become evident” (30), with the effect that “England continues its long sleep in the first modernism” (104).13 Two contributions of twentieth-century AngloSaxon literature, however, he singles out for praise:
This ‘first modernism’ is not to be confused with high modernist literature, such as the writings of James Joyce or T. S. Eliot, which Ackroyd holds in high regard. Rather, he is thinking of the realist tradition that finds its twentieth-century exponents in writers like Graham Greene and the critic F. R. Leavis.
Chapter One Ulysses is the comic epic of the word, it requires exegesis, while The Waste Land requires thematic interpretation. But if there is difference, there is also common ground: their particular modernism, and it is one which comes to be characteristic of Anglo-Saxon culture, lies in their creative discovery of the history of language. The acquisition of an historical consciousness, and a concomitant awareness of the relativity of literary style, are responsible for the power of certain areas of The Waste Land and is also the central perspective of Ulysses. (58)
In his successful work, Ackroyd the novelists meets the challenge of the critic. Hawksmoor displays an awareness of the historical development of language and uses it not merely as medium, but as a constitutive element of the creative endeavor.14 The incompatible structuring systems, metaphysical/occultist and rational/scientific, find articulation, respectively, in eighteenth-century and twentieth-century English. Crucially, though, the child murderer Dyer’s vernacular is out of synch with its own age, as a comparison with a contemporary shows. Daniel Defoe, like Dyer, experienced the Black Death during his boyhood, and his Journal of the Plague Year (1722) undoubtedly constituted a source-text of Ackroyd’s work. In a passage about the charlatans who preyed on people’s superstitions, Defoe writes: “And if but a grave fellow in a velvet jacket, a band, and a black coat, which was the habit those quack-conjurers generally went in, was but seen in the streets the people would follow them in crowds, and ask them questions as they went along” (47, 8). In Hawksmoor this becomes: “It was a Moonshiny night but the Moon, being got behind the Houses, shined only a slant and sent a little stream of light out of one of the Small Lanes quite cross the Street. I paus’d to give a Glance to this Light when out of the Lane walked a tall and pretty lean Man dressed in a Velvet Jacket” (18). Defoe’s syntax and vocabulary bespeak matter-of-fact realism; the scene is cast in broad daylight. Dyer’s velvet-clad figure, by contrast, appears at night, and Dyer engages in a circumlocutory rhetoric of atmospheric overdetermination: the moon in the moonshiny night which shines a stream of light. The ‘quack conjurer’ in Hawksmoor notices an apparition, a “Hand as plain as can be”, above young Dyer’s head, who for a time wonders whether the conjurer and his followers might not be “the Spirits of Pestilence” (18). The older Dyer, narrating this episode decades later, does not distance himself from his childhood perceptions, but re-lives them with startling immediacy, 14
For a brief discussion of the Joycean echoes in Hawksmoor, see Morton P. Levitt. “James Joyce in London: Peter Ackroyd’s Hawksmoor.” James Joyce Quarterly 39.4 (2002): 840-3.
Peter Ackroyd’s Hawksmoor and the Case of the Lost Detective
suggesting a mind concerned with an ulterior reality. Unsurprisingly, the young Dyer was an avid reader of Doctor Faustus (1604) and books from the Middle Ages (12, 3); as a grown man he still speaks the language of a bygone era. But Dyer’s voice is more than a device for characterization. Not only does the language of occultism constitute one half of Hawksmoor and demonstrate the strength of an apparently outmoded discourse in the early days of the Enlightenment; this language also leaves traces in the language of the late twentieth century. Edward J. Ahearn remarks: “The overlaps between eighteenth and twentieth century are too flagrant and numerous to be listed. Indeed, they escape any effort at organization and create a mental fusion between past and present” (456). Not a fusion of equals, though: it is the eighteenth century that sets the tone, establishes the motifs (such as the recurrent motif of time)15 and the characters who are ‘reborn’ in the twentieth century; it is the language of the eighteenth-century chapters that spills over into those set in the twentieth century, as the latter continue where the former have left off: “I am in the Pitte, but I have gone so deep that I can see the brightness of the Starres at Noon,” Dyer concludes chapter one; “At noon they were approaching the church in Spitalsfields”, chapter two begins, establishing a pattern carried through the entire text. “Stylistically, the novel cannot be read as being stable even within a particular time-frame of narrative”, Jeremy Gibson and Julian Wolfreys point out. “Mysticism and mystery proliferate in the narrative of the twentieth century, rather than diminish as they are supposed to do in most detective stories” (93). Dyer’s idiosyncratic rendering of Augustan English haunts the realist language of the twentieth century, just as the notion that the present merely re-enacts the past (on an advanced technical level), that progress is an illusion, haunts the text’s motivic structure. A fragmented chronology is particularly well suited to the dramatization of such a theme, allowing for passages that mirror each other across the centuries. One such pair describes two autopsies. The first the Enlightenment polymath Wren performs on the body of a murdered woman, while Dyer—innocent of this crime—watches with a mixture of 15
This is done very early in the text, when Dyer writes: “I cannot change that Thing call’d Time, but I can alter its Posture and, as Boys do turn a looking-glass against the Sunne, so I will dazzle you all” (11). For a discussion of the manipulation of time in Ackroyd’s text and of its position vis-à-vis the concept of metahistory, see Dominique Costa. “The Nature of Time in British Historiographic Metafiction: The Case of Peter Ackroyd’s Hawksmoor (1985) and Chatterton (1987).” Langues et Littératures: Revue du Groupe d’Etudes Lingustiques et Littératures 5 (2001): 113-32.
nausea and fascination. Wren treats the corpse in a purely scientific manner, drawing conclusions about how and when the woman was killed from the forensic evidence (97, 8); it is the un- or rather anti-scientific onlooker who is capable of empathy: I survey’d the woman’s Face, flinching as if my own Body had felt the Blows she endured, and then I saw what she had seen: […] And I saw the first Blow and suffer’d the first Agonie of her Pain. He has taken a white Cloath from his Breeches, looks at it, then throws it upon the Ground and his Hand goes around my Throat. (98, emphasis added)
Dyer’s identification with the victim throws into relief Wren’s detachment. His curiosity is gratuitous. He acquires knowledge for its own sake, with solipsistic coldness. In fact, the reader learns nothing more about the woman or the fate of her murderer, and no palpable good derives from the dissembling of the body. The autopsy taking place in the latter half of the twentieth century, though performed in a more sophisticated manner, is also inconclusive. Hawksmoor, more affected than a hardnosed police detective ought to be, reacts with “a rapid tic in his left eye” (113) to the pathologist’s spectacle; ultimately the latter is unable to extract any knowledge from the operation and cannot provide the detective with an answer to his question: “I don’t know about the time. Even if we allow for a rise of temperature of six degrees at death” (113). The eighteenth century, these passages suggest, is the source of present-day discourses and beliefs. The fear that they may lack important qualities prompts the twentieth century to look back to the origins of these discourses. If generations of applied science have not translated into more just societies, if scientific knowledge is self-involved, inhumane, and oftentimes unproductive, then the Enlightenment conceptualization of history has failed.16 Hawksmoor’s unease remains on the level of the unconscious and disavowed. It is Dyer’s privilege to articulate the present age’s misgivings regarding its dominant belief system. His language is doubly encoded: on the one hand a plausible rendering of medieval occultism out of touch with early modernity, on the other an articulation of late modernity’s selfdoubts. After Dyer and Wren have visited Bedlam (an institution definitely 16
For a discussion of the relationship of Hawksmoor to what has come to be known as the ‘historical turn’ in postwar British fiction, see Luc Herman. “The Relevance of History: Der Zauberbaum (1985) by Peter Sloterdijk and Hawksmoor (1985) by Peter Ackroyd.” History and Post-War Writing. Eds. Theo D’haen and Hans Bertens. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1990. 107-124.
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not run along Enlightenment principles, but rather a “diversion to the good conscience of reason sure of itself” (Foucault Madness and Civilization 69, 70)), Dyer draws attention to the fragility of the human being’s mental faculties: “And what little Purpose have we to glory in our Reason, I continued, when the Brain may so suddenly be disorder’d?” (99). Words that credibly articulate a contrarian position in the eighteenth century, his pessimism also refracts twentieth-century psychological and neurological insights and the recognition that the improvement of the human being quickly reaches irremovable obstacles. “Men are not rational Creatures”, Dyer says, “they are sunk into Flesh, blinded by Passion, besotted by Folly and hardened by Vice” (131). When he replies to Wren’s assertion that “Nature yields to the Froward [sic] and the Bold”, by pointing out that “[i]t does not yield, it devours: You cannot master or manage Nature” (144), he is again voicing the painfully acquired knowledge of the twentieth century. By contrast, the verve of the Enlighteners and their belief that with reason as supreme arbiter the human being will be able to create itself anew to enjoy a more rewarding and safer existence in a morally sounder society appears naïve. The novel’s themes coalesce in the dyad of killer and detective and their epoch-spanning relationship in one of the centres of Western culture. The text expends care on the murderer’s psychology, tracing his sinister convictions to childhood trauma: as a boy of eleven Dyer witnessed the Black Death when his “Mother attracted the noisome distemper […]. My Mother then called out to me Nick! Nick! But my Father would not let me go to her; soon she stank mightily and was delirious in her sick Dress. And indeed she became an Object of Loathing to me” (14). Forty-six years later, Dyer will say to Thomas Vanbrugghe (modeled after John Vanbrugh, 1664-1726), building commissioner and representative of a (perhaps willfully) shallow, unreflecting Enlightenment: “The World is still mighty sick. Did you hear during the late Plague–” (179), but Vanbrugghe interrupts him: “I had quite forgot that Distemper” (179). Dyer, however, has not forgotten the disease, during whose reign rationality and justice were abolished as death struck indiscriminately: “[I]n that fateful year of the Plague”, he writes, “the mildewed Curtain of the World was pulled aside, as if it were before a painting, and I saw the true Face of the Great and Dreadfull God” (14). This is not a cerebrally constructed supreme being like the one John Locke conceived in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1689), constituting itself when “we enlarge every one of these ideas [of existence, duration, knowledge, power, pleasure, and happiness] with the idea of infinity; and so putting them together, make our complex idea of God” (284). This is still the unfathomable, wrathful
God of the Middle Ages, and His awe-inspiring powers Dyer tries to monumentalize through stealth occult architecture.17 By contrast, the reader learns nothing about formative experiences of the detective. Hawksmoor has no past; as the killer’s revenant double, his past is Dyer. At the beginning of his investigation, Hawksmoor still expounds principles appropriate to his profession: On an occasion such as this, he liked to consider himself a scientist, or even as a scholar, since it was from close observation and rational deduction that he came to a proper understanding of each case […]. For he knew that even during extreme events the laws of cause and effect still operated. (152, 3)
But even before this avowal of faith a glimpse into the detective’s mind suggests a preoccupation with ideas pointing beyond the intelligible. After complaining that a body has been removed, he reflects that “the atmosphere of the murder was already destroyed” (111, emphasis added). At the outset his character is weighted on the side of the rational, but the irrational is already present as a vestige, the barely conscious remnant of an overcome belief system. In the course of his unsuccessful investigation, Hawksmoor continues to voice the official rhetoric: “‘There are no ghosts […]. We live in a rational society’” (158), but his mind searches the periphery of this belief system: The event of the boy’s death was not simple because it was not unique and if he traced it backwards, running the time slowly in the opposite direction (but did it have a direction?), it became no clearer. The chain of causality might extend as far back as the boy’s birth; in a particular place and on a particular date, or even further into the darkness beyond that. And what of the murderer, for what sequence of events had drawn him to wander by this old church? All these events were random and yet connected, part of a pattern so large that it remained inexplicable. (157)
Contingency is making inroads on causality, as the excess of data stymies analysis: each event has a cause traceable to another cause and another. At the end there looms the abstraction of the first mover, but inquiry has run out of steam long before approaching metaphysics. Epistemology ceases to function when ontological strata, past and present, 17
For a discussion of the religious dimension of Ackroyd’s novel, see Andrew Hock-soon Ng. “‘At the Threshold of Eternity’: Religious Inversion in Peter Ackroyd’s Hawksmoor.” Race and Religion in the Postcolonial British Detective Story: Ten Essays. Ed. Julie H. Kim. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2005. 138-163.
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overlap. As Hawksmoor realizes the shortfalls of rationality, his faith erodes. Truth, he fears, eludes the mind’s subjectivity: “more and more people would come forward with their own versions of time and event; the actual killing then became blurred and even inconsequential, a flat field against which others painted their own fantasies of murderer and victim” (165). When, after the fourth killing, he receives a map of the geographical positions of the murder sites, he “saw a pattern forming, but its vagueness angered him” (166). His assistant has suggested that “[i]f the computer” (166), technical apotheosis of applied rationality, recognizes no pattern, none exists. Hawksmoor, however, senses order within the apparent chaos, yet blinded by his ‘official’ belief system he cannot see the irregular pentagon, the occult symbol, that the murder sites suggest. (Multiply encoded like most of the text, this passage also pays homage to Borges.) When Hawksmoor and Dyer finally come face to face in one of Dyer’s churches, the text casts them as halves of one cosmic whole: “when there was light there was a shadow, and when there was sound there was an echo” (217). This “moment of transcendence” may, as Margrét Gunnarsdóttir Champion has argued, suggest “the mythic origin of creation” (29), the emergence of something new. Enlightenment thinking constituted itself against a preceding worldview; a more cautious late twentieth-century modernity takes phenomena that had dominated the preEnlightenment intellectual universe into account for a holistic conception of history, the human being, and, ultimately, the nature of reality. The detective’s wavering faith in rational inquiry complements the killer’s malice for his contemporaries who look with optimism to the future. Ultimately, both characters reflect the sense of late twentieth-century Western culture that its foundational belief system has failed to deliver on its promises. London, the city perhaps most associated in literature with the detective profession, features as the site of an inconclusive quest for knowledge. The case is ‘solved’ on the level of motif and theme, yet on the level of narrative the text subverts genre conventions. Instead of celebrating a high mass for rational inquiry, this anti-detective story dramatizes the fear of rationality’s insufficiencies and blind spots.
Works Cited Encyclopedia Britannica: A New Survey of Universal Knowledge, Volume 19. London: Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 1947. Ackroyd, Peter. Hawksmoor. London: Penguin Books, 1993. —. Notes for a New Culture. Windmill Grove: Alkin Books, 1993.
Ahearn, Edward J. “The Modern English Visionary: Peter Ackroyd’s Hawksmoor and Angela Carter’s The Passion of New Eve.” TwentiethCentury Literature 46.4 (2000): 453-469. Bloch, Ernst. “A Philosophical View of the Detective Novel.” The Utopian Function of Art and Literature: Selected Essays. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1988. 242-263. Borges, Jorge Luis. Labyrinths. New York: Grove Press, 1962. Chalupský, Petr. “Crime Narratives in Peter Ackroyd’s Historiographic Metafictions.” European Journal of English Studies 14.2 (2010): 121-31. Champion, Margrét Gunnarsdóttir. “In the Beginning Was the (Written) Word.” Orbis Litterarum 63.1 (2008): 22-45. Chesterton, G. K. Charles Dickens: A Critical Study. New York: Dodd Mead & Company, 1906. Costa, Dominique. “The Nature of Time in British Historiographic Metafiction: The Case of Peter Ackroyd’s Hawksmoor (1985) and Chatterton (1987).” Langues et Littératures: Revue du Groupe d’Etudes Lingustiques et Littératures 5 (2001): 113-132. Defoe, Daniel. A Journal of the Plague Year. London: Penguin Books, 1966. Donnelly, Mark P., and Daniel Diehl. The Big Book of Pain: Torture & Punishment Through History. Chalford: The History Press, 2008. Doyle, Arthur Conan. A Study in Scarlet. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993. Du Prey, Pierre de la Ruffiniere. “Hawksmoor’s ‘Basilica After the Primitive Christians’: Architecture and Theology.” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 48.1 (1989): 38-52. Foucault, Michel. Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason. New York: Vintage Books, 1965. —. The Order of Things: An Archeology of the Human Sciences. New York: Vintage Books, 1994. Gibson, Jeremy, and Julian Wolfreys. Peter Ackroyd: The Ludic and Labyrinthine Text. New York: Macmillan Press, 2000. Herman, Luc. “The Relevance of History: Der Zauberbaum (1985) by Peter Sloterdijk and Hawksmoor (1985) by Peter Ackroyd.” History and PostWar Writing. Eds. Theo D’haen and Hans Bertens. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1990. 107-124. Irwin, John T. The Mystery to a Solution: Poe, Borges, and the Analytic Detective Story. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1994. Kuhn, Thomas S. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1970. Levitt, Morton P. “James Joyce in London: Peter Ackroyd’s Hawksmoor.” James Joyce Quarterly 39.4 (2002): 840-3.
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Link, Alex. “‘The Capitol of Darknesse’: Gothic Spatialities in the London of Peter Ackroyd’s Hawksmoor.” Contemporary Literature 45.3 (2004): 516537. Locke, John. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975. McHale, Brian. Postmodernist Fiction. London: Routledge, 1987. Lyotard, Jean-Francois. The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1984. Murray, James A. H. et al, eds. Oxford English Dictionary Vol. III. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1933. N.G., Andrew Hock-soon. “‘At the Threshold of Eternity’: Religious Inversion in Peter Ackroyd’s Hawksmoor.” Race and Religion in the Postcolonial British Detective Story: Ten Essays. Ed. Julie H. Kim.Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2005. 138-163. Pepys, Samuel. The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Volume 6. London: George Bull and Sons, 1904. Spanos, William. Repetitions: The Postmodern Occasion in Literature and Culture. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1987. Summerscale, Kate. The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher. London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2008. Tani, Stefano. The Doomed Detective. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1984. Tynjanov, Yuri. ‘On Literary Evolution.’ The Critical Tradition: Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends. Ed. David Richter. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 1998. 727-734.
CHAPTER TWO OUTLOOKS ON LIFE AND CHANCE IN THE STORIES OF TWO TRINIDADIAN WRITERS ANDREW JAMES
Trinidadian writers Raymond Ramcharitar and Keith Jardim have much in common. Both honed their writing skills in America and their recently published short story collections primarily concern life in Trinidad from the perspective of characters with experience abroad. In a sense, Ramcharitar and Jardim approach the same subject–the current state of Trinidadian society and concern over its future–with different temperaments and this is reflected in the themes that recur in their intricate, provocative stories. Extensive interviews with both writers are drawn on in trying to understand the different ways in which they depict social change and turmoil. In particular, this paper focuses on the role played by chance in their stories and how this reflects their respective outlooks on life and writing. Social and sexual fluidity pervade Ramcharitar’s fiction. Chance generally has positive connotations as it can lead to personal enlightenment or an unexpected improvement in one’s situation. On the other hand, physical conflict is the product of chance in Jardim’s stories. Sometimes an eruption of violence seems inevitable because of the disparate desires of the competing human elements involved; at other times, unpremeditated attacks occur, and we are left to reconstruct the social and historical triggers contributing to the attack. The protagonists in the five stories contained in Ramcharitar’s The Island Quintet: A Sequence (2009) are Asiatics, or Trinidadians of Asian origin1, who improve their social positions through educational or economic 1
In response to an e-mail query about how he would refer to Trinidadians of colour, Ramcharitar wrote: “Ethnic status in this environment is tricky. If you say Indian, or Indo, or Indian origin, you set limits, at least in terms of what›s expected
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opportunities. Though their elevated status enables them to view the world with irony instead of bitterness, life is not without its complications, and these arise from human frailty and sexual dynamics. Social prejudices emerge as the protagonists rise to positions as academics, bankers, and journalists who have dealings with a wide range of characters including artists, politicians, indigent illegal aliens living in America, and European sex tourists in the Caribbean. The heroes struggle to find a path between disagreeable extremes while noting the racial problems that continue to plague Trinidad. The eleven stories in Jardim’s Near Open Water (2011)–three of which are short short stories–combine to make a convincing case against the middle path. To try to remain neutral is generally more dangerous than choosing sides. This fundamental difference may be related to race and background, for Ramcharitar is of Asiatic descent while Jardim is white. Ramcharitar’s characters use intellect and ingenuity to circumvent class barriers and this is a reflection of the author’s belief in the fluidity of class in Trinidad: I was formed largely by movies and books. You got your style, the way you moved and looked from movies, much like many other teenagers. But the class structure did not have an exclusive component, there was no history of the class, no class credo, no books, nothing that taught you how to be. So you are essentially on your own. Luckily for me, I realized that early on and was able to make choices about what I believed, who I was and so on. When you study the class positions in Trinidad it is usually just an accent, just the way you move, the way you speak, so I could do that very easily. [. . .] The economic classes just have money, they have no class. Awareness of all these things led me very early on to be aware of the structures and how to circumvent them, and you notice my characters are not enraged. My characters are usually bemused, subversive, iconoclastic and always willing to shoot the finger, take the piss. Now, if you look at a class dilemma like Hardy’s Jude the Obscure where Jude couldn’t move. Such a promising writer but he just couldn’t move, and the don at the university told him, you have no chance. He taught himself Latin and Greek but it didn’t help him. To me that’s tragic. In some of the other Caribbean islands that does exist. I would say that one of the good things about Trinidad is that class thing is there, but it’s weakly enforced, it’s tenuous, and you can get around it. (Interview)
and anticipated, and which also determines the way you›re read, and categorised.” He added: “’Of Asian origin’ or ‘Asiatic’ are nice terms whose meanings haven›t yet been colonized” (E-mail). Therefore, this paper employs the above two terms to refer to Trinidadians who may previously have been called Indians.
For Jardim, the unjust perpetuation of white dominance in the Caribbean is a fact that cannot be got round, and his characters are rarely bemused. Several stories view Trinidad from the perspective of a privileged white male who is not fully aware of his responsibilities to–or the attendant dangers in–the corrupt, decaying social system. Though the protagonist may attempt to dissociate himself from the ruling economic class, episodes of sudden, unprovoked violence serve as reminders that there are no neutral observers in the class war. If education is one means by which Ramcharitar’s characters overcome class differences, for Jardim it also signifies the perpetuation of social injustice in Trinidad. He offers strong opinions on the connection between education and injustice: As a child, I hated school; the teachers, women and men, beat us badly, depending on whether I was at St. Bernadette’s, St. Andrew’s, or St. Anthony’s. I vowed at an early age I would never accept anything taught to me by teachers in Trinidad. Nothing. And their expectations of me (big house, two cars in the garage, and heir to my father’s business), because I supposedly came from a good family, I vowed never to pursue. A profound sense of things being wrong on the island came to me at an early age, which wasn’t something just picked up in school; I felt it in church, too, where I loathed going. Hypocrisy. Shame. Race. Class. And it was something witnessed daily in a place of wealth and poverty, the two divided and close. One day, I knew, there was going to be trouble; that tension was everywhere on the island as I grew up. (Interview)
In postcolonial Trinidad, then, education and, perhaps, the English language are both instruments of oppression and weapons to be taken up and used against one’s oppressors. Ramcharitar’s first story, “The Artist Dies,” begins with the unnamed narrator at a lectern preparing to address the family and friends of the deceased man referred to only as “the Artist.” “None of this is suited to reality,” he thinks, “nor appropriate to the furiousness that dictates action. I will enjoy this more in retrospect” (7). The idea that understanding comes with distance is explored in all five stories: over time confused experiences appear less so and patterns emerge. The narrator first meets the audacious, self-promoting Artist on a flight to England. The Artist derives pleasure from disconcerting others in both conversation and art, alternately provoking, teasing, and titillating. He is travelling to London as the recipient of a grant to pursue a Master’s degree in art while the narrator, along with other island recruits, will be teaching school in one of London’s poorest areas. The situation is described as ironically satisfactory for “The British had struck a perfect match: their most insulting offers were better than anything we had ever dreamed of” (15). As the months
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pass the two characters’ paths cross often enough for a friendship of sorts to develop, though the Artist drops out of contact for long stretches. Years later the narrator realizes that at these times the Artist was either pursuing potential sponsors or withdrawing from the world for his art. And yet in spite of the irritations and inconveniences that come with being his friend, the narrator admits, “I owe him everything” (11). In part this is because a chance meeting with a rich philanthropist who is dining with the Artist lands the narrator a fellowship to Oxford, releasing him of his teaching duties (22). But it is also because the Artist unveils social and artistic truths which might have otherwise eluded the narrator in his subsequent life as a privileged but sheltered island banker. “The Artist Dies” is the first of four stories in which luck and the cultivation of a chance connection results in a sudden improvement in the Trinidadian hero’s prospects. Ramcharitar sees an intricate relationship between luck, patronage, and class: In Trinidad I have always thought it was very unfair and it was all about class, but I realize that’s a function of all societies. I had known this about publishing for many, many years. When I saw people who got published and how they got published I realized it has a lot to do with who you know. Trinidad society is like that, yes, but much less so than other societies. (Interview)
The narrator of “The Artist Dies” delivers a drunken rant in which he claims to be smart but not a genius, and in Trinidad unless you are the genius you will not receive the single scholarship that will take you out of the country. His eloquence impresses the philanthropist sufficiently to earn him a fellowship (22-3) and Ramcharitar points out that the narrator’s rant is based on historical truth: For a long time there was only one scholarship for the whole island. You could go abroad, emigrate, go to school, but there was only one scholarship. In fact, our first prime minister, Eric Williams, an Oxford historian, took three tries to get the scholarship. That kind of pyramid approach to education has been very destructive. That whole thing about just being bright and not being brilliant consigns you to a lower order of existence, that is very much true. (Interview)
This episode in “The Artist Dies” also has personal significance for the author: “What I wrote there was true of me-kind of. I am not the genius. My intelligence, my gift, needs a lot of help, a lot of nurturing and a lot of luck to happen, so he was speaking for me in that sense” (Ramcharitar, Interview). The heroes in three other stories are similarly fortunate to meet
people both willing and able to help them advance when their own efforts would have been insufficient. In “New York Story” a Mafia boss rewards the protagonist for his assistance in a shootout with a free home and a green card; the heroes’ marriages to wealthy, white, foreign women in “The Blonde in the Garbo Dress” and “Froude’s Arrow” lead to employment in a bank and university respectively. Jardim’s stories offer a very different view of chance. If things can always get better in Ramcharitar’s world, they get a lot worse quickly in Jardim’s. “In the Atlantic Field” opens the collection and focuses on the tribulations of a woman who argues with her absent husband by telephone, then drives along the sea coast with her nine year-old son. She stops at a gas station to make another phone call, and is probably raped while the boy plays on the beach below. During the return car journey she suddenly breaks down and begins to beat him, shouting, “Never ever leave me like that! Never leave me!” (16). In the war between races and classes played out in Jardim’s stories, logic cannot always be used to make sense of events. Opportunity and whim are sometimes the recognizable triggers for eruptions of violence. Though the woman and her son are clearly white, the race of the two men at the gas station is somewhat ambiguous. One with hair like rope who speaks in island dialect appears black; but the reader is left to guess at the race of the shorthaired man who remains behind his desk in the office, rapes the woman, then steals her diamond ring while his co-worker searches for the boy on the beach. The use of the word “field” in the story’s title is suggestive of a battlefield and this is what the settings in the collection’s other stories often become. Just before racial skirmishes break out and the lives of the central characters are irreparably altered, there are ominous premonitions. Though the characters themselves do not go looking for trouble, inevitably trouble finds them. Pessimism about the future of the Caribbean imbues the stories and this may be taken as a measure of the author’s concern for Trinidad’s future. In our interview, Jardim noted the connection between violence and political turmoil, saying that the re-election of Patrick Manning as prime minister really made me give up on the place as a home. Not give up on loving it, mind you, just give up on it as a home – for now. Right now I live the farthest away from Trinidad ever in my life (I have become the ultimate expat), yet I still return to Trinidad’s wretchedness, its false hopes, misery, hate, and destruction. (Interview)
Jardim attended high school in New England in the late 1980s, then university and graduate school in Boston and Houston, and he now lives and teaches in Kuwait; Ramcharitar, on the other hand, studied and lived
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in Canada, America, and England, and has returned to Trinidad to work and write. Whether one depicts chance as the potential for personal advancement or as the harbinger of disaster perhaps depends upon one’s background. Jardim came from a privileged family and was pressured to follow his father into business. Instead he has become a writer and academic. Ramcharitar, meanwhile, passed a “sheltered” childhood in a village in Trinidad and attended a grammar school which he calls a “class marker,” giving him an awareness of the people above and below him on the social scale (Interview). Entrance to the University of the West Indies provided his introduction to the urban world. Perhaps autobiography impinges upon their respective stories for, while Ramcharitar’s Asiatic protagonists rely upon intelligence and opportunity to climb to a more comfortable position in society, Jardim’s white characters long for freedom, in spite of the fact that they stand near the social pinnacle, enjoying wealth, status, and lives of leisure, and his two black protagonists are trapped without prospects. Some of Jardim’s stories suggest that anyone white not actively opposed to the system is guilty by association. In “The Visitors” Trevor indulges in all the pleasures available to an idle white man with financial resources. Disregarding the local curfew to visit nightclubs and refusing to work with his father or anyone else, he carries on sexual relationships with his parents’ maid and a white girlfriend. Jardim characterizes this triangle as a variation on “the plantation story” (Interview): the maid Bipti is in control of her situation, with no visible motive beyond fleeting pleasure, and the girlfriend Odette is interested in Trevor’s inheritance. The visitors who disrupt Trevor’s life are two military officers. They pay an unannounced visit to his home, landing a helicopter in the yard, then drinking his beer and roughing him up as they search the house for documents related to his father’s business. Over beer Captain Guzman at first innocently asks, “You see anybody who looking as if they looking for trouble recently?” (54). Trevor does not recognize Guzman as trouble, or himself as the person who actively courts danger through his lifestyle. Officer Besson, eager for any pretext to use violence, offers a metaphoric description of the future that awaits the whites who prey on the island’s natural resources and wealth, though the gravity of the situation again eludes Trevor. Besson says that when they fly over the wealthy northern part of the island the helicopter “chop a vulture, without fail” because “it have more vulture here than in other areas of the island” (54-55). Even though Trevor is not seriously injured by the visitors it is still surprising that he plans to resume his normal life after their departure, making arrangements to go to a nightclub later. Whether he is naïve or complacent
matters little. The root of Trevor’s problem lies in his inability to understand “how one man could hate another so much without knowing him” (58). He is somewhat consoled by the thought that the night will bring other possibilities of pleasure, though he wonders “how much longer it would last,” a hint that the period of white reign over the island is nearing an end (60). One of the most intriguing aspects of Jardim’s stories is the way in which he depicts a central event without transmitting all of the requisite information. This is not done to tease the reader, but as the vehicle for exploring epistemological issues while drawing attention to the role of the writer as interpreter of the past and storyteller. In “The Visitors” neither the reader nor the protagonist learns why Guzman and Besson have come to the house–they claim to have information about illegal arms, though this seems contrived–or what they know about Trevor’s shipping magnate father. A similar gap in knowledge exists in “The Marches of Blue,” in which Nicholas, a Boston university student, is working on a novel. Having returned to the island for a short stay, he recalls himself at the age of twelve, an aspiring writer receiving encouragement from his grandfather. He reconstructs the scene of his grandfather building the house, working with the builders then sharing beer with them. The narrator says, “Nicholas knew there was much more to his family history than such anecdotes, but his grandmother, the only person alive who knew what he didn’t, was reluctant to tell the stories” (21). Later Nicholas has two curious encounters. On his way to the beach, he comes across Benny the beggar on the road, who makes an absurd demand for ten thousand dollars from Nicholas’s grandmother, saying, “Is my father money!” (37). Next he meets Rickette, a young (and topless) French tourist with a spear gun and family ties to the island. Nicholas suspects that his grandmother knows something about one or both of these characters, but she will only say: “I’m an old woman now, and I don’t want to drag up the past. It’s too tiresome. I want to tend my garden and die in peace.” When Nicholas asks her who will tell him about the past if she will not, he receives silence as an answer (41). In this story and several others Jardim tinkers with the theme of the unheeded warning. While Trevor fails to recognize the arrival of military personnel by helicopter as a threat until it is too late, Nicholas misreads Rickette. He thinks that she is pointing the spear gun at him beneath the water. He is wrong, though; it is nothing more than the “play of the light” combined with the force of his imagination (32). The scene reinforces the sense that danger cannot be always foreseen because of limitations on our knowledge. The more general warning that recurs in Near Open Water is that the days of whites enjoying power and privilege in Trinidad are
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numbered. The grandmother in “The Marches of Blue” who laments, “We should have remained a colony,” is based upon the author’s own grandmother. While Jardim thinks this type of person is gradually disappearing, “another kind of person is taking their place–and it’s not pretty. These people don’t read and don’t think” (2012). The new rulers are represented by the military officers Guzman and Besson, the crooked politician De Souza in “The Jaguar,” and the violent policemen in “Fire in the City.” But they are also perhaps evident in small-time thugs and thieves, like Aucks, “Trini man-‘bout-town and so-call car-mechanic genius” (94) in the aforementioned story and the young men who rob the pharmacy in “The White People Maid,” “one with his head shave, the other with hair growing back, little pigtails sprouting like worms wriggling up out of the earth” (70). When Nicholas’s grandmother says, “Doing what you want isn’t necessarily the best thing for you,” she expresses the attitude of the colonizer, who claims to know what is best for everyone. Mr. Murrain in Edgar Mittelholzer’s A Morning at the Office holds a similar view and it emerges both in his treatment of the office workers and his own wife Caroline. If she asks for money and he feels disinclined to give it to her, he hands over an unsigned cheque, then leaves for the office before she has time to discover the omission. “It was a dirty trick, and he had felt guilty all the way to work, but he had settled it with his conscience by assuring himself that Caroline was irresponsible and must be tricked as one would trick a child–for its good” (Mittelholzer 95). Ramcharitar recently wrote the introduction to a new edition of A Morning at the Office and in it he identifies as the novel’s central theme “the farrago of ethnic obsession which underlies and inhabits the characters’ and society’s, strivings for self-realization” (Ramcharitar, “Foreword,” 9). The great irony of the novel is that while a relationship between the young black office worker Horace and the coloured chief stenographer Nanette Hinckson is inconceivable for racial reasons (29), he is able to dream of becoming mayor because “Colour and class were not barriers to political success in Trinidad” (101). Several of the stories in The Island Quintet deal with this very issue, with the most complex treatment offered in “The Blonde in the Garbo Dress,” told in alternating voices by a white, racist hotel owner who refers to the blacks as “apes” and the island man Bobby who has married a white American, Kiki, and made good as a banker in New York. Bobby begins his narrative by jokingly telling his wife, “We’ll find you a strong island boy” (55). He has come home to visit the unnamed island for the first time in five years and this becomes an ominously accurate prediction when she is lured by two German tourists into a sexual ménage. Upon meeting the Germans, she tells Bobby: “They
look like a porno director and his washed-up star” (62). With the Germans’ help, Kiki finds island men with whom she has sexual relations; suspicious about where his wife goes each day, Bobby follows her to a cabin at a seedy hotel and watches through the window. When their vacation comes to an end he tells her what he has seen and sends her back to America alone. Thereafter Bobby spends his days on a stool at the seedy hotel bar where his wife betrayed him, staring at the picture of a woman in a Garbo dress pinned to the wall. Rumour has it that the woman was the hotel owner’s wife before she ran away with a Calypso singer. But the poster and Bobby’s marriage to Kiki are reminders of the obsession Ramcharitar believes many Trinidadian men of colour continue to have with white women: That is one of the obvious things about the Caribbean–people’s national and ethnic pride–that people try to step around. Black men are fascinated by white women. That is just the reality. It is a fascination that I too am subject to, or used to be. It is something that you grow out of and can reason your way out of and you understand that whiteness signifies power and desirability and you are trained to think like that, so you can untrain yourself. This is very much imposed in Trinidad but very few people can articulate [it]. They are just driven by this desire that was implanted. (Interview)
The characters themselves play with this stereotype. Since the Germans cannot believe that Kiki and Bobby are married, the couple acts out a charade in which she pretends to be an American tourist who has picked up an island man for sex (62). We are warned that Kiki has a propensity for taking things “much too far” (62) and later that she “didn’t know when to leave things alone” (65). The story suggests, as Ramcharitar does, that Kiki has “succumbed to this thing” (Interview), which one might call the attraction of breaking a taboo. However it is not just sexual curiosity that causes Kiki to go too far, but an unhealthy predilection for games and jokes. From the moment she meets Bobby in a college bar she has been less-than-straightforward, feigning interest in picking him up in order to interview him for a newspaper article on Caribbean men (69). It is an odd lie because it is unnecessary, but it is an indication that she finds subterfuge and deception thrilling. The story ends with her return to the island, the announcement that a child is coming, and reconciliation with Bobby. The other narrator, the white racist hotel owner, has also reconciled himself to the fact that a single moment of weakness with the “apes” will make him the father of a child of mixed blood. Bobby’s final words to his wife can also be applied to the hotel owner: “You were just being human, Ki. We’re fragile, dissatisfied creatures, and sometimes our desire drives us into
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unknown places where we lose sight of what we desire and we desire illusions that cannot exist anywhere but in our minds” (84). In other stories in The Island Quintet jokes and misunderstandings show that change is often the result of chance rather than careful planning. “New York Story” concerns an Asiatic man from the Caribbean who plans his own stag night. He arranges to meet a prostitute in a New York hotel after learning from his Armenian fiancée that it is a tradition in her country for the groom to sleep with another woman before the wedding. He does not realize she was joking until he telephones from the hotel to explain that he will be returning late due to a snowstorm. The narrator thinks that his stag night is an “Unreal night in an unreal city” (87), and he is right: things are not as they seem. The prostitute proves to be a transsexual, and in lieu of receiving sexual favours he recounts his life story. Though he came from money, his father spent it all and the son was forced to flee the island after exposing a writing contest scandal (100). He arrives in New York without money or legal status and ends up living with the Colos, an extended family of indigent immigrants who formerly did odd jobs for his own people back on the island. Through a chance meeting with a smalltime island gangster in the city, the narrator’s fortunes improve; he receives a necessary cash infusion and a job as a bicycle messenger. At the same time, the Colos’ irritation with their house guest grows: Having me in the house had been like having an ornament; something that reminded them of the place they’d come from and how far they’d progressed in the world. Seeing me degraded made them feel better: I’d only been ahead on the island because of luck; here in America, on the level playing field, where each man was equal, their quality had shone through. So my managing to land on my feet in a mere three months was a kick in their yellowed, rotting teeth. The fact that they were morons who, without my father wouldn’t have been able to live in their own house, much less get a travel visa to get to America, seemed to have been forgotten. (115)
In a story about twists of fate it is perhaps fitting for the narrator to have sex with the transsexual prostitute after all. When the act has been completed, he thinks: “The sky was one reality, the earth was another; between them was a short space where the laws of neither applied” (121). Ramcharitar is particularly interested in exploring these short spaces. His protagonists are in transition, moving through periods of uncertainty, searching for more satisfactory positions within society. He explains: “Fluid sexuality is a part of what I have figured out about the world. In fiction you get a chance to mobilize it. Some people read that and think that I make characters gay as a form of antipathy or to make the character
less sympathetic but that’s certainly not the case. It’s just a part of who we are as human beings” (Interview). A related concern for both Ramcharitar and Jardim is the writer’s role in society. In The Island Quintet, the issue of artistic power is addressed through tricksters such as The Artist, who subvert conventional power structures in order to reinterpret reality. In Jardim’s stories, though language can be empowering, the reader is frequently made aware of the importance of getting things right, as the manipulation of language uncovers hidden truths or subverts false conventions. As previously noted, facts are withheld in several stories and the reader is left to guess at the nature of human relationships, identities, and motivations. However, an apt description or phrase at just the right moment can help to remove uncertainty or defeat an opponent. Cynthia, the black narrator of “The White People Maid,” becomes attuned to the potential of language early in life. She remembers her father studying The Chambers English Dictionary as preparation for acquiring his teaching certificate, and that he once used his expanding vocabulary to silence an indignant neighbor who complained that an untrimmed mango tree was impeding his view. Her father called the complaint a “fetid obscenity” and “Ever since I first hear them words,” says Cynthia, “I know they just right, they mysterious and magical. I will never forget how the red man look back at we as he walk away after spitting he little spit, like he feel is a curse my father put on him with those educated word” (74). In the violent episode central to this story, a customer’s hand is chopped off with a cutlass during a pharmacy robbery. Cynthia witnesses the act and, suffering from shock, takes unauthorized leave from her job as a maid. When she returns after a few days she is fired by “Old Bitch” Mrs. Gomes. Throughout her tenure, Cynthia has been suspected and accused of stealing a variety of items that go missing from the premises. She is innocent of all charges, but after her firing she steals her employer’s cell phone, takes it home, and destroys it. She justifies her actions to the reader in the following way: “Yes, I thief Old Bitch cell phone, because was over a year I take she blasted abuse asking me where I put this and that, if I take this or that. And when the daughter begin to accuse me . . . well!” (76). The scene reminds us of Benny the beggar’s request for ten thousand dollars in “The Marches of Blue,” and the difference between theft and appropriation. Ultimately, the understanding of linguistic nuance is one of the means of redressing historical wrongs, as Jardim’s stories show. At the end of “The White People Maid” Cynthia comes across a trickster figure called the Midnight Robber who wears a sombrero decorated with eggshells showing the faces of political leaders. He frightens her at first with his wild appearance and
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the inverted history of the New World he tells in which he claims to be the resurrection of Lazarus, to “have argued with God, struck down the Devil,” and had Jesus as his playmate “before I make him into a curry roti and eat him all up.” He warns her: “beware the wrath of the Midnight Robber in Trinidad” (72-3). The Midnight Robber’s manipulation of language and ability to create an alternative history succeeds in capturing Cynthia’s imagination, and the narrator in Ramcharitar’s opening story is drawn to the Artist for similar reasons. His installations not only shock the public but serve a didactic purpose. For one of his shows, the Artist redesigns an old house with cardboard marking two paths. Visitors are instructed to remove their shoes and follow either the easy road or the path through “real life.” The narrator describes the opening night: Everyone chose the easy road, and the evening ended abruptly with the first twenty or so most important people having to get medical attention to have the invisible glass shards the Artist had spread on “the easy road” removed from their soles. (25)
This is not just a clever publicity stunt but a creative attitude that the Artist applies to his own life. He constantly recreates himself, weaving fact and fiction into new combinations to serve his purposes. At the end of the story we discover that the Artist had a homosexual liaison with a gardener at age sixteen and that his father put a cutlass to the neck of the gardener. However, the Artist previously told the narrator that his father, unprovoked, had attacked him as a “coolie rite of passage. You know: you become a man; your pa comes after you with a cutlass” (14). Loathed by some and loved by others, the Artist succeeds in infusing life into the island’s cultural scene. Similarly, Jardim sees his Midnight Robber as a primarily positive figure: I think he’s a soother, a hope man, and I wanted him in the story because I cared about Cynthia and how she feels, what she has put up with. I wanted to give her hope in what I think is one of the saddest stories in the book. And the Midnight Robber comes out of the idea of hope in history, I think, that, even when things are terrible, we must have hope, no matter what. (Interview)
Throughout Near Open Water, language, writing, and knowledge are viewed with an ambivalence that reflects the postcolonial dilemma. Language can empower, but it can just as easily imprison or perpetuate false versions of the past. This is effectively conveyed in the opening story, “In the Atlantic Field” as the boy amuses himself on the beach by
drawing a woman’s figure in the sand with a stick. He then writes, “I am the first person here” on a piece of triangular slate (13-4). It is both a child’s game and a reminder of colonial attitudes that are slowly being effaced. In fact neither the boy nor his ancestors were the first on the island, and the figure in the sand begins to disappear as soon as it is drawn. In other stories, the significance of books and writing is discussed in a way that suggests the author has reservations about the ability of writers to effect social change. “Fire in the City” tells the story of Mervyn and Nello’s arrival at The Mount Hope Correctional Institute for Boys, where they are entrusted with the care of ten vagrant children. Following his detention and beating for suspected car theft, Nello is grateful to Catholic authorities for procuring his release but he wishes the nuns would teach him to read so that he could discover other books besides the bible (104). Thus, the acquisition of knowledge may empower, but its deprivation can have the opposite effect. In “The Jaguar,” Dr. Traboulay is a former university professor who has become a tramp because of his unfortunate affiliation with the wrong political powers. He floats in and out of the story, first making an appearance to give an impromptu lecture in zoology, then disappearing as the central characters Fiona and Roy argue over the latter’s involvement with the money-laundering politician De Souza. Jardim reveals layers of political and human corruption while posing an epistemological question. Is it, as Dr. Traboulay claims, “horrible, sometimes, to know things”? He sees his problems thus: I learned too much. The British were great collectors of knowledge. And they shared it with me. But then came independence, and – and – it was good. Yes, it was. But only for a while, only for a while. The new rulers came to hate everything, including the knowledge on which my profession is built. To them it was colonial knowledge, you see. They hated it all, especially with the oil boom. (134)
In writing a story about the romantic history of the jaguar and a curious old storyteller, Jardim doubtless drew on his own experiences as a young boy visiting his grandparents in Guyana: He was a great teller of tales, my grandfather [who] told me wonderful stories in Guyana, in Georgetown and the Essequibo. I was in a world then of potentially profound adventure. Who knew when a jaguar would stroll along the beach at Wolga in the Essequibo, come up the steps and into the living room near the balcony of the house overlooking the river, to have tea on a late afternoon? The story of a jaguar having tea one afternoon was told to me, among many others over those impressionable years growing up in Trinidad and Guyana. It was an experience of narrative that formed
Outlooks on Life and Chance in the Stories of Two Trinidadian Writers 159 in me during that time of boyhood adventure in Trinidad, but mostly South America; and it formed me as well. The fact that this experience occurred in South America, too, in the jungle and big river country of Guyana, is extremely significant. Narrative creates desire, and is an expression of desire. And Guyana brings to the mind, if you are lucky enough to have lived there as a boy, very different feelings and ideas about reality. (Interview)
The collection’s final story is the titular entry, “Near Open Water” in which the unnamed protagonist housesits for his cousin Jason, who is on holiday for six weeks. He discusses his surroundings at the house, the act of writing itself, and his daily wanderings with frequent italicized interruptions made in a woman’s voice. She challenges the validity of his insights and chastises him for avoiding the most significant issue: their own relationship. We again receive insufficient information to understand precisely what is meant when the protagonist says that he came to Jason’s house “to recover after the disappearance,” though the female voice may represent a girlfriend who has disappeared (157). The story is similar to “The Visitors,” in that the naïve protagonist believes the intruders with guns will not harm him once they find what they are looking for and realize his innocence. The narrator runs when they arrive because “He had nothing to do with what they were about: he was a writer, poor, with a first degree in biology, the second in literature; he had attended Boston University” (159). Disoriented, he later emerges from the bush to confront the intruders, convinced by his own logic that they will view writing as a significant, albeit innocuous, occupation. He tells them that he is not the one they are looking for in the house: “I just stay there. I write. You have to let me get my notebook.” The men disagree, shooting him three times before cutting off his head with a machete (161). The final piece in The Island Quintet is a 77 page novella called “Froude’s Arrow” in which most of the major themes from the previous stories converge. The story concerns: the fluidity of sexuality; luck; serious truths that lurk beneath the surface of jokes; and the problems inherent in interracial relationships. The narrator, Raju, an arts reporter for The Standard, details a protracted battle between J.A. Froude and J.J. Thomas, two journalists who represent right and left, colonizer and colonist. Raju surmises that Thomas is the gay epicurean journalist St. George’s pseudonym when he is in fact another side of Froude himself, who is secretly homosexual and has a black mother. Froude’s “arrows” are the retorts he uses in battles of wit, and we find out late in the story that he has been using them against himself. He even has himself taken to court so that the land appropriated by his father will be returned to the villagers
(174). After Raju’s fortuitous marriage to Dutch diplomat Mary, they go together to study in London, using a three year Dutch study-leave program. He meets Froude again, who is there to study parliamentary procedure, and discovers that Froude is homosexual. After three years Mary and Raju return to the island with her at the head of the Dutch diplomatic mission. He reflects: “I had always been led by Mary” (186) and, as in “The Blonde in the Garbo Dress,” it becomes clear that the local inhabitants cannot conceive of an Asiatic marrying a white woman and being treated as her equal. At the end of the story we learn that a woman with dark skin who Raju met once before at Froude’s house is actually his sister. They share a black mother and white father, though his complexion is lighter, meaning that he has been able to pass for white. In a genetic sense, this is luck too. When Raju first met Jenny, though, her brother failed to explain their connection, and Raju assumed that they were lovers. She admits that her brother has always enjoyed passing her off as the maid or his girlfriend. “It’s our little joke,” she explains without rancor, in a way that recalls the pleasure Kiki takes in misrepresenting her relationship with Bobby in “The Blonde in the Garbo Dress” (207). After learning of the lengths Froude has gone to in redressing the island’s power imbalance both in law, by inviting the village to sue him, and in journalistic repartee with J.J. Thomas, effectively giving a voice to the other side, Raju feels that it is “despicable” for him to live in self-imposed exile in London while Trinidadians of all races engage in a struggle for the nation’s political future (217). The only other politically aware protagonist in Ramcharitar’s stories is the abrasive gay journalist, Dara Singh, in “The Abduction of Sita,” a dark tale about how expectations can often be wrong when gaps exist between official versions of the truth and the underlying reality. Dara is given a ride by an old friend, the medical school student Sunil at the start of the story, and he hints at the relevance of this theme when he says, “You’re literally the last person in the world I would’ve expected to pick me up” (124). The reason for this is that he had only just seen Sunil the previous week for the first time in years at a Hindu festival, and the odds of a second chance encounter would seem slim. But the statement has another darker meaning. Our expectations about the superficially conservative, considerate, and soon-to-be-married Sunil will turn out to be wrong as he is a closet homosexual, violent, and far less kind and socially well-adjusted than everyone thinks. The closing note in The Island Quintet–that neutrality is reprehensible– makes up the chorus of Near Open Water. As a personal stance in Trinidad, it is both dangerous and untenable to remain neutral and disengaged in Jardim’s world. Ramcharitar, on the other hand, sees the ironic side of life
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via Asiatic narrators who harbour hopes of self-improvement. When something odd or not quite right happens in V.S. Naipaul’s Miguel Street, the familiar refrain is, “Well, what you expect in a place like this?” (Naipaul), and Ramcharitar’s stories are similar. Although Jardim calls Miguel Street the book that made him want to return to Trinidad (E-mail), and there are flashes of Naipaulian humour throughout his stories, it is Ramcharitar who displays the ironist’s hope for something better while accepting with comic resignation the fact that things might turn out worse. When asked to describe his ideal reader, Ramcharitar–perhaps tongue-incheek–replied: “Someone like me. What I imagine myself to be: openminded, urbane, good sense of humour, and willing to try new things, and with good taste of course!” (Interview). The darkness in Jardim’s stories is relieved by the sheer variety of situations, voices, and locales. The world may not be a happy place, but it is multifarious and complex. This emerges in “The Jaguar” and “A Landscape Far from Home” through descriptions of the natural beauty of Trinidad and Guyana that recalls Wilson Harris and W.H. Hudson. In these stories, Jardim’s characters are isolated from their fellows in precisely the way that Kaiser in Harris’s Heartland intends when he asks, “how you come to be so sure you ain’t standing alone in this forest of a world–as you’re already inclined to suspect–and no one’s there in person–truly good or bad–for you to watch?” (27). Jardim’s world is perhaps more jungle than forest, with his appreciation for nature tempered by an awareness of the potential for danger and violence. He lists Hudson’s Green Mansions as one of his favourite works (E-mail) and there are parallels between his philosophy that of Hudson’s hero Abel, who insists: “prayers, austerities, good words—they avail nothing, and there is no intercession, and outside of the soul there is no forgiveness in heaven or earth for sin. Nevertheless there is a way, which every soul can find out for itself—even the most rebellious, the most darkened with crime and tormented by remorse” (128). Viewed together, Near Open Water and The Island Quintet complement each other well, enriching our appreciation for the complexities of postcolonial Trinidad’s situation. They remind us of the multiplicity of truths and that there are innumerable ways of telling the same stories. One’s view of the past, present, and future is very much a function of what one has seen and where one stands.
Works Cited Harris, Wilson. Heartland. 1964. Leeds: Peepal Tree, 2009. Hudson, William H. Green Mansions. 1904. Digireads.com Publishing. Kindle edition, 2009. Jardim, Keith. E-mail interview. 1 June 2012. —. E-mail to the author. 11 June 2012. —. Near Open Water. Leeds: Peepal Tree, 2011. Mittelholzer, Edgar. A Morning at the Office. 1950. Leeds: Peepal Tree, 2010. Naipaul, V.S. Miguel Street. 1959. New York: Vintage. Kindle edition, 2002. Ramcharitar, Raymond. E-mail to the author. 9 July 2012. —. Personal interview. 24 April 2012. —. The Island Quintet: A Sequence, Leeds: Peepal Tree, 2009.
B- LANGUAGE AND LINGUISTICS
CHAPTER ONE THE GLOBALIZATION PROCESS AND THE REVIVAL OF THE ESP ENTERPRISE SMAIL BEMMOUSSAT AND OMAR AZZOG
It is needless to recall that until very recently the reasons for learning English had not been well defined. A good working knowledge of English had been generally regarded as a sign of a well-rounded education and a fundamental behavioural aspect of world citizenship. The advent of the globalization process has confirmed and reinforced the status of English as an international and global language respectively. Admittedly, the importance of a language is measured in terms of the extent to which it is found useful outside its original setting. Hence, English belongs to whoever uses it for whatever purpose or need. Arguably, ESP, as it is known today, has evolved exponentially since the early 1990s. Owing to the widespread use of English as a direct outcome of the globalization process, ESP teaching should become specialized and narrowly oriented to cater to the specific situations or purposes for which the language is needed. Such a paradigm imposes itself as a sine qua non condition for the success of the ESP teaching enterprise and calls for a rehabilitation of the ESP centres. However, for more than a decade, people have been talking about globalization and its impact on economy. What about, then, the impact of globalization on English education in general and ESP teaching in particular? The answer to this question will form the general context of the present paper. As a prelude to the presentation of our plea for the revival of the ESP enterprise, some brief definitions and comments about the practical considerations of the two key concepts making up the title seem appropriate, as they provide a framework for explaining the rationale underpinning this paper. We start first by defining the globalization process as a comprehensive concept with its multi-dimensional levels of integration and multi-faceted perspectives. Then, we move on to ESP teaching and learning and we end off the paper with a reflection upon the motives that
The Globalization Process and the Revival of the ESP Enterprise
have prompted us to make our plea for a reconsideration of the ESP enterprise that undeniably marks the apogee of English education, not least ESP, in many non-English speaking countries throughout the world. Actually, defining globalization is not an easy task. Important as it is, globalization has always been an ill-defined concept though the issues it covers are critically important and seriously significant for the well-being of people all over the world. What is more, it is not conceived by all in the same way. For the ‘haves’, who hold the hyperglobalist view, it is a blessing that is worth caring for and sharing and the spread of the English language is a logical outcome of the globalization process; for the ‘havenots’, who hold the sceptical view, it is a curse that is worth blaming and counteracting and who believe that the worldwide hegemony of the English language will systematically lead to linguistic imperialism; for those adopting a middle-ground position, who hold the transformationalist view, it could be a blessing in disguise and English may be viewed as a vehicle conducive to technological advancement, economic development and commercial expansion. Yet, there is no need to launch into such an endless debate, which is, in effect, beyond the scope of the present paper. Nevertheless, to limit the scope of the present paper, the following definitions for globalization should suffice: one, “The intensification of worldwide social relations which link distant localities in such a way that local happenings are shaped by events occurring many miles away and vice-versa” (Giddens 1990:64); two, globalization describes an ongoing process by which regional economies, societies, and cultures have become integrated through a globe-spanning network of communication and exchange. The first definition explicitly makes reference to the pioneering thinker about media, Marshall McLuhan, who coined the term ‘the global village’; the second one denotes MacEwan’s notion of the universalization of capitalism. Common to these two definitions of globalization is the idea of connections and relationships that go beyond the immediate, local environment. However, due to the fact that globalization has become a buzz word, and to some extent a clichéd term, it can be defined accordingly in very down-to-earth terms as the imposition, or to a lesser extent, the implementations of a one-world order. This world order operates through different levels of integration; these fall under five main broad headings: x Political, i.e. implementation of a one-world-political order, characterised by democracy and political pluralism. x Economic, i.e. implementation of a one-world-economic order, characterised by market-oriented economy.
x Educational, i.e. implementation of a one-world-educational order, characterised by competency-based education in primary and secondary levels and the top-down introduction of the Bachelor/ Licence-Master-Doctorate degree structure, henceforth BMP/LMD. We may anticipate that, in the long-term, the educational perspective would lead to an international harmonization of tertiary education systems in terms of curricula, degrees and diplomas. x Linguistic, i.e. implementation of a one-world-linguistic order, characterised by the shift of English from the status of an international language to that of a global language. In our very specific context, this would lead us to refer to the worldwide hegemony of the English language as the lingua franca in tertiary education and scientific research. x Cultural, i.e. implementation of a one-world-cultural order, characterised by an increase of inter-cultural exchange and crosscultural understanding aiming at developing the sense of tolerance vis-à-vis others’ differences and ultimately promoting world peace. The interplay between the different levels of integration can be illustrated by the following report: In February1996, an oil tanker ran aground while attempting to enter an oil terminal off the Welsh coast of Britain, leading to a major oil spillage and environmental disaster. As journalists tried to establish ‘who was to blame’, they uncovered an extraordinary complex transnational activity (cited in Graddol 2000: 32) Built in Spain; owned by a Norwegian; registered in Cyprus; managed from Glasgow; chartered by the French; crewed by Russians; flying a Liberian flag; carrying an American cargo; and pouring oil on to the Welsh coast (Headline, Independent, 22 Feb. 1996).
The other key concept underlying the present paper is ESP. The acronym ESP stands for English for Specific Purposes, the teaching of which consists of providing non-native speakers of English, namely nonEFL students, with language demands in their target environments (Basturkmen 2006). It is unlike English for Academic Purposes, or EAP for short, which focuses on the development of communicative competence in both its original sense as put forward by Hymes, i.e. “What a speaker needs to know in order to communicate effectively in a culturally significant situations” (Hymes 1972:278) and its revisited version as elaborated by Canale and Swain (1980) to cover the notion of competence with its four components: linguistic, sociolinguistic, discourse and strategic, ESP is goal-oriented, i.e. it takes into account the learners’ specific needs and
The Globalization Process and the Revival of the ESP Enterprise
expectations. In our very specific context, the term ESP enterprise refers to the ESP centres which have been assigned the specific mission to serve the university and the higher education institutions by training students, teachers from various academic and scientific backgrounds and prospective professionals to communicate in English effectively using specific terminology. The revival of the ESP enterprise is a sine qua non condition to meet the challenges of the ubiquitous globalization process and to successfully build up an information society. Thus, the primary role and fundamental task of the ESP centres are to provide the linguistic and metalinguistic skills needed to pave the way for educational excellence and high-tech professional training in the future. In this way, the ESP enterprise can ensure its proper place in the university community in the light of the globalization era. However, it should be noted that in our very specific context, the educational and linguistic levels of integration are our direct concern as they are closely related to the implications of the Bologna Process/ Declaration, the implementation of the BMP/LMD system at the tertiary level, and to English education in general and ESP in particular. Arguably, this is another way of saying that the newly-imposed higher education architecture and the ESP enterprise are part and parcel of the globalization process and in no way should be dealt with per se. It is to this end that our orientation is geared towards dealing with the BMP/LMD reform in relation to the teaching of ESP. Although the implementation of the BMP/LMD reform measures were not initially introduced on a large scale, at present they have cumulatively led to dramatic transformations in the organization of the university realities, leading to a restructuring of the institutions. This three-tier system is deemed to be more internationally compatible. What is more, higher education courses throughout the world do not work all to the same model; this lack of uniformity has, for a long time, had a detrimental effect on student mobility and has made recognition of their qualifications a very complicated task. The harmonisation of curricula, degrees and diplomas, through the implementation of the BMP/LMD system, is to remedy this, provided that the perspective will be quality oriented and selectivity based. It is hoped that with the BMP/LMD reforms international standards will be developed by universities that aspire to the quality label of research universities or ‘knowledge centres’, paving therefore the way to the steady building-up of a knowledge and information -driven society. The term ‘Information Society’, which is actually assumed to fulfil the mission of ‘the good-will ambassador’ for globalization, designates a particular vision of developments arising from the use of
Information and communication technology (ICT) in the acquisition, storage and processing of information. Today, the policy adopted by the Algerian Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research vis-à-vis the opening of the BMP/LMD system in EFL Departments is geared towards ESP-oriented programmes, for example, Business English, English for Tourism, etc. We may add for the purposes of this argument that “Using EFL for workplace or study purposes requires not only linguistic proficiency and knowledge, but also knowledge and understanding of work-related and disciplinary concepts” (Basturkmen, 2006: 137). In other words, an ESP-oriented course should be geared towards developing students’ knowledge of the disciplinaryrelated concepts as well as their language skills. The shift from the classical EFL Degree to the BMP/LMD system represents what is called ‘la Licence professionnalisante’ or occupation-oriented degree. In practical terms, a common core language skills teaching during the first two years and the third year is devoted to developing specific competencies, commonly called specialism. Admittedly, this is another form of ESP teaching and as such, it imposes itself as a must for the success of the ESP enterprise at the tertiary level. The deliberate shift from the traditional study paradigm, which is supposed to have run its course, towards a more rigorous and oriented research one, characterised by a common credit system, will systematically and positively affect higher education in general and English education in particular. In other words, the role and importance of science and technology will continue to grow and so will the status of ESP. On the other hand, it is doubtless that scientific research and technological advancement are intrinsically English-oriented. This point would lead us to provide illustrative examples of the hegemony of the English language in international communication-publishing, conferences, electronic networking -within the scientific community: there will come a day in which any scientific paper that is not presented in English will have little or no chance to be accepted. One can take this step further so as to assert that there will come a day in which any article that is not written in English will have little or no chance to be published. These aspects reflect only the tip of the iceberg of the linguistic integration level and are epiphenomena of the concept of linguistic imperialism. On the other hand, it is worth noting that a cause-and-effect relationship can be established between macro-economic factors and language popularity. Admittedly, as put forward by Graddol (2000:28), “a language which is spoken by rich countries is more attractive to learners than one which provides no access to personal betterment or lucrative markets.” In
The Globalization Process and the Revival of the ESP Enterprise
very down-to-earth terms, the language of an economically strong community is attractive to learn because of its business potential. It is clear that the growing number of people expressing their desire to learn English as well as the growing number of schools, state-run or private, offering English courses mirror the place the English language holds in various fields worldwide. This confirms what Ibn Khaldun posited more than some six centuries ago in his El Mukkadima (1372) that ‘the triumph of a language reflects its speakers’ triumph and its position among languages expresses its position among nations.’ Until very recently the reasons for learning English or any other language had not been well defined. Knowledge of a foreign language, not least English, had been generally regarded as a sign of a well-rounded education (Hutchinson and Waters, 1987) and a fundamental behavioural aspect of world citizenship. Since the mid 1990s, with the advent of the globalization process, this assumption has been questioned. Among the languages of wider communication, English has confirmed and reinforced its privileged position in that it has become the established language of science and technology, commerce and banking, travel and tourism and many other fields. As a lingua franca, it is the only language used in transglobal business or political communication. As Crystal (1990:7) has rightly pointed out, ‘it is not the number of mother tongue speakers which makes a language important in the eyes of the world, but the extent to which a language is found useful outside its original setting.’ As such, English is no more the sole property of the English-speaking countries, mainly UK and USA. Hence, “it belongs to whoever uses it for whatever purpose or need” (Hasman, 2000: 4). The global spread of the English language over the last fifteen years is an unprecedented remarkable phenomenon; there has never been a language so widely spread or spoken by so many people as English (Crystal 1997). According to The Economist (1996), English continues to be the world standard language, and there is no major threat to the language or its global popularity. More than 10 countries, representing the inner circle, use English as their L1, more than 70 countries and areas, representing the outer circle, take English as their L2 and more than 100 countries, representing the expanding circle, have opted for English as their first foreign language. In the light of such importance, English education needs urgently to respond to this reality, not least higher education, by developing adequate programmes designed to better prepare our students to respond positively and cope with the growing demands of the globalization process to keep abreast of the age of information.
English education began officially in Algeria in the late 1930s during the French colonial rule with no consistent English language policy and no well-designed plan for English language education. The teaching of English was part of what we used to call l’enseignement des langues vivantes, under the title of l’anglais vivant. Even after independence in 1962 and until the late 1960s, English education was still based on the French system in terms of programmes, textbooks and organization. Since then, and with the introduction of home-made ELT textbooks and the provision of Algerian EFL teachers, shifts in English language teaching methodology have been motivated by the prevailing ELT approaches and methods. However, the relatively new changes in world economy and the advent of new means of communication, as part of the ICT, have provided new impetus to the growth of global English. So in this broad context of globalization, English has become de facto the dominant foreign language in the curricula of educational institutions and the only language that forms part of most graduate and postgraduate studies in Algerian universities. This confirms the fact that “The power and influence of English have been widely recognized nowadays in the context of globalization” (Chang 2006: 515) and demonstrates that “the development of globalization has been associated with the dominance of the English language.” (Bottery 2000: 6). Within the globalization framework, the transition from a literate society to a knowledge society through tertiary education, the university being knowledge centres, creates new and tremendously important demands and exigencies. Some of these requirements cannot be attained without first and foremost a good working knowledge of English, mainly ESP. Scientific research and development of technologies are crucial activities in a knowledge and information-driven society. In this very specific context, it is worth recalling that over two thirds of the world’s scientists write in English and that over three quarters of all information in the world’s electronic retrieval system is stored in English (Crystal, 1997). In this new perspective, the ESP centres are called upon to take new responsibilities in knowledge-society building. What is more, the implementation of the BMP/LMD architecture with its schemes (Credit Transfer System) and mobility programmes (ERASMUS/SOCRATES or UMAP) have succeeded somewhat in stimulating a harmonisation, so to speak, of higher education structures, degrees system and even curricula; that’s the rationale underlying the implementation of the BMP/LMD system.
The Globalization Process and the Revival of the ESP Enterprise
Our plea for the revival of the ESP enterprise is an urgent need. It becomes a must so as to serve a three-fold requirement of a knowledge society: 1. Economic modernisation and industrial development are intrinsically related to English education, not least the ESP enterprise. The typical pattern of economic modernisation and industrial development involves technology and skills transfer from the Big Three Regions (North America, Europe and South-East Asia namely Japan and South Korea) to the rest of the world as a result of investment by transnational companies (TNC’s), often via joint venture companies. The English language is de facto the vehicle of technology transfer. 2. Computer sciences and information technology, since the invention of the analogue computer at the beginning of the 20th century to today’s flat panel LCD notebook computer in passing by Colossus in 1943, ENIAC in 1945 and ABC in 1973, have been largely English based in many respects. What is more, related literature and research findings exchange symposia are also English based. 3. The internet has displaced the traditional mass communication media. At present it epitomises the knowledge and information-driven society in the sense that it offers opportunities to gain access to knowledge, services and intellectual capital in a way that would have been unimaginable previously. With one click of a button-one click of a mouse–you can be taken to any of millions of pages stored in computers around the world. New Communication technologies and the internet provide new opportunities for greater delivery of knowledge, thereby creating a new demand for ESP teaching. In terms of figures and percentages, a 2002 survey revealed that out of 2,024 million of web pages, English got the lion’s share with 56.4% followed by German and French with 7.7% and 5.6% respectively (Wikipedia). In gross, the internet is the electronic ‘flagship’ of global English. All together, these three knowledge-society-building attributes underpin the assertion that English education, ELT in general and ESP in particular, will become one of the booming industries in the years to come. Many observers expect an increase in the demand for ESP learning worldwide, and Algeria is no exception. This situation will ask for more highlyqualified and research-oriented ESP teachers; teachers who are to develop innovative course materials and teaching methods oriented towards the needs of more demanding learners. Consequently, ESP centres will be
called upon to take up responsibilities and fuel the growing demands for specialised English courses not only for on-campus students and teachers but also for companies, corporations and business executives who need to develop English communication skills in a professional context. That’s the rationale underlying the true nature of an ESP centre in the light of the globalization process; to develop into what would be termed ‘cyber-ESP centre’. Here lies the difference between the former status of the ESP centres as consultancy-service provider and the new one as higher education institutions offering specialised programmes, vocational and competency-based training and modular courses adapted to lifelong learning. Thus, in the light of such changing situation, it is worth reviving what Kachru noted more than twenty years ago, “In comparison with other languages of wider communication, knowing English is like possessing the fabled Aladdin’s lamp which permits one to open the linguistic gates to international business, technology, science and travel. In short, English provides linguistic power.”(Kachru, 1986:1). It is to this end that our policy-makers are prompted to make goal-directed English part of the official curriculum in all the LMD’s respectively. On the other hand, it is hoped that the LMD perspectives jointly coupled with the revival of the ESP enterprise will bring the Algerian university closer in line with other universities around the world. This rapprochement will certainly give Algeria’s higher education institutions liveliness and help them shift from a lethargy centre to a knowledge centre.
References Basturkmen, H. Ideas and Options in ESP. London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers, 2006 Block, D. Globalization and Language Teaching. ELT Journal, Volume 58/1, Jan. 2004, Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2004 Bottery, M. Education, Policy and Ethics. London: Continuum.2000 Canale, M. and M. Swain. “Theoretical Bases of Communicative Approaches to Second Language Teaching and Testing.” Applied Linguistics 1: 1-47, 1980 Chang, J. Globalization and English in Chinese Higher Education. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing. 2006 Chomsky, N. Aspects of the Theory of Syntax. Cambridge, Mass: M.I.T. Press 1965 —. Rules and Representation. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. 1981 Crystal, D. The English Language. London: Penguin. 1990
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—. English as a Global Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1997 —. Language and the Internet. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2001 Giddens, A. The Consequences of Modernity. Cambridge: Polity Press. 1990 Graddol, D. The Future of English? A Guide to Fostering the Popularity of the English Language in the 21st Century. London: The British Council. 2000 Hasman, M. The Role Of English in the 21st Century. English Teaching Forum, January: 2000. Held, D, A. McGrew, D. Goldblatt, J. Perraton,. Global Transformations: Politics, Economics and Culture. Cambridge: Polity Press. 2000 Hutchison, T and Waters A, English for Specific Purposes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1987 Kachru, B. The Alchemy of English. Oxford: Pergamon Press. 1986 Mac Ewan, A.” Notes on US Foreign Investment in Latin America.” Monthly Review 45 (8): 16. 1994 The Economist. London: Profile Books. 1996
CHAPTER TWO HOLDING THE GROUND: EXPRESSING IDENTITY THROUGH SIGNAGE IN KUWAIT NUR SOLIMAN
Recent sociolinguistic studies demonstrate how language, from syntactic elements to lexicon and discourse markers, function as symbols of social identity. The use of linguistic elements on street signs constitutes a socially significant public venue for the expression of various social identities in a community. As a result, signage has recently started to receive the scholarly attention of sociolinguists (e.g. Amara 2002; Ben Rafael, et. al 2006, Edelman 2007). This study looks at the sociolinguistic dynamics of signage in Kuwait. What distinguishes Kuwait, however, is that unlike other countries that are intrinsically bilingual or multilingual, Kuwait’s only native and official language is Arabic while the country is in fact multi-ethnic and multilingual in its immigrant population. Even with just a limited scale survey, street signs can reveal information not based on the words themselves alone, but also on the language choices and social function of language. This can reveal social information about those who are responsible for the signs as well as their audiences, and the places and spaces they are in. Language acts not only as a sign for selfrepresentation and a sign for audience recognition, but it also reveals the nature of the community as a monolingual or multilingual, and multicultural, community. Through the study of language choices a lot of information or insights on tribe, gender, ethnicity, age, social class, level of education, place of education, political or religious ideology can be revealed. Those who code-switch regularly or those who intersperse words from a second language into their first language reveal something about themselves and the image or meaning meant to be presented to others. Signs, as displayed on billboards, placards, banners, etc., can also reflect similar social information through the languages that are used on them.
Holding the Ground: Expressing Identity through Signage in Kuwait
Regardless of the real meaning of the words that are included, the choice of language also says something about the image of those responsible for the sign as well as the audience they want to reach, be they the whole population or a specific group. The socio-linguistic information that is encoded in text or words can therefore be as interesting as the content itself. As Blommaert and Huang write, “Signs in social space tell us a lot about the users of the space, how users interacts with signs, how users influence and are influenced by them; they so start telling stories about the cultural, historical, political and social backgrounds of a certain space–the ‘system’ in the sense outlined earlier” (5). In their article “Linguistic Landscape and Ethnolinguistic Vitality: An Empirical Study,” Landry and Bourhis provide an early and comprehensive definition of linguistic landscaping, saying that “the language of public road signs, advertising billboards, street names, place names, commercial shop signs and public signs on government buildings combine to form the linguistic landscape of a given territory, region, or urban agglomeration” (25) while in his study “Signs of Multilingualism in Tokyo: A Linguistic Landscape Approach,” Backhaus also adds that private signs tend to show greater diversity as they are not bound by the more strict official policies on language choice and power dynamics, but instead reflect solidarity and expression of linguistic and cultural diversity (64). In his discussion on two languages in Paraguay, David Crystal explains how the choice to speak a language “may also be a signal of distance or solidarity in everyday circumstances” (42), suggesting that language choice sends a message of affiliation or separation and can therefore be seen as a mirror held up to society; it can also function as an active “instrument” in social dynamics, as Ben-Rafael, Shohamy, Amara, and Trumper-Hecht describe the linguistic landscape in Israel. As the authors write, examining the diversity and nature of linguistic landscaping helps in “uncovering social realities,” adding that in the era of globalization and increasingly diverse demographics and economic changes, such linguistic phenomena “transform the character, composition, and status of quarters, neighbourhoods, and cities, while relations between groups as well as between the public authority and the civil society receive new contours” (9). In this sense, linguistic landscape as an instrument but also as a mirror is rich in sociopolitical information, and Kuwait is no different. The population living and working in Kuwait constitutes a huge variety of ethnic backgrounds and national affiliations, which makes Kuwait a multilingual, cosmopolitan country. In fact, approximately 2/3, or 65.5% of the population is non-Kuwaiti as of the initial announcements of the 2012 Kuwait Census Bureau. Expatriates resident in Kuwait come from
neighbouring Gulf states and the rest of the Arab World and North Africa, as well as Southeast Asia, the Indian Subcontinent, and the Far East, in addition to Europe, the USA and other countries. Thus the languages spoken within the borders are multiple, and the country no longer processes or communicates only in Arabic, the constitutionally official and native language, alone. Therefore while Kuwait’s only constitutionally official language is Arabic, a quick look at signs in the country shows strategic choices when attempting to address the widely diverse population or certain segments thereof. For instance, while most of Kuwait’s governmental signs put on the sides of roads are bilingual, “private” signs often only use one language, be it Arabic, English, or other languages, including Farsi, Urdu, Hindi, Tagalog, Bangla, Tamil, etc. This difference explains how the groups that are addressed by signs are different accordingly. For example, the governmental signs will announce the name of the city or road in both Arabic and English, like “Salmiya” or “Messila”, while beneath the large sign might be a hand-made sign post with the words Diwaniyat (“men’s gathering”) in Arabic. However, there are also individually put-up signs that address the larger community, as do most governmental signs, just as there are certain situations where government signs address only a specific group. It is suggested that while governmental signs usually address all the citizens and residents, in this case, both Arabs and non-Arabs, although sometimes addressing segments of the population in their respective language, there is no such obligation for signs put up by individuals, and we may be able to see how certain functions, activities, gatherings, religious invitations, or announcements can be exclusive to certain language communities or other groups, be the signs governmental or not. This study is based on a qualitative analysis of the use of languages such as (primarily) English and Arabic, Dari (or Afghan Persian), Tamil, Hindi, and Malayalam on public signs in Kuwait: street signs of shops, restaurants, offices, and street signs, both governmental/official and corporate/commercial/individual, around Salmiya, the governorate of Hawalli and the capital, Kuwait City. Through analysis and comparison of the signs, it can be argued that despite the apparent monolingualism of the country, various languages are nonetheless employed in public spaces to reflect the identity of their intended readers and users in a multicultural community, suggesting that signs do not only inform as many readers as possible, but also assert identities. All the governmental signs announce regional or area names, as well as roads or blocks and offices, agencies, ministry departments, etc. The
Holding the Ground: Expressing Identity through Signage in Kuwait
private signs ranged from Eid-celebratory messages, signs for diwaniyas, or men’s gatherings, announcements for plays, restaurant signs, notices put up near or outside shops, election campaign posters, etc. Most of the governmental signs photographed use English and Arabic, the latter being on top, and one example being “Hamad al-Mubarak St.” with the Arabic equivalent over it. Other governmental signs like the one for the “Civil Service Commission” (see Figure 1) also use both Arabic and English. Another bilingual sign is the smaller “Give Way” (see Figure 2), situated at bends or turns in the roads; this is generally true of all traffic signs when there are words included. An explanation for this is that both Arabs and non-Arabs residing in the country would need to know where streets, areas, are, such as “Shuweikh, Salmiya, and Kuwait City” (see Figure 3) or the sign indicating the location of “Block 1, Street 2” (see Figure 5), and places like the Civil Service Commission or Centre for Prevention of Drug Abuse are. Some other governmental signs, however, are only in Arabic. For instance, a sign for a local municipality, “Kuwait’s Municipality for Construction Management” is written only in Arabic. There is no concrete explanation for this; however, a plausible reason to consider is that these signs are monolingual because those who may need them are probably Arabs or Arabic-speaking. In fact, this is not always the case, but non-Arab speaking clients are fewer in number. Other monolingual governmental signs which are exclusively in Arabic and which are perhaps easier to analyze are signs of the Ministry of Community Affairs and Employment for “Office for Care of the Elderly,” “Department for Transportation Services for the Elderly,” and the “Office for Vocational Rehabilitation for the Disabled” (see Figure 4), all exclusively in Arabic. The explanation for this is that these services are offered only to Kuwaiti nationals who, it is assumed, can all read Arabic. Governmental signs on the whole, however, are bilingual as they make the effort to address the largest possible group of residents of Kuwait, divided into Arab-speaking and non-Arab or English speaking. There is more of a flexible pattern in the non-governmental signs, where there is almost a balance of monolingual and multilingual signs, reflecting a much higher diversity in the community than simply Arabicspeakers and English-speakers, as opposed to the tendency governmental signs take toward bilingual signage. Here the dynamics between the owner of the signs and their audience becomes more varied and revealing of language choice as well as the perception of the place, purpose, and targeted reach. Displaying a closer affiliation to Arab-speakers, for instance, one small sign put up at a road-side restaurant famous for local Arabic fast food has
the words “for families” inscribed only in Arabic (see Figure 7). Even the large menu placards put up on the wall are only in Arabic. The possible explanation for this, then, is in the nature of the restaurant itself and the language its estimated audience speaks/reads. The food made in the restaurant is exclusively Middle-Eastern, of the fast-food, street-cuisine type highly popular in most segments of society. Thus, it may be inferred that those in charge of putting those signs up had only their Arab audience, of a certain class or status, perhaps, in mind, assuming that they alone may be interested in entering the restaurant, although there are occasional exceptions, including Sub-continental Asians, Iranians, and Westerners. On the other hand, a larger, more popular and more expensive restaurant than the one aforementioned is the Middle Eastern restaurant like Chicken Tikka or Ayam Zaman (see Figure 8), located at a junction into a main street. It has its signs put up in both Arabic and English. Strategically, the words are placed side by side as opposed to one above the other, taking advantage of the fact that the languages are written in different directions. Here, a pattern is evident as the image projected of this restaurant is entirely different from that of the previously discussed one, even though their foods are generally Middle Eastern / Eastern. Here, the image desired is that encompassing more than the Arab market segment, including Westerners and English-reading Asians who cannot read Arabic but enjoy the same cuisine. It must also be said, however, that those who can read Arabic are not only Arab, but may include those of Iranian origin, or even Sub-continental or Southeast Asians, as well as others who may be interested. The general idea, though, is that Chicken Tikka and Ayam Zaman are extremely popular, well-frequented restaurants probably wishing to expand their market and open it up to a wider target clientele. A great many more non-governmental signs are in both Arabic and English. For instance, most, if not all, individual pharmacies have their signs with the name bright and clear in both Arabic and English, their service indispensable to all members of community. One example is a small pharmacy, Sondos Pharmacy, in Salmiya next to older, middle-class tower blocks, whose sign brightly heralds its existence in Arabic and English, easy to see from both sides of the main road. Perhaps it is interesting to note that the little hand-painted sign on the side-walk next to the pharmacy has the words “Parking only for Sondos Pharmacy customers” in Arabic only. This may be due to the assumption of the owners that their average client who would be in this neighborhood would be Arab, and so is the only participant who would require such instruction, although their sign is bilingual as anyone connected to the neighborhood or outside of it would still require pharmaceutical services.
Holding the Ground: Expressing Identity through Signage in Kuwait
Other examples of non-governmental signs in Arabic and English are found among the laundries around Kuwait. Two with signs in Arabic and English are in the Ras-Salmiya neighborhood, one being the “Kuwait Lebanon Modern Laundry Co.” and the “Wash Me Laundry.” The possible motivation to choose two languages for most laundries may be to expand their participating customers to both nearby Arabs and non-Arabs. Moreover, the neighborhood of the two aforementioned laundries is made up of many Arabs of all backgrounds and education, as well as many Asians and Westerners; thus the signs make an active response to the demographics. Arabic predominance, however, is also recurrent; one example in nongovernmental signage is a coffee mill/shop, where different Arabic, Turkish, and other coffee blends are ground and sold. Thus the huge, lit-up sign all around the top of the shop, in bright pink Arabic script, announces the shop’s name, “Bunn al-Badawi.” This, again, implies that the targeted audience is Arab, or can read Arabic as the coffee is particularly MiddleEastern. The flavor of this coffee blend is also often deemed only suitable for Arabs accustomed to the taste, which may explain the general omission of other languages. However, in one branch of this miller’s, beneath the enormous sign, perches right above the door two comparatively tiny placards with “Al-Badawi Coffee” printed in English. (Another branch of the same miller’s does not have these.) The single instance may suggest that the owners of this particular branch are trying to address a larger audience in an effort to globalize or at least expand their target audience. An alternative or supporting argument may be that the owners desire to heighten or strengthen their image by using a language that gives a kind of prestige to its users. In present times, English has become a global language which is assumed to elevate the social status of a speaker or a shop/ restaurant, as may be the case here. Therefore, the use of another language on signs may be to enhance the image of the store and its goods/services as well as to communicate its availability. One place where there is currently no flexibility in language choice, and where all is in Arabic, is the signage for the Diwaniya, or men’s gathering, where only Arabic is used, as is the case with Diwaniyat Nasser al-Sabah (see Figure 6), or Diwaniyat al-‘As‘usi, Diwaniyat al-Dabbous. Even signs which inform guests where to park are only in Arabic. The possible social information that may be inferred from this is that the audiences interested speak Arabic–that those who are likely to sit at the Diwaniya are Arab-speakers, mostly Kuwaitis. Thus there is no real need to have the sign in English, or Farsi, or any other languages. Of course, this very well may change over the years to come, as more English or
Iranian, perhaps, enters even the conventional Diwaniya. For the present however, the audience is kept exclusive, through the signs, to Arabicspeakers. But English and Arabic are not the only languages spoken or read in Kuwait as mentioned before; nor are they the only languages on Kuwait’s signs. In Kuwait City, a huge part of the labouring sector is Asian, be it Sub-Continental or Southeast Asian, or Afghani, Chinese, Nepalese, etc; there is also a substantial Iranian community. Although the majority of signs in Kuwait City are in English, Arabic, or both, there are a considerable number of signs in Farsi, Tamil, Hindi, Bengali, and Dari (Afghan Persian) to address these groups. The existence of these signs reflects the vitality of these communities within the city and accommodates them better, offering services/goods that would interest them. For instance, in the well-known Wataniya Souq, there is a shop overlooking the road with three languages on it, the middle one being Tamil, an Indian language. The other two languages are English and Arabic; all three reading “Liberty Sun Video” (see Figure 10). Then, below the large headings is a line in English, reading “Tamil, Hindi, Malayalam films are available.” The fact that this is in English only is to address Hindi and Malayalam speakers as well, whose scripts are different from that of Tamil, but who are also interested in films in these languages. English often serves as a lingua franca across multi-script/multi-lingual India. A speculation as to why the shop did not utilize Hindi or Malayalam script is that the shop-owner may be Tamil, but also wants to welcome a larger clientele through the use of English. The existence of Arabic may also serve a similar function in that the shop owners also wish to include their Arab-speaking clientele, as a great many Kuwaitis are avid fans of Indian films. Also, the use of the country’s native language may be in acknowledgment or respect for it, as well as lending a stronger image of legal credibility. Precisely the same situation can be observed in the signs for “Brilliant Audio & Video Center” (see Figure 11), Lanno Seedevi Cargo Service (see Figure 12), the “Granada Pharmacy” (see Figure 13) and “Punjabi Pakistani Store” (see Figure 14) for groceries. As Mohammed Amara shrewdly remarks in a note in his article “The place of Arabic in Israel,” regarding the language of the signs in the Israeli Palestinian city Tira, more than 90% of shop signs were written in Hebrew–though in many of the stores, clients are only Arabs. One explanation may be that Hebrew enjoys a high status among Palestinians in Israel. Writing in Hebrew adds prestige and credibility to the goods” (Amara 65). Like the Palestinian signs in Tira, then, the owner of the signs incorporating Tamil, Malayalam, Punjabi, Korean, etc. sign may have also chosen Arabic because it lends much greater credibility to
Holding the Ground: Expressing Identity through Signage in Kuwait
the goods, while English may enhance its prestige, though it is much more likely that English here is meant to serve as a communication tool, a lingua franca for interested Hindi and Malayalam clients. Furthermore, the Wataniya Souq is a market for both Arabs and nonArabs, Asians in particular. It is a large complex facing a main road where Asian passers-by might generally notice the brightly-coloured shop signs; also, it is surrounded by construction sites and corporate firms, banks, investment companies, and little shops, where such groups work. In this case, employment demographics play a role in the signs’ language, although Kuwait City as a whole hosts a large Asian working community. Another example of non-Arabic, non-English signs are those put up beside a road in Kuwait City’s inner business centre, where there are plenty of tall towers, banks, agencies, insurance firms, etc, as well as restaurants/eateries, tailors, watch-repair and sewing-machine shops, etc. The labourers at the tailors, watch-repair, and sewing-machine-repair shops are generally Asian, be they Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, or Afghan. Situated here is a large tent with big, black cloth banners over the walls, the words painted in white, an imposing attention-grabber beside the busy roundabout (see Figure 9). These signs are characteristic of the husseiniyeh, a Shi’ite holy mourning function, designed to commemorate the martyrdom of the Prophet’s grandson Hussein, and are a familiar sight throughout Kuwait, particularly in areas where the Shi’ite community clusters such as Rumaithiya, Salwa, or Dasma. The difference, however, is that this sign is not in Arabic, as such signs usually are, but is instead in Dari (Afghan Persian), including the words “set up by Abul Fadl al-‘Abbas, mourner of Afghanistan, residing in Kuwait” and also, a large, bold “Peace be upon you, O Hussein, father of Abdullah” in Arabic to prevent any possible confusion among non-Afghans as to the function, if the colors do not suffice to inform. The rest of the words in Dari (Afghan Persian) are of religious content, with a very strong spiritual tone relating praise for Hussein and also the adherents’ love for him. This dominant use of Dari for such a function is to welcome fellow Afghan Shi’ite Muslims, who prefer performing their holy rites in the language they are most comfortable in and with people of the same sect, ethnicity, and traditions. The rituals of Afghan Shi’ites may very well be different from, say, Kuwaiti practices, so an exclusive gathering would be suitable. Thus the only way to attract such audiences is to announce the existence of such a husseiniyeh in their native Dari (Afghan Persian). As Rizwan Ahmad says in his article about the “linguistic richness” of Old Delhi, signboards are “not only ways to advertise business, but they are
ways to assert and celebrate people’s religious identities through language as well” (Ahmad 1). It is also interesting to note that although some of these signs indicate restaurants or functions that best or exclusively interest their own community, some are in English and Arabic catering to these same communities and to other groups who may be interested as well. For instance, a restaurant bearing the sign “South Indian Restaurant” uses English and Arabic, with the names of foods offered in Arabic only, not the South Indian language. In another instance, “Restaurant of ShaĠir ‘Abbas: Iranian food” is written only in Arabic. It could be that the title of shaĠir, meaning teacher or an honorific ‘sir’, contributes to the name of the restaurant as palpably ‘Iranian,’ or Persian. Both of these instances may suggest a message similar to that which Chicken Tikka attempts to send out. Although it is most likely that it is South Indians or Iranians who would be interested in eating at these restaurants, the owners may have noticed that other language groups enjoy their cuisine, and so have their signs in English and Arabic to welcome a much larger target clientele. It appears that most signs reflect the nature of the building, shop, activity, or function by virtue of who they wish to communicate with. As Blommaert and Huang remark, “If we combine semiotic scope and spatial scope, we understand that one of the major functions of public signs is demarcation” (7). This applies to governmental and non-governmental signs alike: while most governmental signs address the Arab and non-Arab community with Arabic and English (considered a lingua franca and thus theoretically comprehensible to non-Arabs), others solely address the Arab or Kuwaiti community because the services they offer apply exclusively to them. The same applies to non-governmental signage, though contextually the situation is different. While some signs are both in Arabic and English like most of the governmental road signs across the country– indeed, some in English and Tamil, or Arabic and Dari (Afghan Persian)– some are solely in Arabic because the activity/instruction they indicate is assumed to be (or is) exclusive to an Arabic-speaking community. Language choice in the public arena, then, is usually informed by the nature of the relevant function and whether it is peculiar to one culture and is only interesting to people within that group, or to the whole national community who would need to know what the place is, what that instruction is, and what that “invitation” is for. Language choice is no longer reduced to communication of information proper as relating to the text, but it also provides social information. The pattern that revealed itself through the research was that certain types of information are presented in more than one language, often
Holding the Ground: Expressing Identity through Signage in Kuwait
English and Arabic, though sometimes other languages are used, to accommodate larger audiences within the multi-lingual community of Kuwait, while others were exclusive to certain groups, showing restricted affiliation. Be the signs governmental or not, one could always find some motivation as to the choice of language in the midst of speakers of a variety of languages as in Kuwait.
Fig. 1. “Civil Service Commission” (Soliman, 2007).
Fig. 2. “Give Way” (Soliman, 2007)
Fig. 3. “Shuweikh, Salmiya, Kuwait City” (Soliman, 2007).
Holding the Ground: Expressing Identity through Signage in Kuwait
Fig. 4. “Office for Vocational Rehabilitation for the Disabled” (Soliman, 2007)
Fig. 5. “Block 1, Street 2” (Soliman, 2007).
Fig. 6. “Diwan of Nasser al-Sabah” (Soliman, 2007).
Fig. 7. “For Families” (Soliman, 2007).
Holding the Ground: Expressing Identity through Signage in Kuwait
Fig. 8. “Ayam Zaman” (Soliman, 2007).
Fig. 9. “Dari Sign for Husseiniyya” (Soliman, 2007).
Fig. 10. “Liberty Sun Video” (Soliman, 2007).
Fig. 11. “Brilliant Audio and Video Center” (Soliman, 2007).
Holding the Ground: Expressing Identity through Signage in Kuwait
Fig. 12. “Lanno Seedevi Cargo Service” (Soliman, 2012).
Fig. 13. “Granada Pharmacy” (Soliman, 2012).
Fig. 14. “Punjab Pakistan Store” (Soliman, 2012).
Works Cited Ahmad, Rizwan. “Old Delhi: A Linguistic Tapestry.” Milli Gazette. 1-15 June 2006. Print. Amara, Mohammed Hasan. “The Place of Arabic in Israel.” International Journal of the Sociology of Language. 158 (2002): 53-68. Print. Backhaus, Peter. “Multilingualism in Tokyo: A Look Into the Linguistic Landscape.” Linguistic Landscape: A New Approach to Multilingualism. Ed. Durk Gorter. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters, Ltd, 2006. Print. Ben-Rafael, Eliezer, Elana Shohamy, Muhammad Hasan Amara & Nina Trumper-Hecht “Linguistic Landscape as Symbolic Construction of the Public space: The Case of Israel.” Linguistic Landscape: A New Approach to Multilingualism. Ed. Durk Gorter. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters, Ltd, 2006. Print. Blommaert, Jan and April Huang. “Semiotic and Spatial Scope: Towards a Materialist Semiotics.” Working Papers in Urban Language & Literacies: Paper 62. 2010. Web.
Holding the Ground: Expressing Identity through Signage in Kuwait
Crystal, David. “Social Solidarity and Distance.” The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language–Part II Language and Identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003. Print. Edelman, Loulou. “Linguistic Landscapes in the Netherlands: Representation of Immigrant Languages.” Proc. of 6th International Symposium on Bilingualism, 30 May–2 June 2007, U of Hamburg, Germany: U of Hamburg, 2007. Web. KUNA. “Kuwait’s 2011 Census Reveals 35.5 Pct Kuwaitis.” KUNA, 18 March 2012. Web. June 14 2012. Landry, Rodrigue and Richard Y Bourhis. “Linguistic Landscape and Ethnolinguistic Vitality: An Empirical Study.” Journal of Language and Social Psychology. 16.1 (1997): 23-49. Soliman, Nur. “Civil Service Commission.” 2007. Digital File. JPEG. —. “Kuwait City.” 2007. Digital File. JPEG. —. “Give Way.” 2007. Digital File. JPEG. —. “Shuweikh, Salmiya, Kuwait City.” 2007. Digital File. JPEG. —. “Office for Vocational Rehabilitation for the Disabled.” 2007. Digital File. JPEG. —. “Block 1, Street 2.” 2007. Digital File. JPEG. —. “Diwan of Nasser al-Sabah.” 2007. Digital File. JPEG. —. “For Families.” 2007. Digital File. JPEG. —. “Ayam Zaman.” 2007. Digital File. JPEG. —. “Dari Sign for Husseiniyya.” 2007. Digital File. JPEG. —. “Liberty Sun Video.” 2007. Digital File. JPEG. —. “Brilliant Audio and Video Center.” 2007. Digital File. JPEG. —. “Granada Pharmacy.” 2012. Digital File. JPEG. —. “Lanno Seedevi Cargo Service.” 2012. Digital File. JPEG. —. “Punjab Pakistan Store.” 2012. Digital File. JPEG.
CHAPTER THREE WORLD ENGLISHES THRIVE, STANDARD ENGLISH REIGNS: THE CASE OF RESUMPTIVE PRONOUNS IN RELATIVE CLAUSES MARTA MARIA TRYZNA
Introduction English language is the native tongue of about 360 million speakers, and a second or foreign language of over 1.1 billion worldwide (“Future of English”:10). An official language of 54 countries, 27 sovereign entities, and many international organizations, it is the only language of the world whose non-native speakers far outnumber its native speakers. This naturally leads to the emergence and co-existence of a plethora of English varieties, or Englishes, each of which is characterized by a unique set of phonological, lexical and syntactic properties. Nevertheless, Standard English remains steadfastly the language of education, whether in countries where English is the first or second language. The present paper explores the notion of Standard English with emphasis on grammatical features. It also discusses the rationale behind teaching formal grammar rules of Standard English to nonnative speakers. It then examines the nature of nonstandard English input to which nonnative speakers may be exposed to, specifically in Kuwait. Finally, it presents a study of a nonstandard feature of English, namely resumptive pronouns in relative clauses, and investigates it from the perspective of native speakers, second language speakers, and English as a Second Language instructors. Specifically, the paper attempts to answer the following questions: x What is Standard English?
World Englishes Thrive, Standard English Reigns
x How important are native speaker judgments in determining grammaticality? x How does nonstandard input influence second language grammar development? x What type of classroom intervention can help learners converge on the Standard English form? The last research question, concerning the type of classroom intervention that language instructors may resort to in order to help learners acquire Standard English grammar is discussed in the light of an empirical study conducted by the author at one of the private universities in Kuwait1.
The Notion of Standard English All languages consist of dialects – regional and social varieties with distinct phonological, lexical, and syntactic characteristics. Standard English (SE), although commonly thought of as a ‘language’, is in fact one of the varieties of English, defined as ‘a set of grammatical and lexical forms typically used in speech and writing by educated native speakers’ (Trudgill: 32). Thus, Standard English is a purely social dialect considered as the ‘prestige’ variety. Despite its high status, it is the home dialect of only about 12%-15% of the UK population concentrated at the top of the social scale. The tendency is such that the lower a speaker is situated on the social scale, the more nonstandard forms tend to appear in their speech. Standard English is not associated with any particular accent, as it may be spoken with a variety of regional accents. In the English-speaking world as a whole, it comes in a number of different forms, so that we can distinguish between Scottish Standard English, American Standard English, or Standard British English. In the UK, Received Pronunciation (RP), the prestigious accent associated with the affluent and powerful as well as those who have received a public school education, is the native accent of only 3% of the population (Trudgill and Cheshire: 94-109). Thus, it appears that speakers of the prestigious variety of English are many times outnumbered by the speakers of other nonstandard varieties. From the linguistic standpoint, Standard English is only one variety of English among many, and as such is in no way superior to any other dialect. However, Standard English appears to be the most important 1
I wish to thank Fatima Sokhieva for her inspiration and help with the administration of the study, as well as Roumyana Slabakova and Ivan Ivanov for their comments. The shortcomings are all mine.
dialect in the English-speaking world from a social, intellectual and cultural point of view. It is the variety normally used in writing, printing, the education system in all the English-speaking countries of the world, as well as the variety taught to non-native learners world-wide. Thus, from an educational point of view, the position of Standard English is unquestionable and unchallenged. In terms of its linguistic characteristics, Standard English is best distinguished from other nonstandard varieties by its grammatical features. Grammatical Feature Standard English Conjugation of verbs I go, you go, he goes in present tense
Negation Reflexive pronouns Second person Conjugation of the verb ‘be’
Tense forms of irregular verbs Demonstrative pronouns
Nonstandard English I go, you go, he go or I goes, you goes, he goes… I don’t want any milk I don’t want no milk Himself, themselves Hissself, theirselves Singular: you Singular: thou / you Plural: you Plural: you / youse Am/is/are I be, you be, he be, we Was/were be… I were, you were, he were… Present perfect: I have Present perfect: I have seen seen Preterite: I saw Preterite: I seen This, that This, that, yon
Table 1. Standard versus nonstandard English grammar (Trudgill: 117-128) Regardless of what nonstandard variety of English one might grow up speaking, Standard English remains the language of education, especially in the context of writing. This is true not just in the English-speaking countries, but especially abroad where English is taught as a second or foreign language. Invariably, textbooks and other teaching material utilize the grammar of Standard English, and all language tests are couched in the same linguistic framework. Thus, English language learners are expected to converge on the rules of the Standard English, a feat that might prove difficult due to a variety of factors, not the least impactful of which are
World Englishes Thrive, Standard English Reigns
deficient second language input as well as first language interference in various areas of the grammar. The following section discusses the role of linguistic input in language development.
Linguistic Input and Language Development All language learners must rely on the available language input for their linguistic development. Language input, however, has its limitations. Speakers of a language rarely communicate in well-formed and fully grammatical sentences, frequently using fragments (incomplete structures), repetitions, backtracking, redundancies and slips of the tongue. Noam Chomsky considered language input necessary but insufficient for language learning, and proposed that children acquire language relying on an innate capacity which he envisioned as a neural network designated for language processing and production. Language input available in the child’s linguistic environment is highly variable; yet, all children acquiring their first language(s) converge on a set of grammar rules used by a particular community of speakers without any explicit instruction and within a relatively short period of time (4-5 years). The children’s grammar will reflect a set of rules present in a particular (spoken) dialect of their respective linguistic community. For example, in a study of spontaneous speech involving elementary school children in Reading (UK), the following types of sentences were common: I keeps them. I puts them in a envelope (…) and I leaves them on a shelf and opens them the next day. The –s on the present tense verb form (I keeps, I leaves, etc) is a characteristic grammar feature of working class Reading English, used throughout the paradigm (I keeps, you keeps, she keeps, we keeps, etc.). This feature occurs in 89% of the children’s spoken texts, while in writing, where children are explicitly taught the rules of Standard English and penalized for using nonstandard forms, it decreases to 38% (Williams). Thus, explicit instruction seems essential in helping the speakers of a nonstandard variety converge on the standard form. Second language learners are presented with an even greater challenge, as their developing interlanguage grammar of English frequently relies on highly modified (i.e. unauthentic) input provided in the language classroom, as well as deficient, nonnative-like input outside the school provided by second language speakers whose English competence is highly variable. This is especially true in the case of English, where second language speakers are far more numerous than native speakers. In the absence of reliable grammatical input outside their language classroom, second language learners typically depend on the classroom instruction for
the understanding and application of Standard English grammar rules. The following section discusses the rationale for explicit grammar instruction.
Grammar and Nonnative Speakers Michael Swan advocates two main reasons for teaching grammar rules to nonnative speakers of English: comprehensibility and acceptability. Comprehensibility is the extent to which sentence grammaticality affects its meaning. Thus, leaving out 3rd person singular present tense suffix-s in He jog every night does not lead to decreased comprehensibility, although it does not represent Standard English grammar. Similarly, leaving out the copula verb is in She beautiful does not interfere with comprehension and in fact is found in some nonstandard varieties of English. However, omission of was in a passive construction, such as *John told about the meeting instead of John was told about the meeting, severely impacts the understanding of the sentence. Also, it is ungrammatical in all varieties of English. Thus, in situations where context does not help disambiguate meaning, grammar is the key to understanding, while ungrammaticality, or ill-formedness of a sentence, leads to a serious decrease in comprehensibility. Acceptability is the extent to which target audience is willing to tolerate grammar mistakes, and the levels of tolerance vary greatly depending on the context of language use. In the era of communicative language teaching, where the explicit teaching of grammar rules is shunned in favor of meaningful interaction uninterrupted by error correction, language teachers tend to ignore grammatical mistakes in the classroom, as long as a given communicative task is successfully accomplished. Language examiners, on the other hand, tend to favor grammatical accuracy, and may not be inclined to pass a candidate whose language contains glaring grammar mistakes. Similarly, an employer might worry that an employee whose grammar is deficient might be perceived as uneducated or even unintelligent by business partners or customers, reflecting negatively on the image of the company. Finally, some language users may want to satisfy their ambition to attain high level of grammatical competence in order to be perceived as near-native or at least highly proficient second language speakers. Thus, comprehensibility as well as acceptability may underlie language instructors’ choices with respect to setting expectations for student performance in terms of grammatical accuracy. High level of expectations regarding the use of Standard English is especially relevant in the context of universities where English is the language of instruction, irrespective of whether the students are native or
World Englishes Thrive, Standard English Reigns
second language speakers of English. Universities train future professionals whose good communication skills, together with the underlying linguistic competence, may play a key role in their career choice and professional success. For example, in many Middle Eastern countries, where a dialect of Arabic is the vernacular, English is the language of education, especially at university level. Frequently after completing secondary education at bilingual Arabic-English schools or English schools with British or American curricula, Arab youth continue to study in English, typically at private universities with an American curriculum. At such universities, the language of instruction, textbooks, and virtually all teaching materials are in English. The faculty and instructors, while not necessarily native speakers of English, typically hold degrees from universities in Englishspeaking countries. Thus, expectations regarding students’ language skills are high, whether their performance is evaluated in knowledge-based or skills-based courses. For example, in English composition courses, students are expected to perform on a par with native speakers, a standard which many instructors strive to uphold, while the majority of the students struggle to attain. English is, after all, their second language, learned in varied circumstances with nonnative speakers. Next, I will briefly examine the characteristics of the linguistic environment in which native speakers of Arabic acquire English as a second language, the country of reference being Kuwait. Kuwait recognizes Arabic as the official language, but it is in fact a multilingual country where English, Tagalog, Hindi, Farsi and several other languages are spoken by the expatriate community, which constitutes about two thirds of the population. English holds a special status as a language of international business and education. In a study by Al-Rubaie, 95% of the respondents regarded English as an important asset in career opportunities, while 69% found a direct link between English language proficiency and higher level of education (146). Although Arab youth do not interact in English with their peers and extended family at social events, as Kuwaiti dialect of Arabic is the preferred language of communication (Al-Rubaie:153), they successfully function in English in many educational and business contexts, where the interlocutors are nonnative speakers of English themselves. Educational contexts are particularly interesting, since the quality as well as the quantity of language input varies greatly. Some students begin their English learning experience very early, in bilingual preschools, and then go on to complete British or American primary and secondary schools, where instructors are native English speakers. Most young Kuwaitis, however, graduate from government schools, where Arabic is
the language of instruction and English is taught as a foreign language for 5-6 hours a week by instructors who are second language speakers themselves (typically, their first language is some dialect of Arabic). Thus, in their pre-university years, for many Kuwaiti students English input is very limited, artificially modified (classroom instruction), or deficient (non-native, low-proficiency level interlocutors). However, regardless of the students’ pre-university language experience, at universities and colleges high level of English proficiency is required, both in terms of accuracy and fluency. Few allowances, if any, are made for the secondlanguage learner status of the students. Being able to produce texts in Standard English with a high accuracy (i.e. virtually error-free) is especially important in academic writing courses, where student writing is evaluated in terms of content, organization, and language (grammar, word choice, punctuation, spelling). Many students who successfully function in English in informal situations, find themselves struggling to maintain the required level of accuracy in their writing assignments. One specific area of grammar which has been observed to pose persistent difficulties even for advanced language users is English relative clauses. While relative clauses are infrequent sentence types in general, almost all instances of their occurrence are ungrammatical. The following are examples of relative clauses from student writing (Fatima Sokhieva, personal communication). 1.
a. There are some topics which I don’t have any idea about them, so I must use my imagination to write. b. I never say no to anyone if I can do the thing which I’m asked to do it. c. For a student, there are a lot of articles that he or she has to understand them properly. d. Summarizing is one of the important skills that we should learn it in college. e. I have many goals which I will not be able to achieve them. f. I want to improve the language which I use it for writing. g. The only day that I cannot forget it is my graduation day. h. There are some steps which you must follow them to write a good summary.
It must be noted that the authors of the above sentences are generally proficient in English, and have been promoted out of the Intensive English Program and accepted into a full-time university program. However, the occurrence of the pronouns (in bold) in the above relative clauses is a
World Englishes Thrive, Standard English Reigns
complex and well-researched phenomenon, which will be discussed from several perspectives in the remaining sections of the paper.
Resumptive Pronouns in Relative Clauses in English and Arabic Relative clauses (sometimes called adjective clauses) are subordinate clauses that modify nouns. They are marked with a wh-pronoun (what, which, who, whose) or ‘that’, but if the relativized element is a direct object of the verb, the wh- pronoun can be omitted (compare 2ab and 3ab). 2. a. The woman that I met___last week came to see me. b. The woman I met___last week came to see me. 3. a. The woman who/that____came to see me was very upset. b. *The woman came to see me____was very upset. In terms of structure, English relative clauses require fronting of the wh-pronoun and leaving a gap in the place where the relativized element has originated. In the examples above, the original position of the relativized element in 2 is the direct object of the verb ‘meet,’ while in 3 it is the subject of the verb ‘come.’ This accounts for the grammaticality of 2b, and the ungrammaticality of 3b (the asterisk indicates syntactic illformedness). If the gap in the relative clause is filled with a pronoun, the relative clause becomes ungrammatical. 4. *The woman who I met her yesterday came to see me. 5. *The woman who she came to see me was very upset. The pronoun marking the gap in the above sentences is called ‘resumptive’ or ‘intrusive’ in linguistic literature, as it refers back to a syntactic element in the relative clause that is already referenced by the relative pronoun. In Standard English, resumptive pronouns are considered ungrammatical, and are outlawed by all English grammar books. However, the linguistic reality of English resumptive pronouns in relative clauses is more complex than the observations presented so far. In fact, it has been hypothesized that resumptive pronouns are disallowed only in ‘shallow’ relative clauses (as in 4 and 5), while they occasionally may appear in more deeply embedded relative clauses, especially in colloquial speech (as in 6 and 7).
6. I had some other point which I can’t remember what it is. 7. I have three people that I don’t know how they are doing in other classes. Thus, resumptive pronouns can be used as markers of the position relative to which a relative pronoun has to be construed, but such constructions are considered “substandard” or “marginal” (Chomsky 71132). However, in relative clauses that are more deeply embedded, resumptive pronouns seem to be obligatory, as evidenced by the ungrammaticality of 8a, where the relative clause has a gap, and the grammaticality of 8b, where the relative clause contains a resumptive pronoun she. 8. a.*That’s the girl that I don’t know what ___ did. b. That’s the girl that I don’t know what she did. Also, in sentences containing both a relative clause and a whether clause, resumptive pronouns seem to be accepted by native speakers of English (Sells). 9. a. Which student do you wonder whether he will pass the exam? b. *Which student do you wonder whether__will pass the exam? Although generally considered ungrammatical in Standard English, resumptive pronouns seem necessary to save the grammaticality of certain sentences which would be even worse without them. In addition to their grammatical function described above, resumptives in English are frequent in colloquial speech. The following are wellknown examples of relative clauses with resumptive pronouns produced spontaneously by native speakers of English. 10. a. I have this friend who she does all the platters (Prince) b. She got a couch at Sears that it was on sale (Cann et al.) c. This is the donkey that I don’t know where it lives (Ferreira and Swets) d. The man who the spider is falling on his head… (Zukowski and Larsen) e. …bees which if you are stung by them, you die (Creswell)
World Englishes Thrive, Standard English Reigns
In the linguistic literature, there is an ongoing debate whether resumptive pronouns, such as the ones above, should be analyzed as a syntactic strategy or as a processing device (Alexopulou, and Keller). While engaging on either side of this debate is beyond the purpose of the present paper, several important findings from recent literature on resumptive pronouns in English are crucial to the understanding of the rationale behind the experiment discussed later in this study. In one study (Keffala & Goodal, cited in Han et al.), native speakers of English were presented with written sentences (i.e. visual stimuli) containing relative clauses with and without resumptive pronouns and asked to rate their acceptability. The sentences with resumptive pronouns, similar to the ones in (10), were judged as unacceptable. In another study (Han et al.), native speakers were presented with both visual and aural stimuli in order to overcome written text effect and simulate speech conditions. The results showed low acceptability rating for relative clauses with resumptive pronouns with both stimuli types. Corroboration comes from a very recent study (Polinsky et al.), where native speakers were asked to evaluate relative clauses containing resumptive pronouns and relative clauses with gaps. The results show that native speakers invariably rate relative clauses with resumptive pronouns as ungrammatical, regardless of whether the stimuli are presented visually or aurally. Thus, resumption in English must be treated as a spontaneous speech phenomenon, unacceptable in more formal contexts, where rules of Standard English strictly apply. A very different picture is found in Arabic, where resumptive pronouns are obligatory in all syntactic positions in relative clauses with the exception of the highest subject (Shlonsky: 445-446). In the following examples, the grammaticality of the relative clause depends on the presence of the resumptive pronoun ha in different syntactic positions (indicated in square brackets). 11. a. il-bint ?illi sufti-ha the-girl that saw-2s.FEM-her ‘The girl that you saw.’ b. il-bint ݦilli fakkarti fii-ha the-girl that you. F- thought on-her ‘The girl that you thought about.’ c. il-bint ݦilli sufti beyt-ha the-girl that you.F-saw house-her ‘The girl whose house you saw.’
It is important to note that without the resumptive pronoun ha, which agrees with the girl in gender, person, number, and case, the above sentences would be ungrammatical in Arabic. This is quite unlike English, where resumptive pronouns in the object position trigger ungrammaticality. At the same time, the subject position in Arabic relative clauses is incompatible with a resumptive pronoun. This constraint is illustrated by the grammaticality of 12a, where the relative clause has an obligatory gap, and the ungrammaticality of 12b, where the relative clause contains a resumptive pronoun hiy. 12. a. il-bint ݦilli raayha al beyt the-girl that go the house ‘The girl that is going home.’ b. *il-bint ݦilli hiy raayha al beyt the-girl that she go the house ‘The girl that is going home.’ Thus, subject relative clauses in Arabic behave similarly to English relative clauses, in the sense that the subject position in the relative clauses cannot be filled by a pronoun (i.e. must remain a gap). This creates a kind of subject-object asymmetry, which does not have a counterpart in English. For the speakers of Arabic who are learners of English, this is a potential source of grammatical errors, as learners may fall back on their native grammar and continue to use resumptive pronouns in the English relative clauses. This phenomenon is known as negative transfer or first language (L1) interference (Odlin: 436-86). A possible theoretical explanation is such that linguistic features such as a WH-feature, involved in the syntax of relative clauses, are subject to critical period constraints, and as such are inaccessible to post-puberty second language (L2) learners. In other words, it is too late for adolescent language learners to ‘delearn’ their L1grammar (Arabic), where resumptive pronouns are obligatory, and learn/acquire the L2 grammar (English), where resumptives are ungrammatical. In theoretical terms, L1 parametric values resist resetting (Tsimpli & Dimitrakopoulou). As a result, L1 transfer effects are expected, resulting in the learner’s use of Arabic syntax in their L2 English (c.f. examples 1a-h).
World Englishes Thrive, Standard English Reigns
The Empirical Study on Resumptive Pronouns Given the high frequency of resumptives in L2 English relative clauses of L1 Arabic speakers, we hypothesize that parameter resetting has not taken place. Explicit L2 grammar instruction seems necessary to help students de-learn the L1 option, incorrectly used in L2 English. In the present study, two approaches to grammar instruction are tested: a traditional approach (deductive) and a ‘rule discovery’ approach (inductive). The traditional approach is a deductive grammar instruction method where students are first taught a grammar rule and then practice its application. Thus, the students learn about relative clauses, their different types, and how to form them in English. They are also told when to drop the relative pronoun, and then asked to write different types of relative clauses for practice. In the process of instruction, a lot of metalinguistic terminology must be used in order to explain the rules to the students. The ‘rule discovery’ is an inductive approach based on providing the students with two sets of relative clauses presented side by side. The two sets differ minimally, as Set 1 contains grammatically correct clauses (i.e. without resumptives) while Set 2 contains the same relative clauses with resumptive pronouns (i.e. ungrammatical). The students are then asked to discover why the clauses in Set 2 are incorrect. Very little metalinguistic terminology is used, and students are encouraged to formulate the rule in their own words and then teach it to a partner. The ‘rule discovery’ approach should be more effective than the traditional grammar approach in eradicating resumptive pronouns from L2 English relative clauses of L1 Arabic speakers for two main reasons: it provides explicit negative (grammatically incorrect sentences) and it engages the students’ higher order cognitive skills such as analyzing, evaluating, and creating. The experiment involved a pretest, a posttest and two types of intervention: the traditional approach and the ‘rule discovery’ approach. The participants in the study were 82 university students (42 males, 40 females, age range 17-20) at a private university in Kuwait where English is the language of instruction. Their formal English education was at least 8 years long. Their minimum TOEFL iBT score was 70 (or 500 on paperbased test). The data collection instruments (pretest and posttest) both included 30 sentences: 16 test items (relative clauses with resumptive pronouns) and 14 distracters (various grammatically correct and incorrect sentences). The test items on the pretest consisted of 10 object and 6 subject relative clauses with resumptive pronouns, while the posttest had 12 object and 4
subject relatives. Below is an example of a test item with an object relative clause and a resumptive pronoun him. 13. The doctor who I was hoping to see him wasn’t on duty. Is the sentence correct? YES NO If you circled NO, underline the error. The participants took the pretest in April 2010 and were then randomly divided into two groups. Two weeks after the pretest, both groups participated in a two-hour English grammar session: the first group’s intervention followed the traditional grammar approach (deductive method), while the second group underwent the ‘rule discovery’ approach (inductive method). Recall that the traditional grammar approach involved metalinguistic explanation of what relative clauses are, how relative pronouns are used in English, and examples of different types of relative clauses followed by writing practice. The ‘rule discovery’ approach consisted in analyzing two sets of sentence, one containing relative clauses with gaps (i.e. grammatical sentences) and the other ungrammatical relative clauses with resumptive pronouns. The students were asked to compare the two sets of sentences and discover why one set was ungrammatical. They were then encouraged to formulate a ‘rule’ about relative clauses based on their own findings. Metalinguistic explanation was not used by the instructor throughout the session. Two weeks after the intervention, both groups took the posttest. In the meantime, the two tests were taken by a group of eight native speakers of American English to establish the native speaker benchmark. As expected, the native speakers correctly rejected relative clauses with resumptive pronouns at 94% (object) and 100 % (subjects). The results of the experimental groups are presented below. The results for the two experimental groups (traditional grammar and rule discovery) in the realm of the subject relative clauses have revealed a high rejection rate of relative clauses with resumptive pronouns (Fig,1). No significant differences were found between the groups in the pre-test.
World Englishes Thrive, Standard English Reigns
Figure 1. Resumptive pronoun rejection rate in subject relative clauses by both groups (pretest)
The results for the object relative clauses revealed a highly variable rejection rate. In the pretest, the traditional grammar group was at 30%, while the ‘rule discovery’ group rejection rate stood at 16.7%. After the intervention, in the post test results the rejection rate increased in both groups by 32% and 22%, respectively (see Figures 2 and 3).
Figure 2. Rejection of resumptive pronouns in the object relative clauses in the traditional grammar group.
Figure 3. Rejection rate for object relatives with resumptives in the ‘rule discovery’ group.
As the above figures show, the rejection rate for object relative clauses with ungrammatical resumptive pronouns increases after the intervention, albeit not uniformly. An additionally complicating factor is that the ‘rule discovery’ approach group initially had a much lower rejection rate in the pretest (16.7%) than the traditional grammar group (30%), which is surprising given the comparable language levels of the participants. Although pedagogical intervention seemed to have a positive effect on both groups, it did not produce a steep increase in the rejection rate. The learners’ highest rejection rate by group was 62%, which is just above chance. The native speakers’ benchmark (over 90%) has not even been approximated. At the same time, the results for the subject relative clauses are native-like, with the rejection rate at or above 90% for both groups. These results clearly show that L1 interference (transfer) may long remain a default strategy employed by non-native speakers not just in spontaneous speech production, but also in writing.. The low increase in the rejection rate also calls into question the effectiveness of both intervention types. The most disappointing is the result of the ‘rule discovery’ group in the posttest, as the increase in the rejection rate was expected to be much higher than in the case of the traditional grammar approach. In fact, the increase was lower by about 8%. This could be due to the fact that the group had a much lower rejection rate to begin with, and thus failed to take full advantage of the ‘rule discovery’ process.
World Englishes Thrive, Standard English Reigns
In terms of effectiveness, a two-hour intervention appears to be insufficient to successfully raise above chance the rejection rate of resumptive pronouns in the English object relative clauses. This does not mean that grammar intervention should be forsaken all together, but rather that it should be more systematic and continuous. The unsatisfactory results are, in fact, predicted by language acquisition theory, which claims that language parameter resetting cannot take place in the grammar of post-puberty learners (Tsimpli & Dimitrakopoulou). However, in spite of deficient linguistic input and strong first language interference, second language learners of English do stand a chance of converging on the Standard English grammar, especially in context requiring high accuracy.
Conclusion The present paper examined the notion of Standard English as a purely social dialect, whose rules are not always followed by native speakers of other varieties of English. During formal education, rules of Standard English are explicitly taught, especially in the context of writing, which may present a challenge to the speakers of nonstandard varieties of English, as well as to second language learners. While the former may continue to fall back on their speech community’s syntactic or lexical patterns, the latter may experience long-lasting first language interference effects, which can be alleviated only through targeted and systematic grammar instruction.
Works Cited Alexopoulou, Theodora, and Frank Keller. “Locality, cyclicity, and resumption: At the interface between the grammar and the human sentence processor. Language 24:1, 2007. 57-111. Al-Rubaie, Reem. “Future Teachers, Future Perspectives: the Story of English in Kuwait.” Diss. University of Exeter, 2010. Web. . Cann, Ronnie, Tami Kaplan, and Ruth Kempson. “Data at the grammar pragmatics interface: The case of resumptive pronouns.” Lingua. 115. (2004): 1551-1577. Chomsky, Noam. “On Wh-Movement.” Formal Syntax. P.Culicover, T.Wasow and A.Akmajian. New York: Academic Press, 1977. 71132. Creswell, Cassandre. “Resumptive pronouns, wh-island violations, and sentence production.” Proceedings of the Sixth International Workshop
on Three-Adjoining Grammar and Related Frameworks (TAG 6). Venice: Universita di Venezia, 2002. 101-109. Ferreira, Fernanda, and Benjamin Swets. “The production and comprehension of resumptive pronouns in relative clause “island” contexts.” Twenty-first century psycholinguistics: Four cornerstones. A.Cutler. Mahway, NJ: Laurennce Earlbaum Associates, 2005. 263278. “Future of English.” The British Council. Web. 2011-08-24:10. Han, Chung-Hye, Noureddine Elouazizi, Christina Galeano, Emrah Görgülü, Nancy Hedberg, Jenninfer Hinnell, Meghan Gefferey, Kyeong-Min Kim, and Susannah Kirby. “Processing Strategies and Resumptive Pronouns in English.” Proceedings of WCCFL 30. New York: Cascadilla Press, 2012. Web. Odlin, Terence. “Cross-linguistic Influence.” The Handbook of Second Language Acquisition. C.J.Doughty and M.H.Long. Oxford: Blackwell, 2003. 436-86. Polinsky, Maria, Lauren Eby Clemens, Adam Milton Morgan, Ming Xiang, and Dustin Heestand. “Resumption in English.” (in press).Web. 22 Jan. 2013. http://scholar.harvard.edu/files/sprouse_paper_latest.062412_0.pdf>. Prince, Ellen. “Syntax and discourse: A look at resumptive pronouns.” Berkeley Linguistic Society: Proceedings of the 16th Annual Meeting. (1990). 482-497. Shlonsky, Ur. “Resumptive Pronouns as a Last Resort.” Linguistic Inquiry. 23. (1992): 443-468. Swan, Michael. “Teaching grammar: Does grammar teaching work?” Modern English Teacher, 15/2, 2006. Web.
Trudgill, Peter. “Standard English: What it isn’t.” Standard English: The widening debate. T. Bex & R. J. Watts eds. London: Routledge, 1999. 117-128. Web September 10, 2012.
Trudgill, Peter. and Cheshire, J. “Dialect and education in the United Kingdom.” In J. Cheshire, V. Edwards, H. Münstermann & B. Weltens (eds.), Dialect and education: some European perspectives. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters, 1989: 94-109. Tsimpli, Ianthi, and Dimirakopoulou, M. “The interpretability hypothesis: Evidence form wh-interrogatives in second language acquisition.” Second Language Research 23. (2007): 215-242.
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Williams, Ann.”Non-standard English and Education.” In David Britain (ed.) Language in the British Isles (2nd edition). Cambridge University Press, 2007: 401-16. Zukowski, Andrea, and J Larsen. “The production of sentences that we fill their gaps.” CUNY Sentence Processing Conference. University of Maryland. 2004. Poster.
Omar Azzoug is currently Lecturer at the English Language Department, University, of Tlemcen, Algeria. He holds a ‘Doctorat es Science’ in Sociolinguistics. His doctoral dissertation focussed on the issue of the use of dialectal Arabic in primary education. He has worked on several sociolinguistic studies, including the sociolinguistic situation in the Maghreb Area. His main fields of research cover Didactic aspects of ELT in Arab/Islamic settings, testing and assessment and Dialectological Studies. Smail Bemmoussat is professor of Applied Linguistics and TEFL at the English Language Department, University of Tlemcen, Algeria. He holds a Master’s Degree in Modern English Language and Linguistics from the University of Sheffield (GB) and a ‘Doctorat d’Etat’ in Applied Linguistics and TEFL. His main research interests include language/ culture teaching, assessment and testing and teacher education development. He is the author of A University Course in Linguistics (Office des Publications Universitaires, 2004) and co-author with Nawal Bemmoussat of A University Course in Cross-Cultural Studies (Dar Enashr, Algiers, 2011). Thorsten Botz-Bornstein was born in Germany, studied philosophy in Paris, and received his Ph.D. from Oxford University. As a postdoctoral researcher based in Finland he undertook extensive research on Russian formalism and semiotics in Russia and the Baltic countries. Since 1999 he is an Associate Researcher at the EHESS of Paris from which he received his ‘habilitation.’ He has also been researching in Japan, in particular on the Kyoto School, and worked for the Center of Cognition of Hangzhou University (China) as well as a at Tuskegee University in Alabama. He is now Assistant Professor of philosophy at Gulf University for Science and Technology in Kuwait. His latest publications are, La Chine contre l’Amérique. Culture sans Civilisation Contre cCivilisation sans Culture? Forthcoming (Paris: L’Harmattan 2012); Virtual Reality: The Last Human Narrative? (forthcoming, Rodopi 2012). Editor of: The Philosophy of Viagra: Bioethical Responses to the Viagrification of the Modern World (Rodopi, 2011); Inception and Philosophy: Ideas to Die
Globalization Appropriation or Hybridization
For (Chicago: Open Court, ‘Philosophy and Popular Culture Series’, 2011). Website: http://botzbornstein.webs.com. Yasmina Djafri is lecturer of English literature at the department of English, Faculty of Letters and Arts, University of Abdelhamid Ibn Badis, Mostaganem, Algeria. She hold an MA in British Literature: “A Feminism of One’s Own: Virginia Woolf and the Androgynous mind”. She is currently preparing to defend her Ph.D. in Applied Linguistics: “Teaching Literatures in English: An Empirical Algerian University Experiment. Her most recent are publication is “Innovation vs. Canonisation: Foreign Literature Content in the Algerian Degree of English” in El Tawassol: Langues, culture et literature, (31), September 2012, Algeria. Sahar El Mougy is Lecturer of English and American literatures in the English Department, Faculty of Arts, Cairo University, Egypt. She is a radio presenter of a live weekly writing workshop in the European Services of radio Cairo (95.4 FM) and a gender and creative writing facilitator. She is author of two collections of short stories and two novels. Her latest novel, Noon, is the winner of the Cavafis Prize for literature, 2007. Ikram Ahmed Elsherif is assistant professor of English and American Literature at the Gulf University for Science and Technology (GUST), Kuwait. Elsherif was awarded a British Council grant which allowed her to obtain her M.A. research degree in Modern British Fiction in 1992. Between 1992-1996 she was granted several Fulbright research and study grants which allowed her to obtain a certification in TEFL from Ohio University, Athens, USA, 1992; a certification in ESP teaching from Alexandia University, Egypt, 1993; a certification in TESOL from Saint Michael’s College, Colchester, Vermont, USA, 1995. Elsherif was also awarded a Fulbright research grant to the UK in 1995-1996 which eventually paved the way for her to obtain her Ph.D. in African American Literature from Royal Holloway, University of London, UK, 1999. From 2004-2005, Elsherif was a Fulbright Senior Scholar Fellow at the Newberry Library, Chicago, USA. From 2004-2008, Elsherif served as Acting member of the reviewing, screening and selection board for candidates for summer studies programs and for M.A., Ph.D. & postdoctoral research grants in the U.S. offered by the Binational Fulbright Commission in Egypt. She has published on post-colonial and modern minority and ethnic literatures and on women’s and feminist studies. Her most recent publications are: “Marginality in Leila Ahmed’s A Border
Passage.” Sahifatul Alsun, 27 (January 2011), pp 85–125; and “Alternating Defensive Postures’: Racial and Feminist Battles in the Work of Arab-American Women Writers.” Connections and Ruptures: America and the Middle East. Ed. Robert Myers. Beirut, Lebanon: AUB press, 2011. Pp. 433-446. Fadia Faqir is the author of Nisanit, Pillar of Salt and My Name is Salma, and The Cry of the Dove, which will be made into a feature film. Her work was translated into fifteen languages and published in nineteen countries. The prologue of her fourth novel At the Midnight Kitchen was published in Weber Studies and won their fiction prize 2009. Her short story ‘Under the Cypress Tree’ was shortlisted for the prestigious Bridport Prize 2010 and will be published by Wasafiri. Faqir received an Arts Council of England grant to write her fifth novel. She is a Writing Fellow of St Aidan’s College, the University of Durham, where she teaches creative writing. She is also the founder of the Durham Sanctuary for Women Writers. Andrew James is Associate professor in the School of Commerce, Meiji University, Tokyo, Japan. He is a Canadian who completed his Ph.D. in English literature at the University of Ulster. He has published numerous essays on literary theory, Kingsley Amis, and Graham Swift in England, France, and Holland. His first book, Kingsley Amis: Antimodels and the Audience (McGill-Queen’s University Press) will appear in June 2013. He is the recipient of a three year Grant-in-Aid-of-Scholarly Research from the Japanese government to work on the manuscripts in the British Library’s Graham Swift Archive. He has lived and worked in Japan for twenty years. Raymond Ramcharitar is a Trinidadian poet, playwright, fiction writer and media and cultural critic. His work includes the award-winning drama ‘Paradiso,’ criticism collected in Breaking the News: Media and Culture in Trinidad (2005), as well as the volume of poetry American Fall (2007), and the fiction An Island Quintet (2009). Martin Rosenstock is Assistant Professor of German at Gulf University for Science and Technology in Kuwait. He received his Ph.D. in 2008 from the University of California, Santa Barbara and has held visiting positions at Iowa State University and the University of Connecticut. He has published on the depiction of detective work in German-language literature (Monatshefte, 100:3) and American popular culture (artUS, 30). Currently, he is working on a book project entitled Unsolved Cases:
Globalization Appropriation or Hybridization
Investigations into German-Language Detective Fiction, in which he considers the portrayal of failed detectives. Piers Michael Smith was educated in the UK, the Netherlands and many of the littoral regions of Asia. He is currently Head of the English Department at GUST. He has published on diverse literary and cultural matters, particularly in the fields of travel writing and literary theory. Nur Soliman graduated from AUK (American University in Kuwait) in 2010 with a BA in English (summa cum laude). Her senior thesis explored the narrative power, poetics, and rhetoric of space in Tolstoy’s Death of Ivan Ilych (1886) and a contemporary painting. Soliman has worked at a curatorial and research assistant at Kuwait’s Museum of Islamic Art, as a staff consultant at the American University of Kuwait’s Writing Center. At present she is affiliated with the American Embassy in Kuwait. Soliman is also a freelance journalist and copyeditor for publications in Kuwait and Dubai. Marianna Torgovnick: Born in Brooklyn and educated at NYU and Columbia University, Marianna Torgovnick taught at Williams College before moving to Durham, North Carolina, to teach at Duke University, where she is currently Professor of English and Arts of the Moving Image, as well as Director of Duke in NY Arts and Media. She splits her year between New York, where she lives in Greenwich Village, and Durham, where she lives in Duke Forest–which really is a forest. Born Italian American (a De Marco), she is married to Stuart Torgovnick and they have two daughters who also live in New York. She writes autobiographically as well as publishing literary and cultural criticism. You can follow her at Marianna_Tor (her Twitter site) as well as MariannaTorgovnick.com. Marta Maria Tryzna Before enrolling in the graduate program in linguistics at the University of Iowa, Dr. Marta Maria Tryzna worked as an English teacher trainer at the Pedagogical Academy in Czestochowa, Poland. After graduating with a PhD, she joined a newly-founded American University of the Middle East (AUM) in Kuwait to establish the undergraduate writing program and the graduate business communication program. Having completed her task, she joined the Gulf University for Science and Technology (GUST) in Kuwait, where she teaches undergraduate linguistics including syntax, pragmatics, discourse analysis, and applied linguistics, as well as undergraduate and graduate business
writing courses. Her research interests are first and second language acquisition of syntax. Her recent publications include a paper entitled Questioning the validity of the Fluctuation Hypothesis: Evidence from article use by L2 English speakers of L1 Polish and L1 Mandarin Chinese in Acquisition of Articles: Empirical findings and theoretical implications, edited by Maria del Pilar Garcia Mayo and Roger Hawkins published by John Benjamins in 2009. Robert J.C. Young is Julius Silver Professor of English and Comparative Literature at New York University. From 1989-2005 he was Professor of English and Critical Theory at Oxford University and a fellow of Wadham College. He earned his B.A., M.A., and D.Phil. degrees in English from Exeter College, Oxford University. In 2010-11, he was Visiting Senior Research Fellow at St John’s College, Oxford. Professor Young is one of the early pioneers and most influential scholars in the rapidly growing fields of Anglophone and postcolonial literatures; this interdisciplinary literary field involves research that also crosses over into areas of history, theory, philosophy, anthropology and translation studies. His books include White Mythologies: Writing History and the West (1990); Colonial Desire: Hybridity in Culture, Theory and Race (1995); Torn Halves: Political Conflict in Literacy and Cultural Theory (1996); Postcolonialism: An Historical Introduction (2001); Postcolonialism: A Very Short Introduction (2003); The Idea of English Ethnicity (2008). He is also the Editor of Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies and was a founding editor of The Oxford Literary Review. Robert Young has lectured in over 30 countries, and his work has been translated into over 20 languages. He is currently writing a book on theories of cultural translation.