January 8, 2014

Discussion Group: Literature of the United States in Languages Other Than English.
Theoretical/Pedagogical Approaches to Multiethnic/Multilingual Mass Media and Social Media. Time period and genre open; transnational texts welcome. Brief abstract (500 words max) and brief bio/CV (by 10 March 2014; Montse Feu (mmf017@shsu.edu).



June 4, 2013

Our panel brings together outstanding papers. We are anticipating a lively discussion about the theoretical/pedagogical approaches to the role of translation in multiethnic/multilingual studies.

“Sentimentalism’s Transpacific Journeys,” Wen Jin, Fudan University, China.  

Translation plays an especially important role in studying Asian American literature.  It’s not just that first generation Asian American writers sometimes write in their “native” Asian tongue and their works can only be accessed by English speaking readers through translation.  A more   important though less observed phenomenon is that Asian American writings may themselves be shaped by the influences of translated literature.  This essay explores a particularly meaningful example of this scenario.

It studies the depictions of Chinese laborers in Kushehui (1905), an anti-U.S. exclusion novel presumably written by a 19th century Chinese sojourner and often identified as an origin of Chinese American fiction.   Parts of the Chinese-language novel were translated into English in the 1980s, but it was in itself a product of Western literature’s entry into China via translation.  The essay thus reads Kushehui in relation to representations of physical pain and suffering in Heinu yutianlu (1901), Lin Shu’s translation of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.  The peculiarities of the brand of sentimentalism in Kushehui have much to do with the development of the political novel in late Qing China in the shadows of imported literature and the modern Western notion that the Chinese were impervious to pain and lacking in empathy.  Mediating between translation and transnational ethnic literature, the essay constructs a transpacific genealogy of sentimental empathy at the turn of the twentieth century

Translation studies has always been preoccupied with the issues of cross-cultural adaptation, appropriation and influence.  These issues are all brought to sharp relief in this case study.  Sentimentalism, as a mode of narrative geared toward arousing empathy, molds itself in response to different verbally mediated structures of feeling as it travels across the Pacific.  Existing studies of literary sentimentalism, as seen in Marianne Noble, Lauren Berlant, and Suzanne Clark etc., focus largely on a single linguistic context. I seek to broaden this line of inquiry by bringing together the translation of an American novel into Chinese and its unruly offspring in the Chinese American literary tradition.   Kushehui, strikingly, creates a kind of stoic sentimentalism that questions the efficacy of employing narratives of Chinese suffering to foster ethnic and national identities and thereby reconfigure the notion of the nation itself.  


“Translation and Estrangement: Towards a Pedagogy of the Foreign,” Jamie Richards, University of Oregon.

The phenomenon of “scrittura migrante,” or migrant writing, has become one of the most controversial and central in Italian studies today. With the immigration boom in Italy beginning in the 1980s came new fiction and non-fiction that recounted the migrant experience. The first “wave,” in the 1990s, consisted primarily of writers who had emigrated from countries colonized by other European nations, such as Algeria, Morocco, Senegal, Tunisia; later, the second wave included second-generation Italians, whose parents came from the former Italian colonies of Somalia, Eritrea, and Ethiopia, as well as writers of other origins—Russian, Albanian—who chose to write in the language of their new home. Thus a genre of multicultural writing has emerged in Italy, one which has interrogated xenophobia and racism, troubled the concept of national identity and belonging, brought to light the legacy of Italian colonialism, and revolutionized the literary panorama. While addressing the specific Italian cultural context, this is also a literary phenomenon that finds transnational affinities in, for example, the migrant writing of Germany, U.S. Chicano literature, and Francophone postcolonial literature, all characterized by their engagement with two languages and cultures—all of which, to borrow Salman Rushdie’s phrase, narrate the experiences of “translated men.”

Yet if Italian migrant writing is typically read as forging a dialogue with Italian culture—redefining the literary panorama and innovating the language, challenging xenophobic discourse and discrimination and troubling the concept of national identity—what happens when the “destination culture” (Parati 2005) changes? While scholarship has focused on a myriad of issues raised by migrant literature within the Italian context, in translation, the dialogue with Italy is broken, the text passes into world literature, and the conversation changes. My paper offers an analysis of the work of two migrant writers, Kossi Komla-Ebri (originally from Togo) and Amara Lakhous (originally from Algeria), from the perspective of both the language classroom and the comparative literature classroom. Focusing on students of Italian asked to produce a translation and monolingual students assigned one of these texts in translation, I offer complimentary examples of deep reading that work toward cultivating an appreciation—if not an understanding—of alterity. In English translation, I claim, the irreducible hybridity of the multicultural text produces a productive estrangement (a term I theorize in reference to Viktor Shklovsky, Antoine Berman, and Lawrence Venuti) that challenges dominant American definitions of a multiculturalism grown commonplace and complacent, making possible a pedagogical ethics of the foreign.

February 8, 2013

Call for Papers – 129th MLA Annual Convention Chicago, 9–12 January 2014.

Discussion Group: Literature of the United States in Languages Other Than English
Theoretical/pedagogical approaches to the role of translation in multiethnic/multilingual studies. Time period and genre open; transnational texts welcome. Brief abstract (500 words max) and brief CV (due date: 10 March 2013; Montse Feu (montsefeu@gmail.com).

MLA 2012 Call for Papers

February 11, 2011

The U.S. Literature in Languages other than English discussion group is happy to announce its panel for 2012:

After the Heath: Teaching U.S. multilingual literatures

This roundtable looks at U.S. multilingual literature since the publication of the Heath anthology (1989).  Papers should reflect shifts in pedagogical and theoretical approaches to literary scholarship and/or critical approaches to texts presented in the Heath.

Abstracts by March 20 to dahlbergs@uhd.edu

Narrating Lives in Two Languages – MLA 2011

November 29, 2010

The panel organized by the Discussion group on U.S. Literature in Languages Other Than English will be held on Friday, January 7th from 5:15-6:30 p.m. in room 402A of the LA Convention Center.  We anticipate a fascinating discussion on the politics and poetics of multilingual literature.

Questions about the session? Please contact the Discussion Group president Laura Isabel Serna via email at << lserna@cinema.usc.edu>>.

The group’s business meeting will be held earlier that same day.  Details will be posted soon.

The Panel for the 2011 Convention: Narrating Lives in Two Languages

May 17, 2010

This year’s panel brings together three outstanding papers under the rubric of the conference theme: Narrating Lives.  We are anticipating a lively discussion about the possibilities and problematics of literature in languages other than English that tells the story of American lives.

1. “Taming the Wild Tongue: Multilingual Feminine Speech in Anzaldua’s Borderlands: La Frontera, Cha’s Dictee, and Philip’s she tries her tongue, her silence softly breaks,” Gretchen Busl, University of Notre Dame

(Click here for abstract)

2. “Ethics and Bilingualism: Marjorie Agosín’s Literary Search for a Language of Human Rights,” Ricardo F. Vivancos Perez, George Mason University

(Click here for abstract)

Marjorie Agosin

3.  “Translating and Translocating Cuba in Achy Obejas’s Ruins”
Susannah Rodriguez Drissi, University of California Los Angeles

Havana "Ruins"

(Click here for abstract)

Looking Forward from the 2009 Convention

January 17, 2010

The 2009 meeting of the discussion group was notable both for the quality of the papers presented and the level of interest shown by the audience. Not only did the presentations by Peter Conolly-Smith, Montse Feu, and Lee Bessette treat literary works from three different linguistic traditions, they also dealt with three distinct periods: the latter half of the nineteenth century, the 1930s, and the 1980s and 1990s, respectively. Close adherence to the theme “Immigrant or Exile?” ensured unity of inquiry amid diversity, allowing for a thorough exploration of the problematic at hand. After the question period, conversations between panelists, audience members, and executive  committee members continued in the meeting room and even in the hallway of the Loews. We hope that contacts made will lead to dialogue and maybe even future collaborations, be they through our discussion group or between individual scholars. It is also worth noting the continued trend of increased attendance at our meetings: 15 attendees voted in our executive committee election, up from the previous several years.

The close of the 2009 Convention saw the departure of Clint Bruce of Brown University from the executive committee after 4 years of service and the election of panelist Montse Feu of the University of Houston. Congratulations and welcome, Montse! Laura Isabel Serna of Florida State University has now begun her term as president, and Sandra Dahlberg of the University of Houston is officially serving as secretary after assuming secretarial duties at the 2009 Convention. Additionally, elections for the term beginning in 2011 will be held in the fall, in accordance with new election procedures by ballot.

For the January 2011 Convention in Los Angeles, the discussion group will take advantage of the presidential theme, Narrating Lives, with a session entitled “Lives in Two Languages: Narrating Across Cultures.” This panel looks at the relationships between cultures and how individuals negotiate multilingual identities in the literature of the United States. We welcome texts from indigenous, colonial, and immigrant languages. A full CFP is forthcoming; for the time being, interested scholars can contact us at us.lit.in.lote@gmail.com.

The Panel for the 2009 Convention: Immigrant or Exile?

November 17, 2009

This year’s panel brings together three outstanding papers under a thought-provoking theme: Immigrant or Exile?

1. “Johann Rittig and Caspar Stürenburg: The Exile’s versus the Immigrant’s Variation on the New York German Local Color Serial,” Peter Conolly-Smith, Queens Coll., City Univ. of New York

(Click here for abstract)

2. “España Libre and Its Collaborators: Exile Activism and Immigrant Experience Kept Apart,” Montse Feu, Univ. of Houston, University Park

(Click here for abstract)

Dany Laferrière

3. “Or a Nomad? Dany Laferrière’s Travels in America (Canada, United States, Haiti),” Lee E. S. Bessette, Florida A&M Univ.

(Click here for abstract)

The meeting is scheduled to take place at 10:15-11:30 a.m. on 29 December in Commonwealth Hall A1, at the Loews Philadelphia.

See our page on “This Year’s Presenters and Paper Abstracts” for information about these scholars.

Immigrant or Exile (CFP Text)

November 17, 2009

Our discussion group set out the following CFP earlier this year and received an encouraging number of high-quality proposals. The text of the CFP gives a basic idea of the kind of conversation we hope that our final selections will generate at the meeting this December.

When do immigrants position themselves as exiles? When do exiles become immigrants? Cultural production, broadly construed as literature and other forms of creative media, “made in the U.S.A.” in languages other than English has often thematized the experience and affect of exile, uprootedness, and dislocation. The panel will examine whether, how, and why significant differences may exist in the poetics/aesthetics of works produced from the viewpoint of “exiles” or from that of “immigrants.” Furthermore, these two categories are hardly static, and the transition from exile to immigrant may occur for a variety of reasons – or not at all. The designation as one or the other may form a consensus among a given community or, conversely, represent a stance taken by an individual writer or artist. Literature or other works of art can either legitimize that consensus or create dissonance. Obviously, the lines of tension that emerge are specific to particular groups, each with their own histories, aspirations, and relationship to their homeland and to the U.S. Given this extreme diversity, papers dealing with works from any linguistic community are welcome. Studies of contemporary works are encouraged, though the panel is open to proposals dealing with any time period.

Possible topics of proposals may include but are not limited to the following questions:

· How do writers represent diaspora?
· How does the experience of war condition the immigrant or the exile?
· What accommodations do immigrants make to the U.S. culture that exiles do not?
· What linguistic compromises do immigrants make in their native language that exiles do not?
· How is nation building reflected in immigrant cultural production?
· What conclusions can be drawn about the politics, circulation, and reception of exile/immigrant televisual or theatrical production?
· How do the political interests of the exile differ from those of the immigrant?
· How is the expression of nostalgia different for immigrants and exiles?
· How do indigenous writers use the language of exile and diaspora?
· How do writers address internal “immigrant” exile and alienation?