Multilingual America: Transnationalism, Ethnicity, and the Languages of American Literature / Edition 1

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Aside from the occasional controversy over "Official English" campaigns, language remains the blind spot in the debate over multiculturalism. Considering its status as a nation of non-English speaking aborigines and of immigrants with many languages, America exhibits a curious tunnel vision about cultural and literary forms that are not in English. How then have non-English speaking Americans written about their experiences in this country? And what can we learn-about America, immigration and ethnicity-from them?

Arguing that multilingualism is perhaps the most important form of diversity, Multilingual America calls attention to-and seeks to correct-the linguistic parochialism that has defined American literary study. By bringing together essays on important works by, among others, Yiddish, Chinese American, German American, Italian American, Norwegian American, and Spanish American writers, Werner Sollors here presents a fuller view of multilingualism as a historical phenomenon and as an ongoing way of life. At a time when we are just beginning to understand the profound effects of language acquisition on the development of the brain, Multilingual America forces us to broaden what in fact constitutes American literature.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This unique anthology is the first compilation of American literature to collect works written in the United States from 1696 to 1994 in languages other than English and present them on the verso pages with English translations on the recto. As pointed out in the introduction by coeditor Sollors (English literature and Afro-American studies, Harvard), multilingual texts were common in older anthologies but have disappeared in more contemporary collections. This new volume may stimulate further studies and readers in this neglected aspect of American literature. As is usual with such efforts, not every work selected is worthwhile: of the 31 pieces chosen by the two editors and 32 contributors, roughly half are of excellent quality. American Indian dialects, French, Spanish, Polish, Welsh, Yiddish, Chinese, and Scandinavian are represented, and the selections encompass poetry, short stories, sermons, humor, and nonfiction. For academic library collections; primarily recommended as a text for college courses in alternative American literature. Morris Hounion, New York City Technical Coll. Lib., Brooklyn Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
From the Publisher
”This volume is invaluable and provides essential source as wake-up call for both professionals and general audiences to recognize that American literature is multilingual throughout its history and, if present demographic trends continue, will rapidly become more multicultural.”

-Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814780930
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 8/1/1998
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 416
  • Product dimensions: 6.90 (w) x 9.90 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Werner Sollors is Henry B. and Anne M. Cabot Professor of English Literature and Professor of Afro-American Studies and Chair of the History of American Civilization Program at Harvard University. He is the author and editor of numerous books, including The Multilingual Anthology of American Literature, Theories of Ethnicity: A Classical Reader, and Multilingual America: Transnationalism, Ethnicity, and the Languages of American Literature, all available from NYU Press.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: After the Culture Wars; or, From "English Only" to "English Plus" 1
1 "The Rest of the Story"; or, Multilingual American Literature 17
2 The New Orleans Press and French-Language Literature by Creoles of Color 29
3 From Melting Pot to Copper Kettles: Assimilation and Norwegian-American Literature 50
4 The Ladino (Judeo-Spanish) Press in the United States, 1910-1948 64
5 "Los Comanches" at Alcalde: Two Centuries of Tradition 81
6 Language and Belonging: A Welsh-Language Novel in Late-Nineteenth-Century America 91
7 "The Quintessence of the Jew": Polemics of Nationalism and Peoplehood in Turn-of-the-Century Yiddish Fiction 103
8 Redefining Chinese-American Literature from a LOWINUS Perspective: Two Recent Examples 112
9 Ethnic Fatigue: Bascillar's Poetry as a Metaphor for the Other "Other Literature" 124
10 "Only an 'L'": Linguistic Borders and the Immigrant Author in Abraham Cahan's Yek! and Yanke! der Yankee 144
11 The Strange Case of Luigi Donato Ventura's Peppino: Some Speculations on the Beginnings of Italian-American Fiction 166
12 Worlds of Difference: Lin Yutang, Lao She, and the Significance of Chinese-Language Writing in America 176
13 Divine Comedy: The Jewish Orthodox Sermon in America, 1881-1939 191
14 "Ersatz-Drama" and Ethnic (Self-) Parody: Adolf Philipp and the Decline of New York's German-Language Stage, 1893-1918 215
15 The Formation of an Italian-American Identity through Popular Theater 240
16 Crossings and Double-Crossings: Polish-Language Immigrant Narratives of the Great Migration 246
17 Hyphens: Between Deitsch and American 258
18 Portingles in the United States: The Luso-America of Jose Rodrigues Migueis 272
19 Not "On the Backs of Blacks": U.S.-American (Im)Migration and Jewish Diaspora in the German-Language Writings of Jeannette Lander 281
20 Choose and Lose 297
21 The Languages of Memory: Cynthia Ozick's The Shawl 313
22 American Anglophone Literature and Multilingual America 327
23 Reflections on Multilingualism 348
24 Tigua Pueblo: Materializing Language, Transmitting Memory 353
25 Out of Sight: The Suppression of American Sign Language 367
26 ISOTYPE and the Project of Universal Graphic Language 380
27 Statement on Language Rights 389
28 Researching Non-English Literature of the United States with the Modern Language Association (MLA) Database 395
Contributors 397
Index 403
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