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With increasing frequency, readers of literature are encountering barely intelligible, sometimes unrecognizable languages created by combining one or more languages with English. Evelyn Ch'ien argues that weird English constitutes the new language of literature, implicitly launching a new literary theory.
Weird English explores experimental and unorthodox uses of English by multilingual writers traveling from the canonical works of Nabokov and Hong Kingston to the less critiqued linguistic terrain of Junot Díaz and Arundhati Roy. It examines the syntactic and grammatical innovations of these authors, who use English to convey their ambivalence toward or enthusiasm for English or their political motivations for altering its rules. Ch'ien looks at how the collision of other languages with English invigorated and propelled the evolution of language in the twentieth century and beyond.
Ch'ien defines the allure and tactical features of a new writerly genre, even as she herself writes with a sassiness and verve that communicates her ideas with great panache.
Have you noticed how the English language is being relentlessly globalized? Weird English, by Evelyn Nien-Ming Ch'ien, is a celebratory take on that trend in literature...You need only be interested in things literary in order to find this an enlightening and quite fascinating read...[It] is written with verve, and presents an intriguing and important idea. Ch'ien argues that 'weirding' English allows bi-cultural writers to create a truer, more representative linguistic space for their imagined communities. They do this by displacing the rhythms of English, subverting its rules, and pollinating it with other languages—literally...Weird English is a kind of literary street law, in which ungrammatical language, patchwork syntax, linguistic stuttering and unintelligibility are not shortcomings but the tools and bricks of identity-building...Weird English is a robustly academic work, but Ch'ien's style is quite palatable—even veined with humor.
— Mitali Saran
1. A Shuttlecock above the Atlantic: Nabokov's Mid-Life and Mid-Geographic Crises
2. Chinky Writing
3. The Politics of Design: Arundhati Roy
4. "The Shit That's Other": Unintelligible Languages
5. Losing Our English, Losing Our Language: The Unintelligibility of Postcolonial Theory