Cover image for American Babel : literatures of the United States from Abnaki to Zuni
Title:
American Babel : literatures of the United States from Abnaki to Zuni
Author:
Shell, Marc.
Publication Information:
Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 2002.
Physical Description:
xii, 520 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm.
Language:
English
Added Author:
ISBN:
9780674006447

9780674006614
Format :
Book

Available:*

Library
Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Status
Central Library PN849.U5 A48 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
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Summary

Summary

If ever there was a polyglot place on the globe (other than the Tower of Babel), America between 1750 and 1850 was it. Here three continents--North America, Africa, and Europe--met and spoke not as one, but in Amerindian and African languages, in German and English, Spanish, French, and Dutch. How this prodigious multilingualism lost its voice in the making of the American canon and in everyday American linguistic practice is the problem American Babel approaches from a variety of angles. Looking at the first Arabic-language African-American slave narrative, at quirks of translation in Greek-American bilingual books, and at the strategies of Yiddish women poets and Welsh-American dramatists, contributors show how linguistic resistance opposes the imperative of linguistic assimilation. They address matters of literary authority in Irish Gaelic writing, Creole novels, and the multiple voices of the Zuni storyteller; and in essays on Haitian, Welsh, Spanish, and Chinese literatures, they trace the relationship between domestic nationalism and immigrant internationalism, between domestic citizenship and immigrant ethnicity.


Summary

If ever there was a polyglot place on the globe (other than the Tower of Babel), America between 1750 and 1850 was it. Here three continents - North America, Africa, and Europe - met and spoke not as one, but in Amerindian and African languages, in German and English, Spanish, French, and Dutch.


Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

This loosely knit collection of 25 essays demonstrates how literature can be American regardless of the language in which ideas are expressed. In the introductory essay, editor Shell (comparative literature and English, Harvard) explains how multilingualism lost its voice and the English language won supremacy in the United States in contrast with bilingual Canada. Detailed essays by other literature professors (e.g., Alexander Del Mar, Ala Alryyes, and Yota Batsaki) examine the literature produced by a remarkable variety of immigrant groups, ranging from Irish to Haitian to Chinese. Some of the essays focus on one group's literature, such as Welsh plays or bilingual presentations of Greek writings. Others follow broader themes, such as the development of characters regarding their language, including those created in Yiddish by Isaac Bashevis Singer and in Spanish-laden English by Oscar Hijuelos. While offering endnotes with each essay, the collection lacks an overarching index. Few recent works offer similar focus, yet readers will find similarities to Multilingual America: Transnationalism, Ethnicity, and the Languages of American Literature, edited by Werner Sollors and containing an essay by Shell. Recommended for academic libraries.-Marianne Orme, Des Plaines P.L. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Library Journal Review

This loosely knit collection of 25 essays demonstrates how literature can be American regardless of the language in which ideas are expressed. In the introductory essay, editor Shell (comparative literature and English, Harvard) explains how multilingualism lost its voice and the English language won supremacy in the United States in contrast with bilingual Canada. Detailed essays by other literature professors (e.g., Alexander Del Mar, Ala Alryyes, and Yota Batsaki) examine the literature produced by a remarkable variety of immigrant groups, ranging from Irish to Haitian to Chinese. Some of the essays focus on one group's literature, such as Welsh plays or bilingual presentations of Greek writings. Others follow broader themes, such as the development of characters regarding their language, including those created in Yiddish by Isaac Bashevis Singer and in Spanish-laden English by Oscar Hijuelos. While offering endnotes with each essay, the collection lacks an overarching index. Few recent works offer similar focus, yet readers will find similarities to Multilingual America: Transnationalism, Ethnicity, and the Languages of American Literature, edited by Werner Sollors and containing an essay by Shell. Recommended for academic libraries.-Marianne Orme, Des Plaines P.L. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


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