Say What? Issues of Language: Week Three

I am especially impressed by the posts I have read so far about nationalism.  It sounds like a lot of you are working on defining your subject positions using the theory we are reading.  I find that thrilling.  I am also learning so much about each of you through the elements you are sharing:  the music, graphics, and discussions of past and current scholarship.  It seems like you are finding po-co theory to be invigorating and challenging and sometimes painful.  I know that feeling.

While tangling with the idea of nationalism, some of you were already expressing concern about othering (a concept we will discuss in depth in a few weeks) the “third-world” or “emerging economies” or “the Global South,” all problematic terms, for sure.  What happens when we give primacy to markets defined by capitalism?  It seems the language we use to speak about countries that are “different” tells us a lot about ourselves.  While I think you have plenty of reading to do, I will offer you this essay by Aijaz Ahmad in which he criticizes Jameson’s ideas.  Remember, Jameson was writing about these issues early in the field of study, so folks will of course use his essay as a touchstone for criticism.  If you finish your reading for this week and want to spend some time with another essay about nationalism and allegory, I humbly offer you this one.  Again, you don’t have to read it.  Maybe tuck the link away for some reading during the winter…

This week we will focus on issues of language, a debate which, as you will see, depends on issues of identity and nationalism.

We finally get a little bit of literature in the mix this week.  No po-co class worth its salt would ignore Salman Rushdie, or should I say Sir Salman Rushdie.  He is a prolific writer and am important figure in the literary world.  If you don’t know about his experience after writing The Satanic Versesyou will want to learn a bit more about it.  You will read “The Courter,” which I know is a repeat for a few of you, but the play with language just makes it a perfect piece, and I know the new lens offered by the theory will open up new readings for you–and “‘Commonwealth Literature’ Does Not Exist.” You can read about the idea of Commonwealth literature here (by my esteemed advisor at Lehigh, Deep Singh, whom you may have heard on NPR after the shootings at the Sikh place of worship this summer).

The second piece, “A Latin Primer,” is one of my favorite pieces by Derek Walcott.  When you have a few weeks with nothing to read (ha, ha), I suggest you tangle with his gorgeous epic poem Omeros.  You won’t understand half of it, and you will still love it (at least that has been my experience).  The way he speaks of language in this poem takes my breath away.  If you have some extra time or want to listen to something while you are making dinner, I offer you his Nobel acceptance speech.  Again, not required at all, just something for anyone who is interested.  Also, you can watch the videos I made about the poem here: there are five short videos in the series.

For this week, I ask you to keep up the good work and write original blog posts about issues of language.  Take the theory and the lit and run with them.  I am finding that you are all going above and beyond any kind of parameters I may set, so all I ask is that you engage directly with the texts and continue to be as thoughtful in your original work and as engaged in your comments as you have been thus far.  And I have had the pleasure of talking in person with two of you this week. I am always open to that!  I am on campus MWF.   If you are ever around and want to talk for a few minutes in a dusty office instead of on the Interweb, you know where to find me.

I leave you with an interview with Ngugi:

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/8667534″>Interview with Ngugi Wa Thiong’o</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user425063″>Granta magazine</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

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