In this essay, I examine Ishmael Reed’s Japanese By Spring in light of the growing interest in bi- and multilingualism in US literary criticism. I focus on the line of inquiry in this emergent critical interest that sees multilingualism as a corrective to the shortcomings of multiculturalism based on the idea that language is a matter of voluntary affiliation. By employing Pierre Bourdieu’s notion of linguistic capital to trace a racialized subject’s desire for linguistic capital and the intersections of language and race in the novel, I argue that Japanese By Spring attends to a substantial oversight in this approach to linguistic pluralism.


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