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In Babel's Shadow

Multilingual Literatures, Monolingual States

Brian Lennon

Publication Year: 2010

Multilingual literature defies simple translation. Beginning with this insight, Brian Lennon examines the resistance multilingual literature offers to book publication itself. In readings of G. V. Desani’s All about H. Hatterr, Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange, Christine Brooke-Rose’s Between, Eva Hoffman’s Lost in Translation, Emine Sevgi Özdamar’s Mutterzunge, and Orhan Pamuk’s Istanbul, among other works, Lennon shows how nationalized literary print culture inverts the values of a transnational age, reminding us that works of literature are, above all, objects in motion.
Looking closely at the limit of both multilingual literary expression and the literary journalism, criticism, and scholarship that comments on multilingual work, In Babel’s Shadow presents a critical reflection on the fate of literature in a world gripped by the crisis of globalization.

Published by: University of Minnesota Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Quote

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xviii

This book is not an archivally or forensically exhaustive study of its research object, multilingual literature. Rather, it is a critical essay on that object’s conditions of possibility—an approach I believe is requested by its liminal character. This declaration entails a consequence best recognized straightaway. ...

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pp. xix-xx

The transitional object you hold in your hands would not exist if not for the perspicacities of Susan Squier, N. Katherine Hayles, Douglas Armato, and Steven G. Kellman. To them, I owe my profoundest thanks. ...

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Introduction: Antinomies of Literature

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pp. 1-26

Translation is a victory and a threat, a necessity and a violation, a fundamental or given of all discourse and an intractable problem for it. Translation links such antipodes in a paradox animating our notions of what literature is and can be—and no less so in an age when literature seems less plainly relevant than ever. ...

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1. Language as Capital

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pp. 27-54

Bilingual, trilingual, multilingual, plurilingual, polyglot: these terms commonly indicate not only verbal facility in more than one distinct language, but a high degree of embodied or spontaneous social fluency, as well. When we use the terms “bilingual” or “plurilingual,” or any of these other variations, ...

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2. Translation Being Between

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pp. 55-92

Translation is newly urgent and newly controversial today, in an era reviving narratives of incommensurability on a global scale. This book suggests that in order to read those narratives productively, we need to distinguish the study of plurilingualism, as a state or condition, from the study of translation as a procedure or operation. ...

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3. Containment

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pp. 93-122

In August 1959 the magazine Atlantic Monthly described a technical, military, and cultural intelligence blunder that had sparked panic in the United States two years earlier, and which must sound down the echo chamber of history now, toward years’ worth of untranslated Arabic-language interceptions languishing in a National Security Agency vault somewhere. ...

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4. Language Memoir and Language Death

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pp. 123-140

Perhaps it is no more than a critical commonplace now that in doing our “work,” we scholars are pinned between the rock of literary privacy and the hard place of the public sphere—that we have to work, if work we are to have, in that in-between: writing itself (writing about something) being that being-caught, ...

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5. The Other Other Literature

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pp. 141-166

This book has “worked” at the intersection of an apparently formal problem with a material problem. In literary and cultural studies, any such intersection pits the fact against the process of production of our own research objects, in a conflict that, we might say, we have devised many ways to acknowledge without really analyzing ...

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Afterword: Unicode and Totality

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pp. 167-174

By way of an afterword, I want here to offer a brief history—and in a way, a political economy—of Unicode, the character set encoding standard that today mediates much, or perhaps all, of a contemporary scholar’s writing, depending on how extensively she or he uses a personal computer. ...


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pp. 175-224


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pp. 225-241

About the Author

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p. 265-265

E-ISBN-13: 9780816673537
E-ISBN-10: 0816673535
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816665020

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2010