Literary Bilingualism as Cosmopolitan Practice: Vladimir Nabokov, Samuel Beckett, and Nancy Huston
Razumova, Lyudmila L.
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This dissertation addresses the phenomenon of literary bilingualism in the late 20th &mdash early 21st centuries. It investigates why and to what effect language is appropriated by individual authors in different historical situations, and how a body of work produced by the same author in two languages articulates the relationship between the nation and the world. I posit that sustained practice of bilingual writing charts a special space on the maps of national and world literature and presents an important dimension of emergent cosmopolitanism. Existing literary and social practices inform and develop the notion theoretically and practically and illuminate new dimensions of cosmopolitanism as a constant and deep engagement with the other. I argue that the unease with the status of bilingual writing derives largely from the Romantic model of mapping language to a nation. I treat cosmopolitanism as a deliberately chosen state and a laborious search for a new sense of home and identity in the multiplicity of texts. My study focuses on narrative, thematic and linguistic strategies that the writers of my investigation employ to create a new linguistic persona in a world that is rethinking the very notion of linguistic and national identity. Instead of suggesting another framework for theorizing cosmopolitanism, I demonstrate how these strategies employed by bilingual writers can precede shifts in the individual and public imagination. To begin, I construct a framework for theorizing literary bilingualism by borrowing selected categories from the methodology of linguistic personality in cognitive linguistics and modify them for bilingual writers. Then, I closely read the authors&rsquo selected texts in both languages and examine the changing idea of exile and belonging for the three writers. Chapters two and three dwell on the formal writing and reading strategies that the authors devise in order to correlate several realities, to disrupt narrative stability, and to underscore the simultaneous presence of multiple discourses and languages that never dissolve into pathology. Finally, I review problematics of self&ndashtranslation and discuss how the authors&rsquo interlingual practices illuminate its major theoretical issues.