Words in Collision: Multilingualism in English-Language Fiction (Hardcover)

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Words in Collision: Multilingualism in English-Language Fiction By Michael L. Ross Cover Image

Words in Collision: Multilingualism in English-Language Fiction (Hardcover)


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For centuries, English-language writers have borrowed words and phrases from other languages in their fictional works. Words in Collision explores this tradition of language-mixing and its consequences. Returning to Shakespeare’s Henry V, Michael Ross asks why writers employ “foreign” phrases in their English-language texts, why this practice continues, and what it means. He finds that the insertion of “foreign elements,” rather than random or arbitrary, occurs in literary works that display a self-conscious preoccupation with language in general as a dynamic determinant of social relations. Discussing nineteenth-century works by Sir Walter Scott, Charlotte Brontë, and Henry James, the book demonstrates how multilingualism connects with themes of cosmopolitanism, estrangement, and resistance to social convention. In the second half of the book, the multilingual practices of canonical Anglo-American literature are compared with postcolonial texts by Caribbean, Nigerian, and Indian authors, including Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Arundhati Roy, whose choice of language is fraught with complex moral and artistic implications. Ross’s readings reveal both crucial departures and surprising underlying continuities in linguistic traditions often thought to be deeply divided in time, space, and politics. The first extended treatment of language-mixing in English texts, Words in Collision is critical to understanding past practices and future prospects for multilingualism in fiction.
Michael L. Ross is professor emeritus at McMaster University and the author of Designing Fictions: Literature Confronts Advertising.
Product Details ISBN: 9780228016977
ISBN-10: 0228016975
Publisher: McGill-Queen's University Press
Publication Date: April 15th, 2023
Pages: 224
Language: English
“Words in Collision shows us a refreshing, indeed exhilarating, engagement with literature broadly conceived. Cogent, wide-ranging in his sources and examples, savvy about current discussions regarding language and literary expression, Ross expresses his meaning with both economy and evident pleasure in the books he discusses. An all-around excellent read.” Allan Hepburn, McGill University

“Michael Ross presents the field of English fiction in a new and consistently interesting fashion, making us read Charlotte Brontë’s overseas experience against Henry James’s international theme, and both alongside Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Arundhati Roy, and more. Anyone interested in the English novel will profit from reading Words in Collision.” Neil ten Kortenaar, University of Toronto