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“I am the sum of my languages” (Hoffman 1989: 273) – Bilingual Writing: Transitional Spaces and Reconciliation


This paper seeks to offer a theoretical and practical definition of bilingual writing. In the first instance, I review other definitions in order to develop my own. In the second half of the paper, I focus on two particular examples of bilingual writing: Cantique des Plaines by Nancy Huston and Lost in Translation by Eva Hoffman. Alongside this, I offer extracts from my own work as performative illustrations of my argument. Bilingual texts are written in one primary language but contain traces or echoes of another. This second presence is disruptive, revealing a lack of unity, but it also hints at a potential for reconciliation – two languages cohabiting. Drawing on translation theory and psychoanalysis, I show how this potential plays out in Huston’s and Hoffman’s novels. In these two texts, characters seek to translate themselves. This translation occurs through dialogue and a mix of creativity and remembrance. These different modes allow the characters to inhabit a transitional space, between reality and fiction for the former and between “mother tongue” and second language for the latter. I identify this transitional space as one of reconciliation and argue that this transition as reconciliation is one of the main motifs of bilingual writing.

Acceptance Date Jan 3, 2017
Publication Date Mar 1, 2017
Journal Writing in Practice
Keywords bilingual writing, translation theory, psychoanalysis, identity, languages, creativity, transitional spaces, translating the self
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