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Foreign music: linguistic estrangement and its textual effects in Joyce, Beckett, Nabokov and Rushdie

By Juliette Taylor

Abstract

This thesis examines the relationship between multilingualism and defamiliarisation in Joyce, Beckett, Nabokov and Rushdie. Focusing on Joyce’s Ulysses, Beckett’s Trilogy, Nabokov’s Bend Sinister, Pale Fire and Ada, and Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, the study considers the reasons for these authors’ uses a foreign languages and examines their specialised compositional processes. It evaluates the textual effects produced by these processes, and compares overtly multilingual effects (such as multilingual puns and the hybridisation of language) to more general characteristics of the authors’ prose-styles, including monolingual forms of defamiliarisation.\ud \ud The prose of all four authors is characterised by extreme forms of defamiliarisation, and the thesis develops the concept of ‘linguistic estrangement’ to elucidate a perceived relationship between each author’s perspective of ideological or literal estrangement from language and his subsequent estrangement of that language. In particular, these writers tend to turn the distinctive features of the foreigner’s perspective on language - semantic ambiguity and linguistic materiality - to positive effect: semantic ambiguity is used to produce puns, plays on words and linguistic overdetermination, while in focus on the material characteristics of language is fundamental to the construction of phonetic and rhythmic linguistic patterns. As a result, the work under scrutiny is often characterised by high levels of musicality, iconicity and textual performativity. Apparently ‘negative’ aspects of language - interlingual confusion, distortion, mistranslation, misunderstanding and misuse - thus form the basis of some of the most productive stylistic aspects, and indeed the radically innovative nature, of each author’s work.\ud \ud The thesis explores a wide array of evident intentions associated with such processes including, among others, mimetic, aesthetic, literary historical and socio-political concerns. Translational processes, interlingual contact and linguistic estrangement are thus demonstrated to be fundamental to the particular thematic and stylistic features of the work of each individual author. This study can also, more generally, be seen to address a central dynamic within modernist (and subsequent late-modernist and postmodernist) literary production

Topics: PN, P1
OAI identifier: oai:wrap.warwick.ac.uk:2582

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