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On the Brink : Identity and Language in the Poetry of Arab-American Women

On the Brink : Identity and Language in the Poetry of Arab-American Women Lubna Safi Identity and Language in the Poetry of Arab-­American Women Almost a decade ago, Al Raida (lit. The Pioneer), a journal based out of the Lebanese American University, published an issue on “Arab Women Writing in English.” Among its concerns, the journal hoped to highlight the problem of translating experience into language asking: “How does one translate their experience of Arabness into another language whose signifying capacities will always tend towards distortion?” Whether the language is a European one or British and American English, the particular power dynamics between languages are concerns posed within a post-­ olonial frame of imperial and non-­mperial languages. This struggle to translate experience is illustrated in a quote by Abdelfattah Kilito, a writer of French and Arabic, who cites an ancient source that describes a relationship with the Arabic language in this way: “I defeated her then she defeated me, then I defeated her and she defeated me again” (21). In the struggle between the subject and language this question arises—whether or not language, given its state as an inheritance from previous generations, can bring into articulation an identity when in fact it has an identity of its own. If this encounter http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png The Comparatist University of North Carolina Press

On the Brink : Identity and Language in the Poetry of Arab-American Women

The Comparatist , Volume 41 – Nov 1, 2017

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Publisher
University of North Carolina Press
Copyright
Copyright © Southern Comparative Literature Association.
ISSN
1559-0887
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Abstract

Lubna Safi Identity and Language in the Poetry of Arab-­American Women Almost a decade ago, Al Raida (lit. The Pioneer), a journal based out of the Lebanese American University, published an issue on “Arab Women Writing in English.” Among its concerns, the journal hoped to highlight the problem of translating experience into language asking: “How does one translate their experience of Arabness into another language whose signifying capacities will always tend towards distortion?” Whether the language is a European one or British and American English, the particular power dynamics between languages are concerns posed within a post-­ olonial frame of imperial and non-­mperial languages. This struggle to translate experience is illustrated in a quote by Abdelfattah Kilito, a writer of French and Arabic, who cites an ancient source that describes a relationship with the Arabic language in this way: “I defeated her then she defeated me, then I defeated her and she defeated me again” (21). In the struggle between the subject and language this question arises—whether or not language, given its state as an inheritance from previous generations, can bring into articulation an identity when in fact it has an identity of its own. If this encounter

Journal

The ComparatistUniversity of North Carolina Press

Published: Nov 1, 2017

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