Challenging Tongues: The “Irreducible Hybridity” of Language in Contemporary Bilingual Poetry

Critical Writing
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Abstract (in English): 

Contemporary bilingual poetry provides readers with an opportunity to explore and better understand how contemporary artists address the reality of their linguistic contexts. These works pose a challenge to traditional canonical (often national) literatures; furthermore, bilingual poets are keenly attuned to the ways language use represents the personal and political values at stake for their cultures. Bilingual poetry functions as a site of translation where languages interact within the text without traditional demarcations of original and translated text, representing a larger ideological challenge to institutional hierarchies that are often imposed on language. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Internet has fostered bilingual poetry; the quality and proliferation of these works emphasise the need for more critical recognition of this form of expression. The friction, fluidity, cacophony, and subversive impulse of bilingual poetry embodies the convergence of enmity and rapport experienced by the very real speech communities that give them context.

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Cayley uses algorithms to transform texts into words letter by letter. Code, like the phonemic ‘bits’ of language, is comprised of bits in their minutest form. Cayley’s text works to alert the viewer to the algorithmic procedure of constructing meaningful language (regardless of which language is being used). As this happens, the reader is also invited to read and contemplate the theoretical implications of the texts he chooses, all concerning the process of translation. Acts of translation always force the translator to recognise structural similarities and differences, and transmute these discrepancies in a way that best serves the interests of the text (or the translator).

With multilingual hypertext, every word becomes a dynamic image, placing even more emphasis on the process of transmutation that occurs in bilingual exchange and translation. Language is comprised of bits and pieces that work together to create meaning. Bilingual discourse is a constant process of working through difference to find intelligibility.

Electronic hypertext pieces can be considered characteristically bilingual: electronic hypertexts, like all electronic texts, consist of multiple layers of text that combine computer code and natural language. Remarkably, it is through this coded bilingualism that we find the constraints of hypertext language.

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Patricia Tomaszek