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Fall 2017: Why a Forum On Linguistic Diversity?

Mullarkey Reid poster

“There is a certain way of speaking that has been considered the acceptable way of speaking. And because of that this is the type of language you speak when you’re out in the world. If you want to speak Spanish at home, that’s fine. If you want to speak black with your friends that’s fine. But don’t insult someone else’s ears by making them listen to it.” (phone in-caller, Oprah Winfrey show, 1987).

“I have read articles in which the writers object to the use of the phrase ‘English as a second language.’ The argument …[is] that English is the greatest language on earth, and therefore second to none.” (proponent of bilingual education for Texas schools so that Spanish-speaking children can be initially taught English using Spanish as the teaching language [ a more efficient and successful strategy than forced immersion]: 1992).

These quotations are material from an analysis of Standard-English language ideology, published in 1990. 1 We cannot simply assume that progress beyond these attitudes has universally occurred or that they will not return. 2

Language, it seems to me, is something English Departments should talk about in still more ways than they already do, which is why, together with colleagues from the Reid Committee, I proposed a Mullarkey-Reid Forum on Linguistic Diversity in English.

In a multilingual society, what should students of English, who work with a dominant and prestigious language, know about English and about language at large? Their literary experience provides complex models and approaches to language, and their training in Composition provides them with rhetorical and stylistic knowledge, but, especially given the relative complacency of monolingual anglophone culture about the ‘global nature’ of English and the decline in foreign language acquisition, is this enough? Do our English majors leave intellectually equipped to rebut white supremacist arguments for the primacy of English and the redundancy of other languages in America? Some of our students take History of the English Language, but do all students need to know a little linguistic history and something of the phenomenology of English?

Conversely, what do teachers of English literature need to know about the language(s) of their students? For all its varieties of English (diachronic and synchronic), an English degree can be a fundamentally monolingual education. What do we need to understand about the position of students for whom English is a second language or one of several languages. Languages grow, enrich, and change through linguistic contact: how can the bi- and multilingualism of our students become a resource for classes conducted primarily in English?

I am very grateful to the speakers who agreed to contribute on ‘Linguistic Diversity in English’; and to Sarah Gambito for co-organizing the Forum and leading the Reid discussions; and to Julie Kim for her thoughtful and cogent chairing of the panel. The speakers have generously allowed their papers to be posted on this website, where we hope they can be a resource for discussion and further thought about English Departments and language.

After my own introductory outline of some basic points about English as a language, Daniel Contreras discusses the literature and the stigmatization of Spanish in America. Rebecca Sanchez gives an eloquent analysis of a Deaf poem, showing the extraordinary enrichment Deaf perspectives can bring to our reading. As she also chillingly shows, incomprehension and hostility to sign languages can be a matter of life or death for Deaf people. Lea Puljcan Juric offers some wonderfully helpful and thoughtful ways in which heightened awareness of linguistic diversity can and should affect our classroom teaching Chris GoGwilt raises the question of ‘language justice’ in representation.

The Mullarkey-Reid Forum concluded with collective reading of the 2017 Reid book, Rigoberto Gonzalez’s superb English and Spanish-language prose poem, Autobiography of My Hungers. For an introduction and teaching resources for this Reid book, see the Teaching Reid Books site.

Jocelyn Wogan-Browne
Thomas F. X. and Theresa Mullarkey Chair in Literature,
English Department

1Lesley Milroy, “Standard English and Language Ideology in Britain and the United States,” in Standard English: The Widening Debate, ed. Tony Bex and Richard J. Watts (London and New York, 1990), pp. 173-206. On teaching in students’ first languages, see Susan J. Dicker, Languages in America: A Pluralist View (Clevedon and Tonewanda: 2nd edition 2003), using research and experience in the South Bronx.

Introduction - Dr. Jocelyn Wogan-Browne

Professor Jocelyn Wogan-Browne

Jocelyn Wogan-Browne, Thomas F. X. and Theresa Mullarkey Chair in Literature, Fordham, is a medievalist whose recent work is particularly concerned with the multilingualism of medieval England. Her books include Language and Culture in Medieval Britain: The French of England c.1100-c.1500 (York Medieval Press, 2009), Vernacular Literary Theory from the French of Medieval England: Texts and Translations c.1120-c. 1540 (with Thelma Fenster and Delbert Russell), (Boydell and Brewer, 2016, pprbk. 2018), The Idea of the Vernacular: Middle English Literary Theory c. 1280-1520 (with Nicholas Watson, Andrew Taylor, Ruth Evans) (Penn State Press, 1999). She is currently editing, with Elizabeth Tyler, a volume for the Oxford Twenty First Century Approaches to Literature series: High Medieval: Literary Cultures in England and working on a new monograph on women’s multilingualism in late medieval England.

Linguistic Diversity in English: some things English speakers ought to know about English.

Chair - Dr. Julie Kim

Julie Kim

Julie Kim, Associate Professor in English, Fordham, has research and teaching interests in eighteenth-century British studies; early American studies; the Atlantic world; colonialism, empire, and science; food studies. She has published articles and essays on Afro-Caribbean medicine, indigenous land rights and resistance, and natural history and is currently working on a book project entitled Gardening at the Edge of Empire: Colonial Botany in the Revolutionary Caribbean. Her work appears in such journals as The Eighteenth Century and Early American Studies.

Dr. Daniel Contreras

English Faculty Profile Picture

Daniel Contreras, Associate Professor in English, Fordham, is the author of What Have You Done to My Heart: Unrequited Love and Gay Latino Culture (Palgrave, 2006). He teaches courses in Latino literature and on the postmodern novel. Contreras is currently working on a project on narratives of desire in Mexico.

"Se hable ingles: How to speak English in US English Departments"

Dr. Rebecca Sanchez

Made in Translation Rebecca Sanchez image

Image for "Made in Translation"

Rebecca Sanchez, Associate Professor in English, Fordham, has research and teaching interests in transatlantic modernism, disability studies, and poetics. She is the recipient of a 2015-16 AAUW American Fellowship, and her work has appeared in journals including Modern Language Studies, American Literary Realism, M/C: A Journal of Media and Culture, and the CEA Critic. Her first book, Deafening Modernism: Embodied Language and Visual Poetics in American Literature, is now available from New York University Press.

Rebecca Sanchez says: "I wrote this because Magdiel Sanchez had my son's name. Or, rather, if Amari identifies as a man Mr. Sanchez is what he will be called one day. My tiny beautiful Hispanic signing son. The consequences of people not recognizing signed languages as languages is not new, nor is the fact that the intersection of disability and race is often state-sponsored death. But this particular murder kind of shattered me. Mr. Sanchez's non-verbal communication is literally being cited as justification for his killing. So I wanted to be clear about the stakes of these questions about linguistic diversity."

"Made in Translation"

Dr. Lea Puljcan Juric

Lea Puljcan Juric

Dr. Lea Puljcan Juric is the leader of the Fordham English Department's English Language Learners (ELL) initiative and the Department's liaison with the Institute for American Language and Culture. Her interest in English Language Teaching and her research on multilingualism in academic writing is both a reason for and a consequence of her role at Fordham. Puljcan Juric, has research interests in British, Postcolonial, and European Renaissance literature. Her publications include "Illyrians in Cymbeline" English Literary Renaissance 42.3 (Autumn 2012); "‘Ragusine’ and eastern Adriatic piracy in Shakespeare’s plays," Shakespeare Jahrbuch: Theatres of Maritime Adventure 148 (April 2012); "Shakespeare’s ‘Bargulus, the strong Illyrian pirate,’” Notes and Queries 58.2 (June 2011); and two essays on pedagogy. Her fellowships and awards include the National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute Grant; the Newberry Library Short Term Fellowship in the History of Cartography, and The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi Founding President Scholarship. Besides teaching, she has worked as a translator and editor in commercial and academic publishing. She is currently completing a book manuscript titled Illyria in Shakespeare's England.

"Linguistic Diversity and ELLS"

Dr. Chris GoGwilt

Chris GoGwilt

Christopher GoGwilt, Professor in English, Fordham, is the author of The Passage of Literature: Genealogies of Modernism in Conrad, Rhys, and Pramoedya (Oxford, 2011) which won the Modernist Studies Association book prize for 2012; of The Fiction of Geopolitics: Afterimages of Culture from Wilkie Collins to Alfred Hitchcock (Stanford, 2000) and The Invention of the West: Joseph Conrad and the Double-Mapping of Europe and Empire (Stanford, 1995) and published numerous essays and articles in the areas of Victorian studies, modernism, colonialism, and post-colonialism. He is the co-editor of the volume of essays Mocking Bird Technologies: The Poetics of Parroting, Mimicry, and Other Starling Tropes (Fordham University Press, 2018).

Thirteen Ways of Looking at English

Chris GoGwilt's remarks are tangentially related to two recent and ongoing projects. The first is a volume of critical and experimental essays co-edited with Melanie D. Holm entitled Mocking Bird Technologies: The Poetics of Parroting, Mimicry, and Other Starling Tropes (Fordham University Press, 2018). The second is a series of essays on the question of romanization, part of a projected book-length project tentatively entitled "The K-Effect: Romanization, Joseph Conrad, and the Timing and Spacing of World Literature." Essays already published on this topic include "Romanization and the Digital Future of Philology" in postmedieval: a journal of medieval cultural studies Vol. 5: 4 (Winter 2014): 428-441; "Conrad's Accusative Case: Romanization, Changing Loyalties, and Switching Scripts" in Conradiana 46: 1-2 (Summer 2014): 53-62; and "Conrad and Romanised Print Form" in Conrad and Language, eds. Katherine Isobel Baxter and Robert Hampson (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2016), 117-131.

Dr. Sarah Gambito

English Faculty Profile Picture

Sarah Gambito, Associate Professor and Director of Creative Writing in English, Fordham, is the author of the poetry collections Matadora (Alice James Books) and Delivered (Persea Books). She has research and teaching interests in creative writing, comparative & postcolonial literature, and contemporary literature. She is co-founder of Kundiman, a non-profit organization that promotes Asian American literature. Her current research focuses on post-modern U.S. immigration via Internet-based poetics.

Teaching Reid Books