This paper focuses on Lost in Translation: A Life in a New Language, a translingual memoir published in 1989 by Eva Hoffman (Ewa Wydra, at birth), a Polish writer who, aged thirteen, emigrated to Vancouver and then to the States, learnt English from scratch and finally became editor of the New York Review of Books as well as the most important contemporary Polish female writer in English. The translingual memoir is a fairly recent sub-genre in autobiographical writings which deals with immigrants’ recounting their progress from alienation towards integration into the host culture. This progress revolves around a process of language acquisition, or, as Hoffman’s memoir title signals, of translation by which the migrant gradually loses her mother tongue to acquire the language of her host country. Being a writer, and thus well aware of the fact that discourse is constitutive of, and determined by identity, Hoffman starts from the general assumption that “nothing fully exists until it is articulated” and moves on to explore the ways in which the close interrelation between “languaging” and the Self is re-defined and adapted to a post-modern bilingual context, in which individuals are more and more often divided between two cultures, languages and nations. Through a detailed functional linguistics analysis of the roles of the two “I”s in the memoir (the cognitive active “I” of the author, who knowingly presides over her writing, and the narrativized “I” as the passive object of the language she does not know but in which “[she has] been written”), this paper shows that acts of designation and translation construct a split subject and, at the same time, function as a bridge that connects the subject’s linguistic and social status. Thus, the analysis of Lost in Translation makes a significant contribution to the exploration of migrants’ identities through “translation” – intended, in one of its etymologies, as a tool to represent the identity of a split subject who has been “carried across” different countries, cultures and languages.

Writing the Self: The Autobiographical Subject as Language Construct. The Case of Lost in Translation. A Life in a New Language by Eva Hoffman

TURCI, MONICA
2009

Abstract

This paper focuses on Lost in Translation: A Life in a New Language, a translingual memoir published in 1989 by Eva Hoffman (Ewa Wydra, at birth), a Polish writer who, aged thirteen, emigrated to Vancouver and then to the States, learnt English from scratch and finally became editor of the New York Review of Books as well as the most important contemporary Polish female writer in English. The translingual memoir is a fairly recent sub-genre in autobiographical writings which deals with immigrants’ recounting their progress from alienation towards integration into the host culture. This progress revolves around a process of language acquisition, or, as Hoffman’s memoir title signals, of translation by which the migrant gradually loses her mother tongue to acquire the language of her host country. Being a writer, and thus well aware of the fact that discourse is constitutive of, and determined by identity, Hoffman starts from the general assumption that “nothing fully exists until it is articulated” and moves on to explore the ways in which the close interrelation between “languaging” and the Self is re-defined and adapted to a post-modern bilingual context, in which individuals are more and more often divided between two cultures, languages and nations. Through a detailed functional linguistics analysis of the roles of the two “I”s in the memoir (the cognitive active “I” of the author, who knowingly presides over her writing, and the narrativized “I” as the passive object of the language she does not know but in which “[she has] been written”), this paper shows that acts of designation and translation construct a split subject and, at the same time, function as a bridge that connects the subject’s linguistic and social status. Thus, the analysis of Lost in Translation makes a significant contribution to the exploration of migrants’ identities through “translation” – intended, in one of its etymologies, as a tool to represent the identity of a split subject who has been “carried across” different countries, cultures and languages.
M. Turci
File in questo prodotto:
Eventuali allegati, non sono esposti

I documenti in IRIS sono protetti da copyright e tutti i diritti sono riservati, salvo diversa indicazione.

Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11585/101100
 Attenzione

Attenzione! I dati visualizzati non sono stati sottoposti a validazione da parte dell'ateneo

Citazioni
  • ???jsp.display-item.citation.pmc??? ND
  • Scopus ND
  • ???jsp.display-item.citation.isi??? ND
social impact