Less Than One Language: Typographic Multilingualism and Post-Anglophone Fiction


What comes after the language model of literary history? This essay considers that question by turning to works of contemporary fiction that operate at the edges of our most dominant language: English. These works use experiments with orthography, typeface, and design to dramatize the visual and aural culture of words, histories of language contact, and the apparatus of literary circulation. Words are there to be seen and heard as well as read, and what we see and hear alters how we read. Whereas multilingual works have typically added, elaborated, or combined languages, these works tend to block or restrict languages. They are therefore postlingual as well as post-anglophone. This is not a matter of narrowing and corralling what English can do. For writers in dominant languages, linguistic restriction is a necessary condition of literary cosmopolitanism.

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