Narratives of Bilingual/Multilingual Writers - Can Linguists Learn something from Literature?
In spite of sharing their concern for a deeper understanding of the underlying structures and for the various purposes of language, paradoxically linguists and literary scholars often work in parallel. This stands in contrast to many scholars in Language, Literature and Cultural Studies of the past who committed themselves to both Linguistics and Literature gaining highly valuable knowledge precisely through their border-crossing. Mikhail M. Bakhtin is just one of the illustrious scholars who made outstanding contributions to both fields by transferring knowledge from Linguistics to Literature and vice versa.
Nonetheless, currently several linguists have stressed that the study of literary narratives sheds light on the research field of Bilingualism/Multilingualism. For example, Claire Kramsch dedicates one of her chapters of her book The Multilingual Subject to the multilingual narrator. She places literary texts from multilingual authors alongside essays of multilingual students and considers their writing as a making of oneself, while exploring how the writers organize their multilingual experience in their texts.
On the basis of selected literary texts on multilingual identities (Canetti, Boehmer, Oliver) this paper examines how authors narrate of their experiences and challenges with being/becoming multilingual, how they construct their multilingual selves and what insight their narratives offer for the study of Bilingualism/Multilingualism.