Conclusion to “Artists of the Floating World”

As the semester concludes, it’s time to spend some time reflecting on the pieces we have read and what it means to be an artist of a floating world. What caught my attention in the conclusion of Rob Burton’s Artists of the Floating World was the section titled “Is English the Dominant Language of the Floating World?” It discusses that while all of these writers were bilingual, they found value in writing their stories in English. Burton expresses that, “Their  experience  of  bilingualism  or  even  trilingualism  has  clearly enriched their understanding and appreciation of the English language; furthermore,  the  experience  has  allowed  them  to  borrow  from  the rhythms and structural patterns of other languages in order to shape and create  new  sounds  in  English” (126). Thinking back, I never took the time to appreciate that the authors were bilingual while reading their respective texts because they have a grasp of the English language and can write in it with such strong fluency. I connected with this issue because I work a lot with bilingual students and try my best to allow them to include bilingual and bidialectical structures within their writing, trying to let them know that their linguistic skills are valued and that there is no one way to write in a standardized version of English.

Another point that I strongly connected with was, “Statistical  data  indicate  that  linguistic  diversity is  threatened  by  the  advance  of English:  one  world  language  is  lost every two weeks when the  last speaking  member of that particular  linguistic  group  dies” (127).  That means that languages are dying at an alarmingly quick rate! I would never have guessed that we were losing a language per every 2 weeks; I may have guessed that we were losing two languages a year. Burton goes on to point out that there is a move within our digital culture to preserve at-risk languages. He asserts that, “As  many  as  70  at-risk  languages  have  al-ready been digitally archived; more will follow” (127). I have a student who just did an Inquiry project into preserving Yiddish, which was so fascinating to me and so impressive that a student would want to research it. He made a website and has had at leat one person reach out to him about the research that he completed.

The next section in the conclusion that stuck out to me was, “What is the Responsibility of the Citizen in a Floating World?” We’ve talked a lot about what it means to read these texts in a turbulent political climate, such as the one we are living in now, and have discussed that we have a very unreliable narrator at the moment. Burton points out that, “To be a citizen of the floating world is to recognize and acknowledge the  narratives that constitute our  identity;  furthermore,  it  is understood that  these  narratives  are  constantly  in  the  process  of  being reshaped and rewritten” (131). This resonated with me because so much of our narrative is currently being rewritten. If people such as Salman Rushdie can go to bat and get arrested for expressing his beliefs, it allows us to see that one person can make a difference. All of us need to help write the narrative that we want, but it’s not going to happen if we keep letting an unreliable narrator tell our story.

 

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