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.

 

Lengths People Will Go To Write

I’ve always been fascinated by author’s biographies, especially when those authors seem to be rebellious. Reading the autobiographical information about Salman Rushdie in Rob Burton’s “Artists of the Floating World” was no exception. It was even more fascinating because, in the context of our culture, it doesn’t seem like it’s all that rebellious to write your opinions in a book.

This chapter dealt more with the trials that Rushdie underwent after publishing Satanic Verses and not Midnight’s Children. Even though I’m not sold on Rushdie after reading a few of his books, the intrigue behind his rebellion makes me want to read Satanic Verses. The chapter states that Rushdie had a $5 million dollar bounty on his head for committing “3  offences, each punishable by death under Islamic law: he had insulted the Prophet, he had spread corruption on earth, and he had repudiated his Muslim faith” (108). He also had to move several times under the protection of the Scotland Yard.

It’s fascinating because he had to be aware of what he was doing to some extent. He had to have known that he would get in trouble for his writing and that he could be punished.

Apparently, I am not the only one fascinated by the idea of him being published because of his rebellion. Burton tells us that “Pen upheld  the  sanctity  of  the  written  word  by  putting  out  a  strongly-worded statement on behalf of a writer‘s entitlement to free expression” (108). They valued what he’d written and did not think there was a reason for punishment. When the book did hit the stores in America, it sold out immediately. “Waldenbooks  and  B.  Dal-ton‘s, temporarily withdrew the book from sale, apparently to protect their stores from threatened acts of sabotage” (108).  Even though they probably agreed with PEN’s statement, they had to fear for their own safety just because they carried the book.

The idea of rebellious writers has come up a lot this semester. We’ve channeled a lot of classic novelists through our readings, such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, D.H. Lawrence, Oscar Wilde, etc. They are all authors who have made profound statements in the literary field through their rebellious writings and lifestyles.

The chapter this week also pointed out that “There was also another starkly original feature to Rushdie‘s writing:  his  playful  use  of  language.  There  seemed  to  be  an  unrestrained joyfulness about his word combinations and phrasings, as if he taken to heart  the  legacy  of  French  postmodernism  which  was  to  reinvent  language,  to  play  with  its  structures,  in  order  to  deconstruct  it.  After  all, when  the  signifiers  had  floated  free  from  the  signified,  then  artists should be allowed to indulge in the texture of a liberated language” (106). I couldn’t help but think of the idea of “chutnification.” It’s always interesting to see how authors play around with words and reinvent language.