Language geek, teacher, researcher, aspiring academic, feminist, skeptic, scribbler, traveler & third culture kid.
Tutor and student supervisor at University of Melbourne and editor-at-large.
@NadiaNiaz on Twitter.
Doctor of Philosophy
Evolving Multilingualisms in Poetry: Third Culture as a Window on Multilingual Poetic Praxis
The University of Melbourne
In this thesis, I compare the understanding and construction of multilingualism across linguistics, cultural studies and literature in an effort to interrogate the popular notion that multilingual individuals - and creative writers in particular - are conflicted and fragmented as a result of their multilingualism. I locate the source of that assumption in the monolingual bias that arose when Western European thinkers adopted the idea that nations should be built around and defined by language. I then trace its development and influence on attitudes towards multilingualism and multilingual expression across disciplines to the present day. In particular, I examine the work of contemporaneous multilingual writers and assess how their work is both shaped by and resists these developing popular and academic conceptions of multilingualism.
I identify three distinct types of multilingual writers in the process, who I refer to as traditional multilingual poets, cross culture polyglot poets and third culture polyglot poets. The first write in only one language at a time and do not mix codes, the second combine two languages usually connected through a history of colonialism, switching between them in the body of a single poem, and the third weave three or more languages that may or may not have any colonial history into poetry that is meant to be performed rather than read. I argue that polyglot poetry, particularly third culture poetry, as it is marked by a lack of conflict between the languages, represents a challenge to the dominant monolingual perception of multilingualism. Polyglot poetry reframes the idea of the fractured multilingual as a multifaceted one, with each identity and language representing not a shattered fragment but a new dimension. Creating polyglot poetry, then, is a political act in that it takes a dominant, sometimes colonizing, language, claims ownership of it, and then infuses it with the music of the Other.
Rather than see their multifaceted identities as a hindrance to national belonging, I argue that polyglot poets represent a large number of people around the world - multilinguals all - whose identities exist harmoniously across multiple languages and national affiliations. This thesis puts forward a new framework for studying the movement of multilinguals between their languages, and specifically provides a new language for studying highly activated multilinguals.
Master of Arts
Translating the Cultural Aesthetic: Faiz in Urdu, English and French
The University of Melbourne
Language is culturally loaded and the aesthetic content of poetry, because it is a distillation of language, is particularly culturally significant. This thesis looks at what happens to that aesthetic content - including the repleteness, multiple references, exemplification, and density - of a poem when it is translated across languages. To this end, Urdu poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz's poem 'Mujh Se Pehli Si Muhabbat Meri Mehbub Na Mang' has been looked at as presenting particular problems to translators because it not only draws on but also challenges the Urdu literary tradition and so marks a significant point in the development of Urdu literature. Two sets of translations, four in English and two in French have been examined to identify the challenges that each of the six translators have had to face as well as the choices they have made in order to communicate to English and French readers something of the meaning of the original. That many references intelligible in the Urdu context have been lost in the transfer to English and French is unsurprising - some cultural archetypes simply do not translate. What is interesting however is how far similarity in structure can go towards bridging that cultural gap. French is able to transmit the music and rhythm of the original in a way that English cannot. This does not make for perfect French poetry, but it does capture something of the original. English, despite - and perhaps because of - its flexibility, must absorb the original more fully into itself and produce translations that are more naturalised, thereby moving its readers further away from the original. In addition, the audience of the translators has also influenced the choices they have made. Some translators have deliberately absorbed the original and recast it as a poem in the target language, while others have taken the opposite tack and preserved as much of the 'foreignness' of the original as possible in the target language. A third set have taken a more 'middle-path' approach and embellished the poem where they have deemed appropriate in order to create a translation that is aesthetically appealing to its target audience but that does as little violence to the original text as possible. Each of these approaches is valid and ultimately the very fact of their difference provides evidence that while the aesthetic features of the original cannot be preserved in translation, the receiving language can interact with the source language in a way that, at its best, results in the creation of a new aesthetic.