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Abstract

Nathaniel Hawthorne deals with inhospitable places in several of his short stories. His use of history in his fiction always problematizes the role of British during the Colonial Period, as can be seen in “Endicott and the Red Cross,” “The Gentle Boy,” and “The May-Pole of Merry Mount.” It is my intention to explore the role that places play in these stories. Though they have been variously analyzed, most of the times in symbolic terms, I want to investigate how these places become inhospitable for some characters.

In “Endicott and the Red Cross,” Endicott becomes Levinas’s displaced host; in “The May-Pole of Merry Mount” the native inhabitants have to suffer the Puritan rule and abandon their pagan traditions. Finally, “The Gentle Boy” deals with the way in which Puritans tried to forbid the Quakers settling in New England. It is my view that Hawthorne wanted to deal with the issue of religion in Salem and the consequences that religious bigotry had in the inhabitants of the town, both native and colonists. With that intention in mind, he created fictional places that would suit his purpose.

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In: The Poetics and Politics of Hospitality in U.S. Literature and Culture

Abstract

The following essay discusses the notion of the ethics of hospitality in relation to food and eating in the work of Ruth L. Ozeki. Hospitality is present in the three novels that the Asian American author has published to date: My Year of Meats (1998), All Over Creation (2003), and A Tale for the Time Being (2013). In all these cases, Ozeki points out the difficulties of open and unconditional hospitality, to use Derrida’s concept. From her Zen Buddhist perspective, unconditional hospitality is the most perfect state, but it is difficult to attain in our society because it would imply accepting the Other in us. To address this issue in her fiction, the essay analyses the role of food as a tool of communication and communion with the other, and thus as a metaphor for hospitality.

The first novel, My Year of Meats, exposes the lies behind the appearance of hospitality both in the TV food programs and in the food processing. The author points to the need to dismantle false myths and go back to the real, which is where radical hospitality is to be found. Ozeki’s second work, All Over Creation, also has food as the central element of the narrative, and again, eating becomes a metaphor for the relationships between hosts and strangers. The analysis of this novel focuses on the idea of strangers as parasites (Serres), that is, people who arrive unexpectedly and do not offer anything in exchange for the food they eat. However, the narrative proves that, as Levinas said, hospitality is an act of ethics. It implies accepting the Others and understanding that there is a connection between all human beings that goes beyond the notion of place, property, and belonging. Thus, the novel questions the notion of the host, the guest, and the meaning of parasitism. In Ozeki’s third novel, A Tale for the Time Being, hospitality is conceived as something that includes the spiritual and the physical, transcending both. In this work, the author is moving beyond known theories of hospitality to include cyborgs or egoless subjectivities. She opens our understanding of hospitality by going beyond humanistic philosophies and ethics. Moreover, she articulates the idea of hospitality/hostility related to cannibalism. According to Jean Baudrillard, cannibalism is a radical form of hospitality. It rewrites the discourse of hospitality, for it implies the total dissolution of boundaries and reverses the meaning of sharing food as a hospitable act.

Thus, this chapter explores the evolution of the notion of hospitality in Ozeki’s fiction through the metaphor of eating. Whereas the first two novels explore hospitality as a Levinasian act of ethics, in the sense of offering and sharing with the Other, and the idea of reciprocity, Ozeki’s last novel gives another turn to the concept of hospitality beyond the humanist approaches of Kant, Levinas, or Derrida to rely on Buddhism and radical hospitality and approach hospitality through disembodiment.

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In: The Poetics and Politics of Hospitality in U.S. Literature and Culture
Author: Puspa Damai

Abstract

A non-Western immigrant seeking or receiving hospitality in the metropolitan centers of the West is a paradigm that dominates contemporary discourses on hospitality. Jacques Derrida tweaked this paradigm by adding to the category of the immigrant-guest a variety of new figures including the homeless or stateless asylum seekers, foreigners, exiles, nomads, and refugees. Though Derrida deconstructs the host-guest binary, still the West in his scheme of things occupies the place of the host. Gayatri Spivak traces a different law of hospitality which she calls “hospitality from below” according to which a colonized subject acts as host to a colonizer guest. This postcolonial view on hospitality apotheosizes a figure she calls a resident alien—a figure invisible in the immigrant model of hospitality championed both by the thinkers of multiculturalism and deconstruction.

Using Spivak’s notion of hospitality from below as its point of departure, this essay examines the place of Native America in the guest-host binary. It studies three novels dealing with the challenges faced by Native Americans in the nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first century America: The Life and Adventure of Joaquin Murieta (1854); Ceremony (1977); and Flight (2007).

While this paper follows Spivak in tracing the notion of hospitality from below in these three novels, it also interrogates Spivak’s anthropocentric premises that flipping the roles and reinstating the colonized as host would be more hospitable, and it would constitute some form of decolonization. It argues that all three Native American novels mimic the immigrant/refugee model of hospitality. They depict hospitality from below not because Native Americans act as hosts, but because a more immanent form of hospitality of contiguity, cosmopolitanism, and planetarity emerges from these narratives.

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In: The Poetics and Politics of Hospitality in U.S. Literature and Culture

Abstract

In “The Caribean Imaginary in ‘Encancaranublado’ by Ana Lydia Vega,” Diana Vélez argues that the Caribbean “is a space that can be theorized productively within both paradigms: both diaspora and borderland” (828). This chapter proposes that hospitality can also offer an apt theoretical frame to analyze the interactions between and among migrants on one hand, and between migrants and Americans on the other. The chapter examines Ana Lydia Vega’s story as part of a series of literary works that gravitate around acts of hospitality. Vega’s “Encancaranublado” and Edwidge Dunticat’s “Children of the Sea” and “Caroline’s Wedding” establish a direct connection between contemporary migrants and the slave trade. Tom Wolfe’s Back to Blood and Francisco Goldman’s The Ordinary Seaman tackle the stasis and the hostility of the arrival. If Wolf’s character is literally suspended between land and sea, between being a ‘dry’ or a ‘wet’ foot, between standing a chance of being welcome to America or being sent to Guantánamo, Goldman’s characters undergo a process of depersonalization that transforms them into slaves and zombies. The four examples show that the arrival to an American harbor never translates as hospitality, and that mobility for Caribbean migrants often translates as another variation of mobility ‘in chains.’

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In: The Poetics and Politics of Hospitality in U.S. Literature and Culture

Abstract

Herman Melville’s literary production articulates a global consciousness which transcends notions of identitarianism, community, even nationalism, in the midst of an agitated nineteenth centurywhen the United States was redefining itself as ‘nation’ and constructing its ideals of nationhood at a time of inter-personal hatreds, violence, and eventually civil war. Those inter-personal hatreds—against those considered ‘different’ inside the nation (African Americans, southerners, Native Americans), but also against those coming from outside with hopes of becoming part of the nation (migrants arriving to the US)—are not only echoed but also explored already in Melville’s early novels.

Focusing particularly on Melville’s long epic poem Clarel: A Poem and Pilgrimage in the Holy Land, written over the postbellum years and published in 1876 (the year the US was celebrating its centennial), yet without forgetting Melville’s earlier works in prose, the present chapter aims to analyze in Melville the concept of hospitality as articulated by Jacques Derrida, together with notions of interpersonal ethics and togetherness developed by philosophers such as Emmanuel Levinas, Martin Buber, Hannah Arendt, or Judith Butler. The chapter’s objective, therefore, is to focus on moments of ‘togetherness’—principally in Clarel, but also in Melville’s previous novels—in order to show how Melville’s works confront readers with hospitable encounters which, however, turn out to eventually reflect on the incapacity to fully embrace the alterity that the Other represents. On a more positive note, the chapter will also present an example of successful hospitality in the Clarel character Rolfe, a Melvillean prototype of a successful capacity to embrace alterity and polyphony in what the poem names manysidedness.

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In: The Poetics and Politics of Hospitality in U.S. Literature and Culture

Abstract

In Adieu to Emmanuelle Levinas, Jacques Derrida observed that the author of Totality and Infinity privileged the term ‘dwelling’ over that of ‘hospitality’ although this work “bequeaths to us an immense treatise of hospitality” (Derrida [] 1999, 21). As interpreter of the concept of hospitality in the philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas, Derrida also reminded us of the conditions of the host, as the one that gives asylum, while, at the same time, the law of hospitality, the law of the place (house, hotel, hospital, hospice, family, city, nation, language, etc.) become the delimitation where that host maintains his/her authority (Derrida , 4). More recently, Abi Doukhan has accounted for a dimension of the Levinassian hospitality, the exilic structure, which has been disregarded by many commentators of the Lithuanian-born philosopher (Doukhan , 235).

In this paper, I intend to examine Ha Jin’s (a Chinese-born American migrant writer and one of the most successful Asian-American authors in current American fiction) exilic condition. Forced to remain in the United States after viewing on television the response of Chinese authorities to the demonstrations at Tiannamen Square in June 1989, Ha Jin has developed his entire literary career in English, a language that he learned after the end of Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution. Writing in this language thus became “a matter of survival” (Weinberger 2006, 46), a safe haven to which this author retreated in an attempt to exile himself from Chinese, a language loaded with “a lot of political jargon” (Fay , 122) and unsuitable for the representation of his fictional worlds.

I will be paying close attention to some of Ha Jin’s best known essays: “In Defence of Foreignness” and The Writer as Migrant. In this latter book, this Chinese-American writer delves into the Manichean relationship that Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Lin Yutang, Vladimir Nabokov, V. S. Naipaul, among other foreign authors, had with the English language so as to justify his own decision to write in English. Having accepted being an outcast from his native language (Chinese), Ha Jin’s adopted language (English) became, metaphorically speaking, a hospitable space in which he could secure a successful literary career at the expense of being accused of betrayal by both Chinese intellectuals and authorities.

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In: The Poetics and Politics of Hospitality in U.S. Literature and Culture

Abstract

The introduction to this volume makes a brief survey of the concept of hospitality in history, focusing on Emmanuel Levinas and Jacques Derrida, and describes the content of the chapters. Starting with Immanuel Kant and his notion of hospitality based on reciprocity, the authors of the introduction move towards Levinas’s ethical hospitality as it shapes our identity, since we are constituted by the Other’s self. For Levinas, hospitality is defined in terms of space and of care, while Jacques Derrida attempted to reconcile the ethical and the political in his theorization of the concept in the light of contemporary needs. For him, it is absolutely necessary a negotiation between the law of the nation and the Law of hospitality, otherwise hospitality will always be conditioned.

This first chapter also summarizes how the authors of the book have written on the reflection of hospitality in American literature and culture, the way it has shifted to a discussion on race, culture and identity, and also the way it explains a new Other. The authors agree that literature and culture create a space that becomes a refuge for hospitality. Thus, language, space, and hospitality structure the book, since hospitality, though represented in terms of space, starts with linguistic interaction. The introduction also deals with the construction of dominant and subordinate identities in a space that is familiar and that eventually becomes the place of interaction, negotiation, social action, and linguistic hospitality. Finally, it also surveys briefly how hospitality has been represented in American literature across the centuries, and the ways in which American authors have responded to the political pressures of their times by representing either conditioned or unconditioned hospitality.

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In: The Poetics and Politics of Hospitality in U.S. Literature and Culture

Abstract

When dealing with notions of immigration and hospitality, there is a third concept that often unavoidably follows suit: that of the Other. Usually identified with what is different, what is not understood as equal to the self and/or its inherent cultural, linguistic, or racial identity, the Other is perceived as an outsider, someone—or something—that, due to its difference, is often feared and most of the times not welcome into the domain/territory of the self. Likewise, the concept of race is also unmistakably linked to that of the Other, as the former embodies what can perhaps be conceived as the most obvious and identifiable of differences: a visible mark of otherness that is, by definition, inextricably engrained within the alien individual.

Certain past—and present—discourses on migration have capitalized on the relation between notions of otherness, race, and the migrant as an intruder and a perceived need of self-preservation in order to reinforce and implement several anti-immigration policies, which are, in turn, often paralleled in the society’s rejecting attitude towards those immigrants. In the case of the US, instances of such practices against the racialized immigrant have been evident in the Asian Immigration Ban implemented during a good part of the twentieth century, or the Anti-immigration rants that President Trump frequently directs towards Mexicans, among other examples.

One of those other examples is the attitude towards the Irish immigrants that arrived in the US during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Even though there are apparently little linguistic and racial differences between the Irish and the white population of the US, the Irish’s whiteness was by no means taken for granted during the better part of that period. And yet, unlike other racialized groups of immigrants—as well as other ‘resident’ collectives like the African Americans or the Native Americans—the Irish were able to achieve the recognition of whiteness that they had been previously denied.

Based on the works of previous scholars like Noel Ignatiev’s How the Irish Became White (1996), this chapter will trace the Irish trip towards whiteness in the US and the efforts of its individuals across generations to achieve it. To illustrate this process, examples of its representation in novels depicting the Irish-American experience such as Frank McCourt’s ’Tis (1999), Mary Gordon’s The Other Side (1989), and Taylor Caldwell’s Captains and the Kings (1972) will be employed.

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In: The Poetics and Politics of Hospitality in U.S. Literature and Culture

Abstract

Notions of hospitality and issues of receiving migrants and refugees have been highlighted in the political rhetoric and various critical and literary approaches. The concept of hospitality is rooted in the interactions, or non-actions between both the host and the guest, and is tied to relational dynamics of knowledge and power. As Michel Foucault states, “there is no power relation without the correlative construction of a field of knowledge, nor any knowledge that does not presuppose and constitute at the same time power relations” (Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, 27). Power is generated in relation to the Other; one member has power when the other lacks. Therefore, knowledge and lack of knowledge can be considered as actions, since they constitute what pushes and pulls the actors in the host situation.

When this knowledge is linguistic, or takes on characteristics of speech acts, it in turn holds a space of its own and shakes up the rules of engagement between a host and guest, and poses the following questions: How are hospitality roles formed among the migrants, or Others themselves? Are the notions of oppression and control, both physically and ideologically, addressed in terms of an internal code—or code switching—among the guests themselves? Is there a push and pull connected to a ‘host of hosts’ identity? And can ‘hospitable violence’ be understood by linguistic means? And finally, how does the maternal pathos emerge to be the strongest (linguistic) actor against a patriarchal host-figure? The answers to these questions rest on an analysis at the intersection of Michel Foucault’s theories of knowledge and power, Teun van Dijk and Norman Fairclough’s developments in critical discourse analysis, as well as De Certeau’s concepts of language space.

In Junot Díaz’ This is How You Lose Her, and Sandra Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street, the concept of linguistic space helps demonstrate the interplay of different occupied spaces throughout the stories, at the same time that it uncovers overarching themes of knowledge, power, and oppression. In both collections, migrant families must come to terms with occupying a different type of spatiality; one that is both of the physical and the non-physical, a geographic reality and a verbal reality. In The House on Mango Street, those who “No Speak English” are reduced to occupying the bottom rung of society, and in “Invierno,” speaking English is seen as the key to gaining access to the outside world. And, in both collections, a mother-figure becomes a prisoner in different apartments because of linguistic barriers. Figures alluding to a ‘hosted host’ identity permeate both collections, as there are actors among the guest groups that take on a Gatekeeper role, and passage through the gate becomes a driving force among the characters. Norman Fairclough () develops this notion of access and power, and assigns a conceptual function to those who control this discoursal access. The powerful enactors, or “Gatekeepers,” are the ones that have control over the flux of knowledge and access to discourse (47). The idea of ‘power behind discourse’ posits that the whole social order of discourse is constructed and maintained as a hidden effect of power in that discourses depend on special knowledge and skills which have to be learned (19-68). Key players in the collections observe that the lack of language creates a powerlessness, but that the ability to pass through planes of linguistic space will give them power.

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In: The Poetics and Politics of Hospitality in U.S. Literature and Culture

Abstract

Drawing on Levinas’s contention that language is inextricably connected to hospitality because it allows us to share the world with the Other, this article explores controversial issues related to language exchanges and linguistic tensions that spring when power, hospitality, and space are being questioned and contested. US barriocentric novels vividly portray how linguistic barricades separate outsiders from insiders by delimiting a psychical and linguistic territory where the immigrant is at a disadvantage in a decidedly monolingual host country. This article examines the metaphor of hospitality in Sandra Cisneros’s The House on Mango Street and Piri Thomas’s Down these Mean Streets through the magnifying lens of language use and code switching in order to gain a deeper insight into the ways in which ethnolinguistic identities are constructed and power relationships negotiated and challenged. In these novels, the use of the home language versus the host language brings to the fore other concerns connected to displacement and unstable resettlement as well as identity issues that reflect a fractured mode of belonging. In Cisneros’s novel, the main issues posed by the dichotomy of the use of homeland versus host-country language create a breach between immigrants who are willing to accept assimilation and sameness as a sign of empowerment, and those who prefer to protect their linguistic space in order to maintain the link that connects them to their homeland’s culture and values, as well as to delimit identitarian borders. In Thomas’s Down These Mean Streets () the linguistic enactment of identity becomes even more complex since the characters are forced to either resort to their homeland language or to code switching to challenge stereotypical social and ethnic categories. Most of the characters of Piri’s novel have hybrid sociolects and, therefore, use linguistic forms from different language varieties of Spanish and English to display multifaceted identities that undermine the negative clichés attached to the immigrants living in depressed and impoverished inner cities. These characters, by challenging the power expressed though language, are also questioning the possibility of experiencing these migrant sites as habitable places. Their refusal to use Standard English clearly proves they know that the spatial limitations are also linguistic barricades. Furthermore, as Smith () aptly points out, by refraining from crossing the linguistic threshold, the viability of experiencing hospitable encounters and the host country’s capacity to open up spaces of hospitality are seriously questioned. A further aim is to explore how the language is used in these two autobiographical novels to establish sociocultural boundaries and activate different social roles or multiple facets of their shattered identities.

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In: The Poetics and Politics of Hospitality in U.S. Literature and Culture