'Pens that confound the label of citizenship': Self-translations and literary identities

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The linguistic and cultural identity of transnational writers who choose to write in an adopted language or to self-translate, has gained increasing interest among researchers over the last decade. Approaches to the topic have ranged from textual analyses of translingual narratives and language memoirs to more ontological investigations of the processes of identity-formation in transcultural frameworks. Acknowledging that there is no one-to-one correspondence between linguistic units and ethnic, social or cultural formations, this paper considers the relationship between the literary practices of contemporary translingual writers and the role of language both in the formation of personal identities and in the reconfiguration of constructions of national identity and literary belonging. Specifically, I examine how two contemporary women writers, Francesca Marciano and Jhumpa Lahiri, who each represent a remarkable case of self-conscious linguistic transformation, interrogate the traditional construct of a monolingual, mono-ethnic and mono-cultural national identity. I argue that their autofictions reflect the multilingual and transcultural reality of contemporary transnational literature and instantiate broader issues connected with the definition, categorisation and consequent evaluation of literary canons and literary citizenship.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-224
Number of pages12
JournalModern Italy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Francesca Marciano
  • Jhumpa Lahiri
  • language and identity
  • self-translation
  • translingual writers
  • transnational literature

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