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Wor(l)ds in progress: A study of contemporary migrant writings

Alessandra Di Maio, University of Massachusetts Amherst


In this dissertation, Wor(l)ds in Progress, I intend to offer, as indicated in the subtitle, a study of contemporary migrant writings. In so doing, I assume a double role: that of literary student, in the first part; and that of translator, in the second. My assumption is that both translation and criticism are essential factors in assuring the continuity of literature. During the last decades, the world has rapidly changed. Mass movements of people characterize the contemporary world, and have become fundamental to its new order. The ways of representing, and narrating, the world have changed as well. Much migrant fiction has been written, and much has been written about it. In spite of individual differing positions, there is a general agreement that migrant literature considers, and urges readers to consider, people, places, histories, languages and poetics dynamically, in relation to each other, rather than as mutually exclusive absolutes. From a comparative perspective, I contribute to a conceptualization of migrant literature by analyzing what I consider some of its most representative works. In Part 1, "Words across Worlds" (Chapters 1-4), I examine three texts, each written by a migrant writer, respectively, Cristina Garcia's Dreaming in Cuban (1992), Caryl Phillips' A Distant Shore (2003) and Nuruddin Farah's Yesterday, Tomorrow (2000), concluding with an account of the recent birth of what might be called a "multicultural Italian literature". In Part 2, "Eccentric Visions of Italy" (Chapters 5-7), I propose the translation of three narratives---two from English into Italian, and one from Italian into English---by three of the authors whose works I examine in the first part---Farah, Phillips, and Ubax Cristina Ali Farah. Together, these texts offer an atypical, complex vision of Italy, challenging traditional ideas of a national, homogeneous, cultural identity. Although this dissertation cannot give a full account of the world's most recent migrant dynamics and their representational strategies, I intend nonetheless to focus on this evolving literary phenomenon through the study of a human experience common to men and women of every place and time: the impulse to tell stories.

Subject Area

Comparative literature|Literature|American literature|British and Irish literature|African literature|Romance literature

Recommended Citation

Di Maio, Alessandra, "Wor(l)ds in progress: A study of contemporary migrant writings" (2006). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3242355.