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Migrant Hermeneutics : Shall We Dance?

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Title: Migrant Hermeneutics : Shall We Dance?
Author: Bagus, Erin Rose
Advisor: Burshatin, Israel; Ricci, Roberta
Department: Bi-College (Haverford and Bryn Mawr Colleges). Comparative Literature Program
Type: Thesis (B.A.)
Running Time: 124278 bytes533766 bytes
Issue Date: 2006
Abstract: In my thesis I examine Italophone and Indo-British literatures, that is, how they are similar in some ways but very different in others. To do this, I look at all aspects of the literatures: author, text, and reader. I begin my discussion with the author, using some of Martin Heideggers ideas on culture as determinate and closed. He believed that our mother tongue provides us with an inexorable way of viewing and interacting with the world, from which we can never escape in the sense that we cannot learn a new way (as is embedded in a new language). The migrant literature, however, contradicts these assertions as migrant authors show themselves to have not only learned the language of their new land but to have gained an understanding of the cultural-historical-social references embedded in that language. Having learned these references, they appropriate and rewrite them according to their own experiences as migrants, living amongst several cultures. We can see their mastery of this reappropriation in the two main stories examined: At the Auction of the Ruby Slippers by Salman Rushdie and Naufragio by Martha Elvira Patiña. Turning to the reader, I examine what audiences these traditions tend to write for and introduce some of Hans-Georg Gadamers metaphors of the hermeneutical experiences, first play then the fusing of horizons, to consider how these readers understand. In my conclusion, I attempt to find the socio-cultural reasons why these two traditions have received such different responses, which I believe goes back and also affects the genre in which each chooses to compose. Italy, it seems, represses Italian-language migrant literature partly because they have no historical relationship with the migrants and thus feel like they never opened themselves up to any interaction with them, and also because the country is tending towards a more religiously and culturally xenophobic politics and literature in recent years. England, on the other hand, has a strong historical relationship with India and willingly opened up a space of interaction with them through colonialism. Furthermore, because British politics is more economically focused and immigrants provide cheap labor, they are generally more welcoming and accepting to them. In conclusion, I invite Italians to experience the great innovation and renewal that British literature and culture has received, if only they can learn to embrace, instead of fear, difference.
Subject: Italian literature -- 20th century -- History and criticism
Subject: Indic fiction (English) -- 20th century -- History and criticism
Subject: Immigrants' writings -- 20th century -- History and criticism
Subject: Patina, Martha Elvira -- Criticism and interpretation
Subject: Rushdie, Salman -- Criticism and interpretation
Subject: Hermeneutics
Subject: Heidegger, Martin, 1889-1976 -- Contributions in philosophy of language
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Bagus, Erin Rose. "Migrant Hermeneutics : Shall We Dance?". 2006. Available electronically from

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