Mother tongue? English as a ‘second language’ for Joyce and writers from the former colonies

For millions of people throughout the world, English is a second language. This is true not just of ordinary people, including our students, but of a surprising number of writers whom we study and who are considered masters of the English language. Of course, in the case of these writers, the statement must not be taken literally, and yet their reaction to what is felt as an ‘imposed language’ sheds an interesting light on the subtle relation between language, environment, and communication processes. Perhaps the first writer to fully state one’s uneasiness with the English tongue was James Joyce, but his was not an isolated case. A certain unease over standard or BBC English can also be traced in some English poets, like Tony Harrison, while the ‘Nation, Race, and Language’ relation has been exposed in all its complexity in the works of such writers from the former colonies as Louise Bennet and Salman Rushdie.



Arturo Cattaneo è Professore Ordinario di Letteratura Inglese presso l'Università Cattolica di Milano. Ha pubblicato libri e saggi in italiano e in inglese. Tra i libri, un lungo saggio creativo, Shakespeare e l'amore (Einaudi, Torino 2019). È autore di A Short History of English Literature (Mondadori, Milano 2019), e di una serie di storie antologiche della letteratura inglese per le scuole superiori (Literary Journeys - Connecting ideas l’ultima, edita da Signorelli, Milano). Ha pubblicato due romanzi: Ci vediamo a settembre (2010, Sedizioni) e La notte inglese (2012, Mondadori).



Laura Cavaleri - Responsabile Area Lingue Mondadori Education