The Bilingual Memory in Autobiographical Ethnic Novels: Untranslatable Feelings

Proceedings of The 5th World Conference on Research in Social Sciences

Year: 2023



The Bilingual Memory in Autobiographical Ethnic Novels: Untranslatable Feelings





The juxtaposition between reality perceived in childhood and the impact of events experienced in adulthood reverberates strongly in autobiographical literature. In an essay called “Child Play”, Gillian Brown studies childhood representations in literature and disassociates between “a child’s reality” and “an adult’s reality”, stipulating that “a child’s imagination differs from the reality which he experiences, as opposed to that perceived by adults” (2003: 16). In autobiographies, adult narrators’ memory is based on reality drawn from childhood memories, but this is disrupted by possibly repressed traumatic experiences. In the case of an autobiographical novel, the narrator illustrates either dispersed or explicitly personal events, based on the outcome of the aforementioned juxtaposition. If a third element appears that amplifies the ambiguity of the narrative, there is another dimension of comprehension and analysis to the text. For example, a bilingual narrator can construct the illusion of a double identity, both textual and metatextual. Thus, in order to interpret the peculiarities of the bilingual narrators, I base my explanations within literary, sociological, and psychological paradigms. In this paper, I explain and elaborate a few notions on elements applied in the narrative discourse identified in two semi-autobiographic Ethnic American novels, written by Chicana writers, Sandra Cisneros, and Gloria Anzaldúa. I cross-reference that with theories based on psychiatric studies aimed at the cognitive processes of the bilingual self. My study explores the discrepancies between the self-accessed memories in the native language and the adopted language to measure the intensity of autobiographical discourse.

keywords: Bilingualism, American Literature, Chicana Literature,Autobiographies