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Bad EnglishLiterature, Multilingualism, and the Politics of Language in Contemporary Britain$
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Rachael Gilmour

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781526108845

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.7765/9781526108852

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Introduction: Bad English

Introduction: Bad English

(p.1) Introduction: Bad English
Bad English

Rachael Gilmour

Manchester University Press

Starting with Vahni Capildeo’s poetry, and also considering Sam Selvon’s novels and short stories, the Introduction suggests how writers’ everyday experiences of multilingualism give form to their work and how English signifies as a language of power and exclusion in their writing, but also as a form of language open to critical reshaping. Turning to think about the politics of language as a context for literature, it considers how English has been asserted and contested as a signifier of national belonging in Britain, in political and popular discourses, in education and debates over citizenship throughout the past 50 years – from Enoch Powell to the aftermath of the 2011 riots. The Introduction surveys scholarship on literary multilingualism and argues for the value of bringing together writers diverse in race, class, and ethnicity under the rubric of ‘bad English’.

Keywords:   Vahni Capildeo, Politics of language, Samuel Selvon, Contemporary literature, Multilingual literature, Language in Britain

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