Nation, Race and Language- The Fate of the English Language at the End of Empire!

We began today’s lecture trying to respond to the question about language (in the screen shot below)  and about the ways in which Samuel Beckett may be trying to address these questions. There were some great responses to the question from the class and you can hear these as the first items in the recorded lecture below:


After this dramatic confrontation with what you have learned from your practical work on drama, we began to explore the ways in which the English language has been and is being radically transformed by those races, with their cultures, who have been exploited by England during the hey-day of Colonialism. Now the Empire is Striking back, the title of a wonderful book on this subject by an old student friend of mine Bill Ashcroft.

What we see in the literature this week and next week is artists who are trying to find their bearings in the language of the dominant culture, without relinquishing all from their own historical past. This is what we discovered today especially in the work of  Marlene Nourbese Philip who seemed to lament the loss of language and felt dispossessed by the whole process of colonisation. She presents us with much dramatic and emotional content. She expresses a lament for the loss of human dignity through exploitation. This is a savagely powerful poem that places the lyrical poetic voice in the context of a range of other “languages” that demonstrate how and why the Logic of Language can be an imprisoning logic. It is worth listening again to Marlene reading her poem “Discourse on the Logic of Language” with such passion:


is my mother tongue/

A mother tongue is not

not a foreign lan lan lang




-a foreign anguish. (Click on image below to hear the whole poem)


The lecture today was a lecture/workshop which focussed closely on Marlene’s poem. Here is the audio of the lecture/workshop together with a white-board screen shot of the wonderful contributions to this discussion made by the class as a whole:


Blog Topics for Week 10

  • Start a poem with the lines “English is my mother tongue” and through your poem explore the meaning of this line in relation to your own experience of language in your life.
  • Give a short account of the way in which language has played an important part in your identity. Perhaps you are from a multi-lingual family group, or perhaps you have been born and bred in the King’s English!
  • Create a mini digital kit from which your readers can find useful resources on any two of the authors studied today.
  • Remember you can create your own topic that draws inspiration from anything discussed or presented this week and that might also connect with experiences in your own life.
  • Enjoy!

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