Linguistic Representations of Alterity

deadline for submissions: 
March 22, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
Linguistics and Literature Forum of the MLA
contact email: 

Linguistic Representations of Alterity

How is alterity represented linguistically in literary texts through dialect rendering, manifestations of aspects of one's social/political identity including gender, race, religion, sexuality, class, etc.?

In literary works, the linguistic representation of alterity is achieved most visibly through dialect rendering, which typically claims to capture distinctive features of regional accents, lexicon, or syntax. However, identity – established through solidarity as well as through delineating otherness – involves a complex negotiation of the multiple dimensions of experience. Authors exploit narrative and linguistic devices to convey the social and political components of identity, such as class and religious affiliation, which are, like dialect, relatively stable; these, like dialect, are often under a degree of conscious control. Other features of alterity, such as gender, race, and sexuality, are both less well defined and more fraught. Finally, the representation of alterity extends beyond characterisation to the positioning of the narrative, narrator, and ultimately the writer. The manner in which a writer situates themselves in relation to the dominant culture can be discerned through textual features and linguistic and literature devices.

We invite papers which investigate the linguistic representation of alterity, focussing on specific works, on the issues raised by “othering” through language, and on narrative and narratological strategies and questions. We also welcome considerations of the relation between the representation of “the other” in language and social justice; on issues of essentialism raised by the representation of alterity; on the difficulties raised by intercultural and cross-cultural works; and on the complexities of appropriation and voice, in literary texts. These are just a few possible approaches to the panel. We encourage other topics and avenues.

Please submit your 200-word abstract and C.V. to Anne Furlong at by March 22.