Journal Article

Self-translation and Accommodation: Strategies of Multilingualism in Gloria Anzaldúa’s <i>Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza</i> and Margarita Cota-Cárdenas’s <i>Puppet</i>

Marlene Hansen Esplin


Volume 41, issue 2, pages 176-201
Published in print June 2016 | ISSN: 0163-755X
Published online April 2016 | e-ISSN: 1946-3170 | DOI:
Self-translation and Accommodation: Strategies of Multilingualism in Gloria Anzaldúa’s Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza and Margarita Cota-Cárdenas’s Puppet

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In the mid-1980s, Chicana authors Margarita Cota-Cárdenas and Gloria Anzaldúa each published their signature works, Cota-Cárdenas’s Puppet: A Chicano Novella in 1985 and Anzaldúa’s Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza in 1987. Both texts project the possibility of an openly bilingual literary poetics and feature semi-autobiographical narrative voices who grapple with the tensions of their bilingualism and the felt obligation to speak for and on behalf of their marginalized sociolinguistic communities. However, the former remains relatively unknown and untapped, while the latter is a favorite within the US academy and has birthed a virtual industry of primary and secondary texts. Examining the disproportionate receptions of these texts illustrates the marginal status of Spanish in the US literary marketplace and prompts the question of whether accommodating an “English-only” readership is a requisite concession for writers who hope to access a larger public. While both Cota-Cárdenas and Anzaldúa engage readers in the variants of English, Spanish, and English-and-Spanish that form the larger language of their texts, Cota-Cárdenas makes fewer accommodations for readers who access her text in either English or Spanish. I approach the social and political implications of each author’s varied strategies of multilingualism, such as code-switching, offering literal or contextual translations, or simply refusing to translate, and I illustrate how both authors revel in the national and linguistic ambivalences that inform their homelands and their literary praxis.

Journal Article.  12002 words. 

Subjects: Literature

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