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Open Access Life in a box

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Unpublished and undistributed, Truus van Bruinessen’s collection of life-writings in Dutch (journal, letters, and travel writing) and English (memoir) only exists in a box in Canada’s National Archives. It documents its author’s migration to Canada and her domestic travails as a housewife of the 1950s, which include her lack of access to English. The archive provides a unique opportunity for the study of gender and language shift in adult migrants’ life-writing. Comparative analysis of van Bruinessen’s skilful and highly gendered use of the epistolary form in Dutch on one hand, and of her memoir in imperfect and belatedly acquired English on the other, reveals interesting differences in style, tone, and content. Such analysis shows how a woman’s migrant subjectivity, originally constituted in Dutch, could not adequately be represented in English, as a talented writer’s mother tongue was twisted in (self-) translation.
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Keywords: (self-)translation; Dutch-Canadian migration; bilingual archive; immigrant women’s writing; life-writing genres; van Bruinessen

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Maria Lauret is Professor of American Literature and Culture at the University of Sussex, UK. She is the author of Liberating Literature: feminist fiction in America (1994); Alice Walker (2nd edition 2011); Wanderwords: Language Migration in American Literature (2014) and numerous articles ranging from feminist film theory, African American literature and culture, to the U.S. political discourse on (im)migration. She is currently working on a poetics of multilingual reading, specifically in the work of Don DeLillo and Junot Díaz.

Publication date: September 1, 2016

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  • Het Tijdschrift voor Genderstudies is het forum voor de wetenschappelijke problematisering van sekse in relatie tot andere vormen van discriminatie en uitsluiting zoals etniciteit, seksualiteit, klasse of leeftijd. Er worden artikelen in gepubliceerd over gendervraagstukken vanuit alle relevante disciplines die een wetenschappelijke bijdrage leveren aan debatten over gender en intersectionaliteit in Nederland en Vlaanderen. Het tijdschrift is een interdisciplinair medium op het kruispunt van maatschappij-, cultuur-, geestes-, gezondheids- en natuurwetenschappen. Het verschijnt vier keer per jaar en biedt wetenschappelijke artikelen en daarnaast ook interviews, boekrecensies, discussiedossiers en opiniërende artikelen in het Nederlands en Engels. Artikelen worden dubbelblind beoordeeld door externe deskundigen.

    The Tijdschrift voor Genderstudies (Journal of Gender Studies) is a Dutch language forum for the scientific problematisation of gender in relation to ethnicity, sexuality, class, and age. The journal aims to contribute to debates about gender and diversity in the Netherlands and Flanders. The journal is an interdisciplinary medium operating at the intersection of society, culture, the humanities, health and science. The editorial staff is open to articles about gender issues from different disciplines, and also accepts English articles. As well as publishing articles, the journal includes essays, columns (short topical and polemical articles), interviews, reviews, summaries of dissertations and conference reports. Articles are subjected to a double blind peer review process.
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