At a certain moment, a moment that extends from the late '80s to the turn of the twenty-first century, something interesting happens within literature in English: some of the more provocative literatures in English from various literary schools and various national traditions blatantly turn away from standard English in order to say something about English. This article argues that literature in English in the '90s is distinctive for the number of works that turn away from standard English by including other languages and/or are written mainly in the pidgins or creoles that resulted from English-language colonialism. The '90s are a unique moment when writers of disparate aesthetic, political, and philosophical concerns, writers from disparate nations that are united and separated by shared histories of imperialism, and writers with disparate relations to the English language do some really interesting thinking at the same time about what it means to be writing in the English language. This article reads these works in the context of the very public debates about the English language that happen in the '90s in the United States. It examines what this literature of the '90s has to say about globalization and indigenous and immigrant rights through its insistent turn against standard English. And it concludes by looking briefly beyond the '90s at the rise of lyric and plain speech poetries after the U.S. 9/11, which in turn are contested by the turn to appropriation-heavy writings such as Flarf and Conceptual writing.
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Juliana Spahr; The '90s. boundary 2 1 August 2009; 36 (3): 159–182. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/01903659-2009-027
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