What is a Minor Literature?

What is a Minor Literature?

Deleuze defines a minor literature through three main characteristics; firstly the deterritorialization of language, secondly the political element, and finally, the collective value. Minor literature as described by Deleuze, in respect to Kafka’s work, holds very specific significance and plays a very specific role. I will focus on the first characteristic to high light the role of language in writing from a minority group.

Deterritorialization is described by Deleuze as the “impossibility of not writing.” It is tied up with issues of finding a voice within a language that is both alien and familiar. Kafka’s work shows the ‘impasse’ of this literature; it is minor literature writing in a major language, something that is essentially deterritorilizing not only of language within a minority group, but a way of relating to a world of which they are both part of and alien to. The minor literature becomes a way of mediating the group within a major language and a major society.

This is very applicable to African American literature. Books such as The Color Purple are a parallel example to the ways that Deleuze conceives of deterritorialization. The author of the text is writing from within a minority group that faces oppression, racism and segregation. Yet that same group lives and operates within the larger society. The impossibility of not writing from this point of view is strong. It’s a story that can only be told from this particular group, and yet it is also a story that can only be told in the language of the oppressive society. Deterritorilization of the language through writing phonetically in an accent and voice of an uneducated African American woman is a way that Alice Walker was able to negotiate the impossibility of not writing. She wrote in a language both her own and not her own. Deleuze says “the impossibility of not writing because national consciousness, uncertain or oppressed, necessarily exists by means of literature…an oppressive minority that speaks a language cut off from the masses, like a paper language or an aritificial language.” This rings very familiar with the rise of a minor literature within the African American community from the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and all the way thought to the civil rights movement of the 1960s. This literature rose out of a proper grammar as well as a syntax of a modified African Americans dialect. It is the latter which rose to controversy years later with the formalization of this language into a field called Ebonics. Ebonics never taking off is telling of the position of minor language as something that is alien and as Deleuze describes it “strange”.

Aejin Hwang

6 Responses to “What is a Minor Literature?”

  1. Yes, I adored the Color Purple and other works that are told from the point of view of someone within the minority – the dialect is also poetic and powerful and able to convey the meaning most poignantly – my favorite genre was African American Literature when I was an English major –

  2. It appears you really understand quite a bit with regards to this topic and
    it demonstrates with this specific blog post, labeled “What is a Minor Literature?

    Immanent Terrain”. I am grateful ,Samira

  3. i wich that you post a papper about ” The Invisible Man”of Ralf Elison;

  4. Lynn Bernadette Says:

    Thanks Imanent terrain for this enlightening article. In view of what I’ve just learnt, I was wondering, could we then say any African literature in English is ‘minor literature’? Please enlighten me further.

  5. […] Deterritorialization is described by Deleuze as the “impossibility of not writing.” It is tied up with issues of finding a voice within a language that is both alien and familiar. […]

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