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Crossing Boundaries

Studies in English Language, Literature, and Culture in a Global Environment

Edited By Richard Nordquist

The articles in this volume were originally presented in spring 2009 at an international conference hosted by the Institute of Germanic and Romance Languages and Cultures at Tallinn University in Estonia. The theme of «crossing boundaries» is reflected in the rich mix of genres, cultures, applications, and critical theories considered here. Indeed, these articles demonstrate that crossing boundaries can be a companionable journey as well an intellectually enriching experience.

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Julia Tofantšuk, Suliko Liiv - Boundaries of Identity in the 20th Century Linguistic and Literary Theory - 125

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125 Julia Tofantšuk, Suliko Liiv BOUNDARIES OF IDENTITY IN THE 20th CENTURY LINGUISTIC AND LITERARY THEORY Defining the place of identity in contemporary politics, cultural critic Kobena Mercer emphasises its contradictory nature by suggesting rightly that, like any other keyword, “identity” calls for a number of competing definitions. The criteria for “correctness” of these definitions are equally unclear, depending, as Mercer continues, on the differing uses as different actors invest different meanings in one and the same sign (Mercer 424). The sign becomes overloaded with various meanings, thus leaving us with only one definite reality: “even if we are not sure about what ‘identity’ really is, we can say that it acts as an essentially contested concept … In this sense, whatever it is, identity becomes an issue when it is in crisis” (Ibid.). The last keyword, “identity crisis”, stresses the urgency of the dis- cussion, as it pertains to all spheres of life, forcing the individual to reassess many of the factors determining their existence, historical and present, real and virtual, personal and global. In this new set of values constructing the 21st-century Self, culture, ethnicity, gender, language, and sexuality become inevitably fore- grounded. Linguistic Existence, Inclusion and Positioning Language, this imperfect medium of human communication, is an indispensable part of any discussion of identity. Language as a system of symbols and signs is what sets us apart from animals. It simultaneously unites us as a species and di- vides us as kinds. It expresses and hides our desires....

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