Mary Louise Pratt


Mary Louise Pratt received her B.A. in Modern Languages and Literatures from the University ofToronto in 1970, her M.A. in Linguistics from the University of Illinois at Urbana in 1971, and her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Stanford University in 1975. Pratt has received numerous honors and awards during her 27 years in academia including Guggenheim Fellowships, Pew Foundation Fellowships, and NEH grants. She served as the President of the Modern Language Association in 2003.   Pratt’s arc of expertise extends through Latin American Literature and Latin American Studies, into comparative literature, linguistics, postcolonial studies, feminist and gender studies, anthropology and cultural studies.  Her seminal publications within these disciplines include: Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation (1992), an explanation on the discursive formation of Latin America and Africa as formulated by metropolitan writers; it has been called one of the most widely influential works of the last decade. Her other publications include the article “Humanities for the Future: Reflections of the Stanford Western Culture Debate,” which was reprinted three times. Another article, “Arts of the Contact Zone” had nine reprints and has been dubbed a contemporary classic by scholars within the field. Her 1977 single authored text, Toward a Speech Act Theory of Literary Discourse established Pratt as leader in the field of culture criticism. Professor Pratt’s most recent work as a critic and scholar broach the most vital and important questions shaping the present and the future of humanities, in specific, Pratt stresses the dynamic relations between high culture and popular movements, between gendered narratives and official legends, between national politics and global markets. She is a firmly grounded Latin Americanist, comparatist and linguist with an interdisciplinary and imaginative breadth of knowledge.

It was a fancy California wedding party at a big Bay Area hotel. The groom's family spoke Urdu, and the bride's spoke Gujarati and Urdu. Both were practicing Muslims, but she was from southern California, sometimes regarded by northerners as too laid-back. The groom was attended by his two best friends from high school, one of Mexican-Jewish-Anglo parentage and the other of Chinese and Japanese descent via Hawai'i and Sacramento. The groom's younger sister was master of ceremonies. During a long program of toasts and tributes, English was the lingua franca, with a few departures for jokes or tears (it was the fathers who wept). Two poets performed. One, an elder known for his verbal skill and love of literature, recited a long celebratory poem in Urdu that deeply moved many of the adults. The other was a friend of the newlyweds, a young man of Syrian and Anglo-American parents. He performed in English a long lively poem, also composed for the occasion and rooted in contemporary hip-hop. The Mexican-Jewish-Anglo best man brought down the house with a bilingual Urdu-English joke a youngster had told him. I marveled yet again at the gorgeous, strenuous creativity of our transculturated young. At the same time I mourned the fact that the younger poet, a lover of literature who taught English at a community college, would probably never have a chance to study the elder's poetic tradition or that of his own Syrian parent.  More...

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