© 2019

Multilingualism and the Twentieth-Century Novel

Polyglot Passages


  • Proposes a different chronology to established periodisations of twentieth-century literature

  • Explores the potential of the novel to account for multilingualism

  • Consider the response multilingualism offers to a history of colonialism


Part of the New Comparisons in World Literature book series (NCWL)

Table of contents

About this book


This book argues that the Anglophone novel in the twentieth century is, in fact, always multilingual. Rooting its analysis in modern Europe and the Caribbean, it recognises that monolingualism, not multilingualism, is a historical and global rarity, and argues that this fact must inform our study of the novel, even when it remains notionally Anglophone. Drawing principally upon four authors – Joseph Conrad, Jean Rhys, Wilson Harris and Junot Díaz – this study argues that a close engagement with the novel reveals a series of ways to apprehend, depict and theorise various kinds of language diversity. In so doing, it reveals the presence of the multilingual as a powerful shaping force for the direction of the novel from 1900 to the present day which cuts across and complicates current understandings of modernist, postcolonial and global literatures.


Modernism Linguistics Colonialism Postcolonialism Empire Joseph Conrad Jean Rhys Wilson Harris Junot Díaz Heart of Darkness Nostromo Wide Sargasso Sea Novel Europe Caribbean

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.University of ExeterExeterUK

About the authors

James Reay Williams holds a PhD from Queen Mary University of London, UK, and has lectured at Queen Mary and the University of Exeter.

Bibliographic information