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Literary Criticism

The Relevance of Studying Philippine Literature in English

As we have learned in Philippine history, apart from superior arms to subdue the true revolutionaries who waged a continuing war against colonial rule, the Americans used education, propagated the English language and lifestyle. In effect, this changed the milieu of literary production as the English language became the standard for what is canon.

Many important things can be learned in the study of Philippine literature in English. Studying Philippine literature in English is important because these are reflections of history. Works of art and literature are not separate from history. In fact, these are intricately intertwined along with the contradictions in the society in a given point in time. Works of art and literature do not stand by themselves. Writers and artists are not creators who fashion words and works. These texts and pieces of art are products of the political institutions and ideological stance of the writers which are shaped by the social conditions.

In essence, the study of Philippine literature in English aids us in historicizing texts. Furthermore, it also allows us to think of the extent of American influence through the use of their language. Obviously, our willing appropriation of their language during the time of the American colonial period affects the present generation and the formulation of the canon of Philippine literature in English. Even the past generations of literati together with the current prominent writers bring along with them the English language and its ideology. However, it is also wrong to discount the writers and intellectuals who use the English language in order to subvert the ideology it carries.

Studying Philippine literature in English gives us a brief and fleeting landscape of the literary milieu since after the World War II. We should also consider those writers who went against American domination in education. These writers carry with them an ideology that is anti-colonial and therefore, an assertion of genuine nationalism. Nationalism has different manifestations in different periods in history. The true affirmation of nationalism during the American colonial period is the seeking of genuine freedom and democracy.

The assertion of nationalism depends on the ideology of the class, group or person who is voicing it out. Many times, our people have always been deceived by the ruling class since they limit the assertion of nationalism through emotional and subjective means. Putting one’s hand over the heart and singing the National Anthem with tears is not enough if one doesn’t do anything to alleviate the poorest of the poor who comprise the majority of our population. These are reflected in works that may or may not be written in the English language. These are in texts whose authors’ names we hardly know but nonetheless, these writers knew where they stood, and that is for the broad masses.

About imakulit

restless. independent. rock music and classical music, third world poetry and literature, theory and criticism, beaches, sunsets, wide open spaces, sports and running, laughter, art, and photography sustain me. i love to travel alone. it's the best way to get lost in the labyrinth of my thoughts.


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