Towards a Minor Literature: Deleuze and Guattari and Gaelic Literature

Nathaniel Harrington


This article considers the use of the poststructuralist literary theory of the French theorists Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, in particular their famous essay ‘Qu’est-ce qu’une littérature mineure?’ [‘What is a minor literature?’]. Beginning with a brief explanation of the concept of ‘minor literature’ and then, with reference both to problems that are apparent in the essay itself and to criticisms from other scholars (Glissant and Gauvin 2010, Jamison 2018, and others), the article attempts to answer a particular question: how could this essay — and modern and postmodern literary theory in general — be useful to us in analyzing Scottish Gaelic literature? It will argue that theories that are developed in dominant languages need minoritized-language perspectives, which can, on the one hand, resolve some of their acknowledged problems and, on the other hand, reveal new problems and omissions that dominant-language theorists have not considered at all. At the same time, it argues that the change in context from French to Gaelic changes the theory, as well. Several Gaelic literary texts (poems by Mona NicLeòid Wagner and Lodaidh MacFhionghain and a novel by Aonghas Pàdraig Caimbeul) are briefly analyzed in order to see how Gaelic literature itself deals with its status as a ‘minoritized language’ and a ‘minor literature’ in Deleuze and Guattari’s terms. Ultimately, it will be argued that modern literary theories can be useful in analyzing Gaelic literature but that they must be adapted or reshaped in a minoritized language context, and more general questions are raised about how these theories could be useful beyond the field of modern literature alone.

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ISSN: 2009-8626