Activities and Resources for No Language is Neutral

  1. Illustrate one scene from No Language Is Neutral. Then, make a brief presentation in which you explain the choices you’ve made in depicting some combination of a setting, a plot point, and symbolic or formal elements of the scene. Here are some questions to guide you:
    1. Would your scene be better served by a real-life place? An abstract setting?
    2. Think of different forms or techniques you could employ, including, perhaps, a series of panels (as in a graphic novel) or a map.
  2. Look up a map of Toronto; using Google Maps or other online resources, it shouldn’t be too hard to find specific Toronto locations that appear in the book. (Note also that the section of Bathurst north of Bloor is a historically African Canadian neighbourhood.) Then, look up some other popular landmarks or relevant sites in the city. Make a map and label it to take account of the following:
    1. What areas seem relevant to someone from the Caribbean? Consider both the places mentioned in the book and sites of importance to any new arrival in the city.
    2. How does a large, diverse city like Toronto break down geographical and social boundaries? How could it erect new ones?
  3. Künstlerroman is a version of a Bildungsroman—a novel about one’s education—that also traces “the growth of a painter, writer, or musician” (New 596). One well-known Canadian Künstlerroman is Margaret Laurence’s The Diviners (1974), in which the protagonist, Morag, emerges as a writer figure similar to Laurence herself. In what ways is Brand’s text a Künstlerroman? What are some differences between No Language Is Neutral and any other Künstlerroman you have encountered?

Works Cited

  • Brand, Dionne. No Language Is Neutral. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1998. Print.
  • “Künstlerroman.” Encyclopedia of Literature in Canada. Ed. William H. New. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 2002. 596. Print.

Further Reading

  • Bhabha, Homi K. “DissemiNation: Time, Narrative, and the Margins of the Modern Nation.” The Location of Culture. New York: Routledge Classics, 2004. 199-244. Print.
  • Dobson, Kit. Transnational Canadas: Anglo-Canadian Literature and Globalization. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier UP, 2009. Print.
  • Mackey, Eva. The House of Difference: Cultural Politics and National Identity in Canada. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 2002. Print.
  • Philip, Marlene Nourbese. She Tries Her Tongue, Her Silence Softly Breaks. Charlottetown: Ragweed, 1989. Print.