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Language Justice in "Good Kings Bad Kings"

brisakane's picture

Something I've been thinking about a lot throughout the novel is the use of language. Nussbaum, likely because of her history as a playwrite, writes the characters as if they are coming on and off a stage. She also writes her chapters in the way that these characters would talk. There is typically an emphasis in academia on writing books in "Standard" English, in a more complex and elequent way. We've already talked in class about how this form of writing makes texts less accessible to disabled people, as well as to people to whom English is not their first language, or who have not learned much of English in school. Using "Standard" English in academia, and claiming that it is more complex and sophisticated, takes power away from AAVE and other forms of English. AAVE is African-American Vernacular English and is a variety of English spoken throughout the US, but is often regarded as "informal" and not typically used in academic texts. While Nussbaum does not use AAVE in particular, she does use other varieties of English throughout her novel. Mia, for example, has dialogue not in full sentences, as English is her second language. The way Mia's chapter is written, as well as the description of her inner monologue, follows this variety of English as well. By bringing in these different varities of English and speaking in her novel, Nussbaum is not only presenting a picture of disability power and resistance, but power in language and recognition of all forms of language spoken. "Good Kings Bad Kings" reflects this to an extent, while characters are not speaking in the language they might feel most comfortable (like Spanish for Mia, for example), the way they speak is being given a space in an academic novel. 

To read more on language justice and what a world with language justice might look like, I found this text really helpful: