Friday, January 21, 2011

UK & Ireland as linguistically alluring?

At a certain point in time, I was dissatisfied with mainstream methods of thinking in (what I knew of) both Australia and the United States of America. Living in Australia, I was familiar with American discourse through the media, and especially the internet, as most people outside the US are. I had a way of thinking which borrowed from both the States and Oz's verbal traditions, but also had a certain formality and pride, cultivated by my Bulgarian background. It seemed that, even though I didn't have that much direct familiarity with the UK & Ireland, inserting some of the pronunciation I knew from these cultures would add highlights to my accent to made it stood out in a way no-one else around me was doing.

In doing so, I found that I had tapped into a deep-seated curiosity about the rhetorical and intellectual culture in this part of the world. The English-speaking part of Europe is, in a certain way, on the opposite side of Bulgaria. Not only are they geographically distant by the standards of the continent, but Bulgaria is part of the developing world, while Britain & Ireland have been prosperous for a very long time. The Balkan country has a few fine authors here and there, but nothing compared to the rainy islands' long history of literary excellence. It was the notion of this area of the globe as exotic, even as they themselves considered themselves to be the most normative of English speakers and theorists, that finally saw me open my mind to a region of the world I had previously tucked away under stereotypes and misconceptions.

In 2008 I had the opportunity to travel to London (and to take a side-trip to Stratford-upon-Avon), and I took it. What I discovered was a melting pot of different races, accents, outlooks on life, senses of decency. England became someplace which, far from being stuffy and unbearably pretentious, was bursting with life, innovation, contentment and curiosity. In the Tate Britain, beautiful paintings created by English subjects who had traveled to the 'Near East' (e.g. east of Bulgaria) were hanging beside detailed analyses from a post-colonial and feminist perspective. The intended readings of the time were placed under scrutiny and often turned on their heads by modern intellectuals. This was the perfect way to celebrate the achievements of the past, while recontextualising the prejudices that may have accompanied them through a postmodern lens. And so, my entire view of this part of the world was transformed.

Yesterday, I explained to someone over email that I had changed my name to Epiphanie because I like to keep my mind open to turns of thought - the more dramatic, the better.

I feel lucky to speak the language of a number of prosperous countries which I have the opportunity to spend some time in in the future, and I continue to be curious about the places I haven't travelled yet amongst them - Scotland, Wales and Ireland. I also know that I would love to keep exploring England, too - I've long known I would enjoy Brighton and Manchester, just to begin with.

There are so many questions I keep asking myself: Which mish-mash of accents and conceptual spaces produced by cultural specificity will serve me best in each new situation? Is it even possible for me to affect an accent which is regarded 'pure' by somebody, somewhere? I regard my love for innovating new accents daily as one of my strengths - now, how can I show my confidence to the outside world?

Recently I watched a talk on TED which showed that musicians who improvise as they create are not using the part of the brain which is linked to self-consciousness. (The video is here.) I aspire to tap into greater heights of creativity in the days, months and decades ahead. I hope you'll join me. ;o)

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