So the project that I proposed to the Fulbright board that I would make in Brown’s CAVE is a multicultural, multilingual digital poem. Specifically I suggested that I would translate The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayam into the digital cave using Irish, Arabic and English (and technically xml). Now that I am here and at the beginning of this project inevitably the doubts set in. However in an attempt to remain positive I will call these doubts instead……
The Challenges of the Project:
- Learning the software.
- Not getting distracted by the software and technological bells and whistles.
- The affordances of the medium (both a challenge and an asset).
- Arabic font – Arabic text is cursive which means it’s joined up and its shape changes depending on the letter that comes before and/or after. I have to install this font and experiment with it in the cave. But……
- Regarding language, I neither speak nor write Arabic or Irish fluently, I do have knowledge of both but certainly not enough write/speak faultlessly. My Irish is stronger than my Arabic but when I tell people I am half Iraqi, one of the most common first questions people ask is whether I speak Arabic. When I reply in the negative the response is disappointment and the topic of conversation moves swiftly on. I then inevitably feel like a fake, someone falsely clinging to the notion of being half Iraqi for an added soupçon of exoticism. However if I only respond “Irish” to a question of provenance there is quite often (particularly with Irish people) an unspoken question I can see their eyes, as if I’m clearly not telling the full story. I am very rarely asked if I speak Irish. I speak English and French fluently but ironically I am neither English nor French. It raises questions of post colonialism, nationality and language, one is deemed “more authentic” when one speaks the language from that place. So what am I, a fake? Of course not but we all have times when we feel like one.
- Another challenge is finding a way to present the text in the CAVE that provides the reader with a new way of engaging with the text that is different to the traditional print version. Edward Fitzgerald’s translation of the poetry of Omar Khayam brings with it accusations of orientalism, so surely finding away to incorporate the original Arabic as either text or audio in the CAVE would help counteract this, and therefore provide something new to the textual experience. But is that enough?