Bi-Musical Moves In Luis Humberto Crosthwaite and Little Joe Hernández


  • Doris Sommer Harvard University
  • Elijah Wald Tufts University


bimusicality, Border Studies, dance, embodiment, Chicano/a literature, aesthetics, Schiller


Meditating on works of fiction such as Luis Humberto Crosthwaite’s El gran preténder (1992) and Tato Laviera’s AmeRican (1985), this article proposes bi-musicality (Hood 1960) as both a link between sociolinguistics and literary aesthetics and as a corrective challenge to the positivism of ethnic, demographic, and geographic labeling. From Dell Hymes to Norma Mendoza-Denton in applied linguistics and from Friedrich Schiller to Emmanuel Levinas in aesthetics, Sommer and Wald consider what they call the “pride of interstitial place” in multilingual, cross-border writing and music. The article takes cues from sociolinguistics, dance, and musicology, as it advances a wager about the embodied movements of multilingual poetics.

Author Biographies

Doris Sommer, Harvard University

Sommer is Ira Jewell Williams Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures and Director of the Cultural Agents Initiative at Harvard University. Professor Sommer's research interests have developed from the 19th-Century novels that helped to consolidate new republics in Latin America through the particular aesthetics of minoritarian literature, including bilingual virtuosity, to her current more general pursuit of the constructive work in rights and resources that the arts and the humanities contribute to developing societies. Her monograph Bilingual Aesthetics: A New Sentimental Education (2004) explores the creative possibilities inherent in multilingualism. She had also edited a volume on this subject, Bilingual Games: Some Literary Investigations (2003).

Elijah Wald, Tufts University

Wald is an American folk blues guitarist and music historian. In 2002 he was awarded a Grammy for his for his liner notes to The Arhoolie Records 40th Anniversary Box: “The Journey of Chris Strachwitz.” He has authored volumes on a diversity of music-related topics including Delta blues, Mexican drug ballads, hitchhiking, and a broad social history of American popular music.