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An Open University Set-Text that Explores the Theme of Cultural Diversity Within the English Language
on 13 July 2013
This anthology, edited by Lynda Prescott, is one of a number of set-texts that are needed if you are studying the sixty credit Open University (OU) Level 1 humanities course, AA100 'The Arts Past and Present'. It is an introductory course made for new students to experience a plethora of arts disciplines before deciding on a particular specialism. This book is meant to aid understanding within the third block of the module, 'Cultural Encounters', and is intended to be used in approaching the discipline of English language and literature studies. Lynda Prescott, herself, is a senior lecturer for the OU in the UK, and has authored and edited a range of Open University material for various courses throughout the humanities department. I studied AA100 in the year of 2011, and have subsequently gained a Certificate of Higher Education in Humanities, focusing on the English Language and creative writing as my specialism. It is only now, having finished my latest module U214 'Worlds of English', that I have returned to this book, looking over the short stories that were not the focus of AA100 in particular, whilst also exploring old ground.
The theme of the anthology is, of course, 'difference'. This echoes a lot of the material in the 'Cultural Encounters' block of AA100 and throughout U214, and is meant to focus on the many varieties of English around the world, uniting people in one lingua franca, whilst also planting seeds of prejudice when cultural norms are either challenged or ignored. 'A World of Difference' explores the short story genre across the five continents of America, Asia, Africa, Australia and Europe, and provides voices from many cultures and ethnic groups that resonate experiences of migration and community presence. The anthology literally sweeps you across the map and gives the reader a sense of diversity within the English language, both in the content of the stories themselves and in the language used by the specific characters/narration therein.
Each entry within has a brief introduction, which explains who the author is and their motivation for entering into the genre of the short story, along with brief career highlights and how their story fits into the overall theme of the book. There is also a preface authored by Lynda Prescott at the beginning, explaining her reasons and motivations for putting together the collection of short tales, and how the theme of difference permeates throughout the anthology of cultural encounters. Selected authors such as Nadine Gordimer, V.S. Naipaul and Amy Tan, amongst others (fifteen altogether), make up this collection of fictional, yet fiercely realistic tales of immigration, cultural anxieties and transitional pressures within the mid-to-late twentieth century. If a particular author catches your attention, the introduction to each entry usually includes a small list of their highlighted works, otherwise Prescott has provided 'selected further reading', regarding the genre of the short story and other such contemporary collections to explore.
'A World of Difference' makes a worthwhile addition to the aspiring and professional linguist's bookshelf and, as an Open University set-text, provides the level 1 student of AA100 with a pleasant introduction to the complexity of the English language that is fuelled by world history and global politics.