Students of foreign literature improve Wikipedia

Literature can take us to to worlds filled with fantasies and aliens. But it can also take us to times and locations in our own world that we may have never seen or experienced or before. Students in Dr. Joan McRae’s Foreign Literature in Translation class at Middle Tennessee State University took this journey last spring and created six new Wikipedia pages about novels released outside of the United States.

Two of the new pages are about novels originally published in French: one from Canada and the other from France. The first, Suzanne, was published in 2015 by Canadian author Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette. The work is a biographical novel of the author’s grandmother Suzanne Meloche, a poet and painter who interacted with many French-Canadian artists and historical events. Much of the information is based on the findings of a private investigator hired by Barbeau-Lavalette. It was a bestseller in Quebec and other French-speaking areas, particularly France, and won the Prix des libraires du Québec. The second novel, Incest was published in 1999 by French author Christine Angot. This work is a fictionalized biography, or autofiction, where the author and the protagonist share the same name and occasionally the same experiences. The story follows an anxious, depressed woman named Christine as she works through emotional turmoil following the end of her relationship with her lover and first lesbian partner Marie-Christine. Christine conveys her thoughts in a very disconnected manner as she discusses with readers the complicated relationships with her ex-lover, her ex-husband, her young daughter, and her father, who instigated an incestuous relationship with Christine when she was a teenager. Angot received criticism for the close resemblance between her characters and those related to her, creating a debate regarding the role of fiction in regards to public action, as well as the responsibility of an author to control the implications created by their works. This criticism would prove to be an ongoing issue for the author, as in 2013 Angot was successfully sued by her lover’s ex-partner for defamation of her character in Angot’s novel Les Petits.

Another two pages focused on Spanish language works. Argentinian author Samanta Schweblin’s 2014 horror novel Fever Dream has elements of psychological fiction and takes inspiration from the environmental problems in Argentina. The novel follows its protagonist Amanda as she struggles to piece together the events that led her to wake up disoriented in a clinic. However as she regains her memories and tells her story to David, a young boy also in the clinic, Amanda begins to realize that David is more integral to the story – as well as to the possible location of her daughter Nina. The Transmigration of Bodies is a 2013 post-apocalyptic noir fiction novel by Mexican author Yuri Herrera. Set in an unidentified Mexican city, the book focuses on an underworld fixer who tries to arrange a peaceful exchange of bodies between two rival criminal gangs in a corrupt city that is in the midst of an epidemic. It is also the second book in a trilogy, however the final book in the series was actually the first to be published in the United States and the first book the last.

For some, Wikipedia is the easiest way to learn about a new concept or topic, which is why additions from students and instructors using the site as an educational tool can make such a big difference in the world. If you would like to include Wikipedia editing as a learning tool with your class, visit and gain access to our free tools, online trainings, and printed materials.

Header image by Heffloaf, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.


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