Mary Louise Pratt

Mary Louise Pratt (born 1948) is a Silver Professor and Professor of Spanish and Portuguese Languages and Literatures at New York University. She received her B.A. in Modern Languages and Literatures from the University of Toronto in 1970, her M.A. in Linguistics from the University of Illinois at Urbana in 1971, and her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Stanford University in 1975.

Her first book, ''Toward a Speech Act Theory of Literary Discourse'', made an important contribution to critical theory by demonstrating that the foundation of written literary narrative can be seen in the structure of Oral Narrative. In it Pratt uses the research of William Labov to show that all narratives contain common structures that can be found in both literary and oral narratives.

In her more recent research, Pratt has studied what she calls contact zones - areas in which two or more cultures communicate and negotiate shared histories and power relations. She remarks that contact zones are “social spaces where cultures meet, clash, and grapple with each other, often in contexts of highly asymmetrical relations of power, such as colonialism, slavery, or their aftermaths as they are lived out in many parts of the world today.” In her article “Arts of the Contact Zone,” Pratt also coins the term autoethnographic texts, which are “text[s] in which people undertake to describe themselves in ways that engage with representations others have made of them.” Provided by Wikipedia
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