/ edited by Juliane Prade
Newcastle upon Tyne : Cambridge Scholars, 2013
(M)Other Tongues: Literary Reflexions on a Difficult Distinction examines a key problem of literary criticism: the differentiation between languages is at the same time necessary and impossible. It is indispensable in order to read a text, yet literary texts are precisely those that question this distinction, articulating the link between languages and cultures, as well as the inherent strangeness of even one’s own mother tongue.
(M)Other Tongues explores texts from the 16th century to the 21st century, focusing on different aspects of one main feature of literary texts: formally, as well as semantically, they transcend the rules and conventions of the language they speak. Crossing cultural borders is commonly discussed in historical, social, linguistic, and psychoanalytical terms – whether it be as (post-)colonialism, exilic or diasporic identities, creoles, or the displaced other within the own. (M)Other Tongues argues that, rather than being mere evidence in the theoretical analysis of cultural transitions, literary texts are a unique medium to reflect such processes as they challenge and modify the notion of language itself.
The book discusses texts written mainly in English, French, and German, but also in Spanish and the complex formerly known as Yugoslavian. (M)Other Tongues shows that such distinctions between languages are precise since they can be exemplified with an indefinite number of words and rules, and still remain uncertain because they cannot be abstracted from these examples. What separates the mother tongue from other tongues is indeed precise uncertainty.