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In Babel's Shadow

In Babel's Shadow: Multilingual Literatures, Monolingual States

Brian Lennon
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 264
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  • Book Info
    In Babel's Shadow
    Book Description:

    Beginning with the insight that multilingual literature defies simple translation, Brian Lennon examines the resistance multilingual literature offers to book publication. Looking closely at the limit of multilingual literary expression and the literary journalism, criticism, and scholarship that comments on multilingual work, In Babel’s Shadow presents a critical reflection on the fate of literature in a world gripped by the crisis of globalization.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-7353-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xviii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xix-xxii)
  5. Introduction: Antinomies of Literature
    (pp. 1-26)

    Translation is a victory and a threat, a necessity and a violation, a fundamental or given of all discourse and an intractable problem for it. Translation links such antipodes in a paradox animating our notions of what literature is and can be—and no less so in an age when literature seems less plainly relevant than ever.

    This book took shape at a time when failures of understanding—at every level—seemed to loom everywhere; indeed,didloom everywhere (a situation that hasn’t improved). Since then, among other effects that may or may not have been foreseen, the new direction...

  6. 1 Language as Capital
    (pp. 27-54)

    Bilingual, trilingual, multilingual, plurilingual, polyglot: these terms commonly indicate not only verbal facility in more than one distinct language, but a high degree of embodied or spontaneous social fluency, as well. When we use the terms “bilingual” or “plurilingual,” or any of these other variations, we often mean to signal that two or more languages in some sense divide the person possessed of them, that she or he “thinks” or even (or consequently) “exists” in more than oneworldof language, and that the common distinction between native or mother tongue and foreign or acquired language is less strict, or...

  7. 2 Translation Being Between
    (pp. 55-92)

    Translation is newly urgent and newly controversial today, in an era reviving narratives of incommensurability on a global scale. This book suggests that in order to read those narratives productively, we need to distinguish the study of plurilingualism, as a state or condition, from the study of translation as a procedure or operation.

    From a Euro-Atlantic foundationalist and exceptionalist point of departure, one might do no better, of course, than to turn to literary history by examining the plurilingual literary traditions of medieval and Renaissance Europe, when Latin served as a transregional language across wide areas today sectioned by national...

  8. 3 Containment
    (pp. 93-122)

    In August 1959 the magazineAtlantic Monthlydescribed a technical, military, and cultural intelligence blunder that had sparked panic in the United States two years earlier, and which must sound down the echo chamber of history now, toward years’ worth of untranslated Arabic-language interceptions languishing in a National Security Agency vault somewhere. Technical details relating to Sputnik I’s radio system, the article claimed, had been published by the Soviet Academy of Sciences in a Russian-language amateur radio magazine to which many U.S. libraries subscribed, but of which only the U.S. Air Force had made a (classified) translation. In a demonstrative...

  9. 4 Language Memoir and Language Death
    (pp. 123-140)

    Perhaps it is no more than a critical commonplace now that in doing our “work,” we scholars are pinned between the rock of literary privacy and the hard place of the public sphere—that we have to work, if work we are to have,inthat in-between: writing itself (writingaboutsomething) being that being-caught, forced from the testimonial local into communication, released to the network (from that moment forward packet-switched, re-produced, open to recombination, the threat of the simulacrum, the possibility of not, after and at all, having testified anything). My proposition in this penultimate essay, which finds the...

  10. 5 The Other Other Literature
    (pp. 141-166)

    This book has “worked” at the intersection of an apparently formal problem with a material problem. In literary and cultural studies, any such intersection pits the fact against the process of production of our own research objects, in a conflict that, we might say, we have devised many ways to acknowledge without really analyzing—insofar as analysis brings us sooner or later, and uncomfortably, to the discipline we exercise on those objects, and on ourselves as their analysts, in our disciplinarity. The positivism latent even in our most pliant conceptions of scholarship is, we might say, both an acknowledged and...

  11. Afterword: Unicode and Totality
    (pp. 167-174)

    By way of an afterword, I want here to offer a brief history—and in a way, a political economy—of Unicode, the character set encoding standard that today mediates much, or perhaps all, of a contemporary scholar’swriting,depending on how extensively she or he uses a personal computer.

    It is a fascinating history, replete with correspondences to the tropological realm in which many of us in the literary culture feel at home. Whether we find it liberating or constraining (or both), most younger scholars today, I would venture, have long since accustomed themselves to the idea that the...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 175-224)
  13. Index
    (pp. 225-241)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 242-242)