Forked Tongues: The Role of (Foreign) Languages in Literature, Film, and the Arts
2022 GCLR Graduate Student Conference
Slavs and Tartars. "Mother Tongues and Father Throats". 2012. Carpet. Image courtesy of Raster Gallery.
“Languages” (1916) - Carl Sandburg
THERE are no handles upon a language
Whereby men take hold of it
And mark it with signs for its remembrance.
It is a river, this language,
Once in a thousand years
Breaking a new course
Changing its way to the ocean.
It is mountain effluvia
Moving to valleys
And from nation to nation
Crossing borders and mixing.
Languages die like rivers.
Words wrapped round your tongue today
And broken to shape of thought
Between your teeth and lips speaking
Now and today
Shall be faded hieroglyphics
Ten thousand years from now.
Your song dies and changes
And is not here to-morrow
Any more than the wind
Blowing ten thousand years ago.
2022 Call for Papers:
As conversations surrounding linguistic diversity have become a central topic of global discussion, laced with calls for forms that transcend monistic or monolingual paradigms, the UCSB Graduate Center for Literary Research invites emergent scholars from a variety of disciplines to reframe their conversations with a focus on this ubiquitous topic as it has been interpreted in literary fiction, as well as within the arts.
This conference asks its presenters to reconsider literary and artistic representations of “speaking with forked tongues” - from biblical allusions to the pervasive violence of linguistic suppression - and how these forms offer radical potential to disrupt existing and/or imaginary monolingual paradigms. How might envisioning the image of language as a diffuse, shifting, vaporous form - a “mountain effluvia” - allow for a more ethical approach to language, beyond fixed borders?
If we acknowledge that the idea of “speaking with a forked tongue” is a pervasive idiom with questionable biblical origins, likely derived from the image of the serpent in the story of Genesis and its ability to use its forked tongue to persuade Eve (Chava) to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and bad, then the division that ensues -- between Eve and Adam, the first humans and their deity -- is cataclysmic. Diverse reverberations echo through the literature and art across the Abrahamic religious imagination as do theoretical readings that seek to reconsider the thematic through analysis, interpretation, and translation. Indeed, the theme of deceitful speech affixes itself to the gendered tongue, the animal tongue, the rhetorical “tongue”, the child’s tongue, and the tongue(s) of the outsider, or “foreigner”. We therefore welcome papers that explore iterations of this motif through the lenses of rhetoric, children’s literature, animal studies, postcolonial studies, feminist studies, visual studies, sound art, etc.
At the same time, we bear witness to the image of the forked tongue as a dominant expression of linguistic division. This conference therefore encourages presenters to consider how the inherent violence of “splitting the tongue” might also reflect the violence of minority and indigenous language loss in institutionalized settings, especially for indigenous or immigrant communities, such as the genocidal impact of American and Canadian Indian Residential Schools, the many documented projects of Sovietization and Russification, or other, linguistically and otherwise, violent nation-building projects.
In addition, we welcome papers devoted to exploring the role played by translingualism, poly-lingualism, multilingualism, non-nativism, and translation in literature, art, and film, from other lenses and angles.
Conference presenters will be invited to submit their revised papers for possible inclusion as “Features” in our responsive graduate journal Exchanges, in which feature articles are followed by brief critical responses by editors. This dynamic format aims to engage our readers and develop conversations that began at the GCLR conference.
The conference is organized by Rachel Feldman and the members of the GCLR Student Advisory and Editorial Board. We are currently accepting proposals from graduate students, postdoctoral, and emergent scholars from UCSB and other institutions who are interested in giving a 20-minute paper. Please send a title and abstract to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line "Forked Tongues" by February 11, 2022.
2022 GCLR Distinguished Keynote Speaker: