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Multilingual Body: The Case of Louis Wolfson

Multilingual Body: The Case of Louis Wolfson

Rabourdin, Caroline ORCID: 0000-0002-9694-0384 (2015) Multilingual Body: The Case of Louis Wolfson. In: American Comparative Literature Association (ACLA) Annual Conference, March 17-20, 2016, Harvard University. (Unpublished)

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For Louis Wolfson, multilingualism is not only a creative force but also, and primarily, a necessary force. Wolfson cannot physically bear the sound of his mother’s shrieking voice, and every word uttered or read in English hurts him just the same. In order to escape his own language, he embarks in the simultaneous study of four foreign languages: French, German, Hebrew and Russian. Though not physically removed from his home country, he manages, by way of complex literary transformations and various bodily contraptions, to extract himself from the language that surrounds him. The world he creates as the result of his rejection of the English language is multilingual and entirely his own. Wolfson inhabits a linguistic world which bears no trace of his painful English experience, but instead belongs to mute dictionaries and linguists’ textbooks.

The extraordinary account of his linguistic inventions and survival techniques is written in French, and was eventually published in 1970 under the title Le Schizo et les Langues ou la Phonétique chez le Psychotique, with a preface by Gilles Deleuze. Deemed unstranslatable by many, I will show that the book is to some extent already a work of translation, comparable to what Derrida calls an absolute translation, from a source language which does not exist – or in Wolfson’s case has ceased to exist – to a new destination language of his own, and is accompanied by a partial loss of the sensing body.

Item Type: Conference or Conference Paper (Paper)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Louis Wolfson, translation, Gilles Deleuze, language, embodiment, phenomenology
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences
Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences > School of Design (DES)
Last Modified: 18 Mar 2021 19:13

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