29 August 2010

Gemino H. Abad on language

Poet, critic, and literary historian Gemino H. Abad, winner of Italy's Premio Feronia Citta di Fiano in 2009, gave a lecture on 28 August 2010 to the Unyon ng mga Manunulat sa Pilipinas [Writers Union of the Philippines].  He said: "It is the sense for language that needs to be nurtured and cultivated, because the sense for language is the poetic sense.  It is the poetic sense that later in one's life, says the poet Yves Bonnefoy, 'opens to the intuition that all language refuses.'  One may be language-bound, culture-bound, but it is the poetic sense that liberates.  In that light, there is ultimately no English, no Filipino, no Cebuano -- there is only language itself, the supreme human achievement, the finest human technology.  Indeed, language is the hidden Muse, for it is one's imagination's agon or struggle with language that gives rise to the literary work as both work of imagination and work of art."

Yes, indeed, for a literary artist, individual languages such as English, Filipino, and Cebuano, are just manifestations of Language Itself, langage rather than mere langue or parole.  This theoretical insight brings in a new level to multilingual literary theory.  In addition to unlocking the cultural and linguistic meanings brought by another language or other languages into an apparently monolingual or a clearly mixed language text, the multilingual critic also has to dig deeper to get at the langage behind the langue/parole (or Language Itself behind the dictionary words).  Once a critic is able to do that, the critic no longer talks linguistics but literature.

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