LING 23750/33750 Language and Violence

Language is generally associated with the abstract realm of thought, representation and expression, a realm that contrasts sharply with the material realm in which we tend to place violence. Language is furthermore often seen as antithetical to violence: violence is outburst that comes when the rational order of language fails. In fact, however, questions of language, and especially of speech, surface in every aspect of thinking about violence. Speech is a medium within which violence is performed, and is part of the modern machinery of war. It is also a medium through which systems of oppression and subordination are articulated and registered by groups and individuals, socially and psychically. Violence relies on speech for its justification, rationalization, and sustenance. At the same time, the rawness of violence challenges our fundamental faith in the representational and expressive capacities of language, in both destructive and creative ways. This intensive reading seminar explores the relation between speech and violence through scholarly and literary texts from a variety of humanistic fields and traditions.


Itamar Francez -- Winter 2021