Linguistics & Literary Studies: Interfaces, Encounters, Transfers
08.07.2009 um 09:00 bis
10.07.2009 um 17:00
|Wo||Veranstaltungsorte siehe Programm|
|Name||Gesa von Essen|
Organised by Peter Auer, Monika Fludernik and Werner Frick
There may have been a time when linguists and literary scholars were both working side by side, studying a national language and its literature. This affinity between literature and language studies inside the philological disciplines developed in the late eighteenth century and was deeply rooted in and linked to the nation-building processes at the time. In the first half of the 19th century, it resulted in the first major period of language analysis, particularly in historical linguistics, which was based on the meticulous philological investigation of historical documents, often of a literary kind. The neogrammarian movement, as well as in the first half of the 20th century, structuralism, radically changed this situation. By turning to the spoken language, and later to synchronic description, often of non-codified and even unwritten languages, linguistics developed rigid formal techniques of analysis. Nevertheless, literary texts continued to be important as material for linguistic investigation and were used as a corpus; literature was considered to be representative of the standard language (“Literatursprache”). The connection between linguistics and literary studies became further attenuated with the diversification of literary and linguistic research in the second half of the twentieth century, particularly with the advent of increasingly computerised models in linguistics. In the Anglo-American world, linguistics flourished in departments of general linguistics while much of literary studies remained within departments devoted to the study of national literatures. In central Europe, where university departments still combine the study of language and literature, the philologies increasingly developed into a marriage of two partners who had less and less to say to one another.
For more than forty years, literary research and linguistics have undergone a series of theory shifts which have driven these two halves of philology departments apart. The dominant paradigm shift in linguistics was that from the description of (a) language to the investigation of the cognitive structures underlying language production and comprehension. This, arguably, is the main-stream view today. More peripherally, some linguists would even maintain that the object of linguistics is a biological organ (Chomskyan universal grammar, for instance). But on the other hand, a considerable number of linguists at the opposite extreme of the Chomskyan programme also hold the view that the object of linguistics are rather individual utterances and texts, a view that has gained support from recent trends in corpus linguistics and interactional linguistics. This last viewpoint of course allows some fruitful crossovers between linguistics and literary study which are not easily producible in the other two approaches. At the same time, literary study has moved from a largely biographical and text-centred enterprise to an increasingly theorized discipline with a variety of different approaches, often approaches that have adopted a methodology from other non-literary areas such as psychoanalysis, philosophy, history and the contexts of society that determine literary production such as feminist, marxist, or gender studies. In the meantime, especially in Germany, literature has become part of a vague cultural concept. This is due to the elimination of high art as the one and only object of literary study. Both linguistics and literature have therefore changed their object of study, declaring their former focus (“language” as an idealized object; high art and Dichtung) to be illusory in relation to the performance of speech, writing and cognition on the one hand and cultural production on the other (movies, soap operas, art installations and much more).
For a brief period of time in the 1960s to the early 1980s it seemed that the diversification of both literary and linguistic studies would also entail a common ground. Structuralist linguistics and structuralist literary theory with its offshoots in narratology, literary semiotics and literary semantics, narrative grammars and the like seemed to show exciting new prospects for literary theory. However, with the advent of ever more complex formalisms such as Chomskyan Government and Binding and later X-bar theory, formal semantics, GPSG or construction grammar, the influence on literary studies declined apace. On the other hand, with the development of pragmatics and particularly discourse analysis, areas of language use moved into the forefront in linguistics which are potentially much more useful to text-centred literary scholarship. Saussure and Chomsky just like cognitive linguistics and discourse analysis continue to have an influence on literary study.
Conversely, literary theory and literary study themselves had an influence on linguistics only in more peripheral areas of linguistics, for instance through the work of Mikhail Bakhtin or Vladimir Propp or in the area of narrative studies. Generally speaking, it was disciplines outside linguistics and literature that had the most important impact on both linguistics and literature. Besides anthropology and psychoanalysis, language philosophy reached into linguistics as well as into literary studies (speech act theory, performance theory). The closest exchange between literature and linguistics has occurred in interdisciplinary studies such as stylistics (also called “language and literature”), literary semantics or historical pragmatics, narratology and literary cognitive studies. More generally, literary scholars continue to resort to linguistic terminology when discussing specific textual effects such as irony or ambiguity.
Despite such isolated areas of obvious transfer, however, it is generally true today that literary studies and linguistics do not communicate very much with one another; they have lost their privileged relationship. In this situation, the FRIAS School of Language & Literature wants to dare the seemingly impossible by starting an attempt to bring together linguists and literary scholars in an interdisciplinary experiment of dialogue and debate. The outcome of this experiment is open: We aim to explore and discuss the past successes, neglected opportunities, hidden potentials and available prospects of interdisciplinary research between literature and linguistics. The conference we are organising tries to initiate such dialogue by getting both camps to meet and talk to each other, in the hope that they will (re)discover their common interests and objectives (if any), and begin to sketch if possible a horizon of fruitful interdisciplinary cross-fertilization, cooperative projects, research transfer and emergent structures of transdisciplinarity in both areas. Our endeavour is not one that abides by a foregone conclusion: it may lead to unexpected success, yet does not a priori exclude the possibility of failure.
The conference will start with two opening plenaries and a podium discussion. Papers will then be read in four sections on the following topics. The list is headed by Narrative, which, in a sense, embraces and includes the other three topics of this conference:
· Deixis: The Textual Creation of Time and Space
· Collective and Social Identities
Narrative: The retelling of personal experiences is one of the most fundamental human language capacities and basic not only to literary texts but also to history, philosophy and even the sciences. Telling stories not only makes it possible to communicate experiences otherwise inaccessible to others, it also is a way of establishing interpersonal consensus about the evaluation of the events narrated. It therefore is a crucial site of ethical thinking and action. Narratives are not restricted to past events, they can also establish fictional worlds and refer to hypothetical situations. On the societal level, they establishes social cohesion and lay the ground for the emergence of collective identities. In many cultures, oral story-telling is also a formalised genre, and it can be said to precede writing since it enables humans to shift the origo of language from the hic et nunc to imaginary reinvocations of the past or virtual scenarios of alternative or future significance. In literary study, narrative has been central to the discipline since the academic nobilitation of the novel as the central genre of modernity. Narratology, the originally structuralist study of narrative, is often seen to be the master discipline for the study of narratives, whether literary or non-literary. In recent years, narratology has broadened its appeal by focusing more and more on non-literary narrative (such as historical narratives, autobiographies, conversational narratives), narrative poetry, narrativity in drama, film, cartoons or ballets, and on the history of narrative forms. Narratology has also opened up to a variety of theoretical approaches, not least cognitive theory, thereby establishing a strong link with cognitive linguistics.
Deixis: How do speakers locate their language in time and space? How do they relate what is said to the time, place and participant constellation of the speech event? These questions have been of primary relevance in linguistics from Karl Bühler and Emile Benveniste up to Stephen Levinson. The origo of language is the hic et nunc of the speech situation. However, humans are able to shift this origo away from the speech situation and establish a new, displaced point of spatial and temporal reference (Bühler’s Deixis am Phantasma). These displaced text worlds provide the link between linguistics and literary studies. Narratology has amply analysed the importance of deictic elements in narrative, for instance in the context of speech and thought representation, in the context of focalisation, and in the context of shifters, discourse markers and ideological manipulation. Social deictics are of central importance, for instance, to Japanese honorifics, and they therefore interrelate with the constitution and maintenance of social forms of behaviour and with the creation and stabilisation of “face”.
Social identities: All language is variable. There are many ways in which something can be said. This inherent variability may be referentially neutral; it does, however, convey information about the social categories to which the speaker belongs. Sociolinguistics is concerned with the way in which speakers use language as an index to social categories such as age, gender, social position, ethnic belonging, geographical belonging, etc., and with the way in which recipients use the relevant cues to place speakers (ascribe to them certain social identities). Social identities are not stable, they can be negotiated, and social actors can chose among a set of identities, depending on the situation. In literary studies, too, collective identities have acquired an increasingly prominent position, whether in the context of gender theory, ethnic studies or postcolonial theory, multiculturalism and diaspora studies. In narratology, collective identities have recently become central to debates about the rendering of consciousness of groups (Alan Palmer) and the use of we-narration.
Genre: Following Bakhtin, and particularly inspired by the theories of the sociologist Thomas Luckmann, linguists and anthropological linguists have increasingly used the term genre to refer to complex, highly structured, sedimented (routine, institutionalised) ways of achieving certain ends. Oral genres range from those which require artful performance (such as telling a joke or giving a speech at a wedding) to more mundane ones such as gossiping or teaching. In contrast to text types, genres are orally enacted and interactionally embedded. In literature, genre has of course always played a huge role. More recently, literary theorists have moved towards a consideration of narratives as a text type, to be contrasted with other text types such as argument or description (Seymour Chatman). This allows one to formulate quite new questions since narrative is no longer opposed to drama and poetry but to instruction manuals, tourist brochures or conversational exchange. Such analyses bring out not only the generic peculiarities of narrative but also point out how some non-literary genres share a range of features with fictional narratives, for instance the performative use of dialogue in conversational narrative.