5 | 2020
Unmoored Languages

This volume explores the complex relations developing between a literary text and the world beyond the representational function. Not content to capture, narrate or describe the existing world, writers keep creating autonomous worlds and inventing new languages to account for yet unmapped territories and experiences. As the materiality of language and its poetic quality come out, the sounds, rhythms and visual effects of the text become living milieu rather than material or simple instruments subordinated to thought. Though the effect first produced upon the reader may well be of strangeness or obscurity, such unmooring of language warrants a valuable extension of language likely to bring back to the reader buried, unsuspected emotions and aesthetic experiences, should she be willing to adopt an open type of reading, more fluid than the automatic system of conventional associations on which reading largely relies.

In this collection, writers and literary scholars from the U.S. and France focused on the nature of the mutations to which unmoored language is submitted, as well as on the various ways in which the text makes sense in spite of all. How to describe that which exceeds language rather than avoid the confrontation by relegating it into the vague category of the ineffable? Throughout, literary, linguistic or philosophical analyses have as their horizon the vision of language reflected by the unmoored text, as well as of the relations between language and the world.

5 | 2020

Merged readings

Mélissa Richard


A response to Rob Stephenson’s work.

Texte intégral

1Throughout Rob Stephenson’s novel Passes Through the reader comes across various quotations from many such different authors as Henri Bergson, Vladimir Nabokov, Walt Whitman, Marguerite Duras and more. I found this aspect quite interesting and I felt the need to rediscover some of these authors to see how they might have inspired the author or how their writings could be linked to Rob Stephenson’s writings. I chose to focus on Walt Whitman, famous American poet of the 19th century, the master of free verse and of hypnotic language- mainly achieved through numerous repetitions. He inspired numberless writers after him and his legacy still lives on in American literature. In Passes Through, Rob Stephenson quotes an excerpt from poem 319 entitled “Think of The Soul” from Leaves of Grass: “…in a little while others will find their past in you…”

2Strikingly this quotation introduces the second part of Passes Through-a second part which I find even more poetic than the first. Here is Walt Whitman’s poem in full, “Think of the Soul”.

THINK of the Soul;
I swear to you that body of yours gives proportions to your Soul somehow to live in other spheres;
I do not know how, but I know it is so.

Think of loving and being loved;
I swear to you, whoever you are, you can interfuse yourself with such things that everybody that sees you shall look longingly upon you. 5

Think of the past;
I warn you that in a little while others will find their past in you and your times.

The race is never separated—nor man nor woman escapes;
All is inextricable—things, spirits, Nature, nations, you too—from precedents you come.

Recall the ever-welcome defiers, (The mothers precede them;) 10
Recall the sages, poets, saviors, inventors, lawgivers, of the earth;
Recall Christ, brother of rejected persons—brother of slaves, felons, idiots, and of insane and diseas’d persons.

Think of the time when you were not yet born;
Think of times you stood at the side of the dying;
Think of the time when your own body will be dying. 15

Think of spiritual results,
Sure as the earth swims through the heavens, does every one of its objects pass into spiritual results.

Think of manhood, and you to be a man;
Do you count manhood, and the sweet of manhood, nothing?

Think of womanhood, and you to be a woman; 20
The creation is womanhood;
Have I not said that womanhood involves all?
Have I not told how the universe has nothing better than the best womanhood?

3In this poem and in Passes Through, notions of creation and transmission stand out. I find this poem revealing as to the author’s relation to the body, to sensations and to the notion of inspiration. It puts forward a sense of connectedness, of both universality and individuality, and the tension between all said notions. To finish with, a short excerpt from Passes Through will further reveal the tension between author/inspiration and individuality/universality: “I began to notice where borders existed between me and other people. And when they were trespassed. The secure self is an illusion. Things get inside. And things get out.” (119)

Pour citer ce document

Mélissa Richard, « Merged readings » dans « Unmoored Languages », « Lectures du monde anglophone », 2020 Licence Creative Commons
Ce(tte) œuvre est mise à disposition selon les termes de la Licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d’Utilisation Commerciale - Partage dans les Mêmes Conditions 4.0 International. Polygraphiques - Collection numérique de l'ERIAC EA 4705

URL : http://publis-shs.univ-rouen.fr/eriac/index.php?id=752.

Quelques mots à propos de :  Mélissa Richard

Normandie Univ, UNIROUEN, ERIAC, 76000 Rouen, France
Mélissa Richard is a 2nd year doctoral student in the English Department at the University of Rouen. Her research focuses on the “Excess and lack of details in Jonathan Swift’s satirical prose work” under the supervision of Pr. Marc Martinez. Her work also takes into account the relationship between message satirical discourse.