Principles 423 July 2009 at 3:34 AM | Posted in News | 1 Comment
This is the fourth principle of multilingual literary criticism:
(4) The multilingual work is the general case; the apparently monolingual work is the special case.
I use the analogy of the relationship between Einsteinian and Newtonian physics. In treating things that we encounter every day, we do very well just using Newtonian physics, because the quantities that make a difference are pretty small. But these small, seemingly insignificant quantities are there; they are just ignored. The multilingual literary critic focuses on these seemingly insignificant items and shows why they are not insignificant after all. Still pursuing the analogy with physics, we could say that multilingual literary criticism is the Theory of Everything. It is primarily of theoretical interest. We cannot use it all the time because we would never do anything else nor read much more than what we are reading at the moment. Nevertheless, as we know from the enormous amount of work the critics used to do in the first half of the last century, there is a place in the intellectual world for such dedication to detail. By highlighting (or foregrounding, as literary critics like to say) the linguistic elements that are normally ignored, we help the reader appreciate more deeply the writer’s craft.