2018 - 2019

  The Wound of Language  
Tamar GerstenhaberWebb - School of Languages103 Tue1000-1200 Sem  1
University credit hours:  2.0

Course description

The Wound of Language

Tamar Gerstenhaber


Philomela, poetry’s famous song bird, sings from a wound. She is transformed into a song bird after suffering rape and mutilation. Orpheus, mythology’s beloved musician, continues to play as his limbs are torn apart, while his limbs go on singing even after the musician’s demise. Echo, the musician, suffers a similar fate. Though she is canonized for her love of Narcissus in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Longus assigns her a fate similar to that of OrpheusIn this more archaic Greek tale, she is a musician envied by Pan and torn to pieces by his followers, while her limbs “preserve the gift of song, and by the will of the muses, speak and imitate all sounds”. A crimson thread then runs through all these myths. They all feature a wounded singer, thus pointing towards an intimate relationship between the auditory dimension of language and a wound. For Freud, the symptom, which appears on the body of the hysterics who seek his help, is a text that asks to be read. That is, language for Freud is written on the body as an ailment. Language, it seems, has the shape of a wound.  

How may we conceptualize this wound? And what is the specific relationship between language and the wound? To answer these questions, we will take a twofold path, poetic and theoretical. We will turn to the myths as keepers of unbearable knowledge made more bearable by taking mythic  form, and we will also trace the manner in which Freud and Lacan institutes language as body.



Initial Reading List:


The Myth of Philomela from Ovid’s Metamorpheses

The Myth of Orpheus from Virgil’s Georgics and Ovid’s Metamorpheses

The Myth of Echo from Longus’s Daphnis and Chloe

Sigmund Freud Project for a Scientific Psychology (excerpts)

The Ego and the Id (excerpts)

Jacques Lacan “The Mirror Stage”

“Agression in Psychoanalysis”

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