Caroline Rabourdin

Making Sense of Caroline Bergvall’s multilingual poetry: The space between langues and Lecercle’s Philosophy of Nonsense

Caroline Bergvall is a French-Norwegian writer and artist who works across media and languages. She has an acute awareness of the physicality of language and her works of multilingual poetry often involve spatial and/or audio installations.

Linguist Jean Jacques Lecercle has written extensively about the physicality and practice of language. When most linguists see language as an empirical object of study, Lecercle calls for the study of language that speaks us as well as language that we speak, and gives parole its rightful place in linguistics. He writes of ‘inhabiting’ language, in the phenomenological tradition. He also writes about Louis Wolfson, “who could not bear to hear or read his maternal tongue, English, and developed an intricate technique of instant translation according to sound”¹

In this paper, I will show that the space in between, for the multilingual, is where he/she no longer inhabits one langue or the other, where words become simple marks on a page, sounds in your ear, devoid of motivation and meaning. Using Lecercle’s Philosophy of Nonsense²  the bilingual space in between is the space of non-sense, and that poetry can show us the way to get there.

1. Jean Jacques Lecercle, The Violence of Language, London: Routledge, 1990, p.63

2. Jean Jacques Lecercle, Philosophy of Nonsense: The intuitions of Victorian Nonsense Literature, London & New York: Routledge, 1994