Heterolingualism in/and translation: How legitimate are the Other and his/her language? An introduction

Reine Meylaerts
Table of contents

Bookended between the so-called ‘dark Middle Ages’ and the ‘new Media Age’, is the ‘national’ paradigm bound to have been no more than a short intermezzo? Has the myth of monolingualism, according to which there is a oneto-one match between one territory, one nation, one language and one literature, finally been exposed as just that: A myth? “Language is the slipperiest of human creations; like its speakers, it does not respect borders, and, like the imagination, it cannot ultimately be predicted or controlled”, Greenblatt writes (2001: 62). Over the last decade, studies within a variety of disciplines have indeed unmasked the idea of homogenous (national) languages and cultures as a central mechanism mobilized by Western nation-states to inculcate a common identity upon their citizens. The 19th century utopian construct does not fit with the fractured reality of linguistic and cultural experiences in modern, globalised societies. Multilingualism is, of course, not confined to the present time or to the West; but its modalities have changed due to recent technological, political and other developments. But the quasi monopoly of the romantic (monolingual nationalist) paradigm on the organisation of Western societies has institutionalised linguistic, literary, cultural, political... studies as predominantly monolingual. For about a century, it basically prevented these disciplines from conceptualising their objects as plural, as multilingual.

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