Swans Commentary » swans.com April 6, 2009  



Linguistic Blending And Multilingual Education
Innovative Ways


by Guido Monte


Translated by Giusy Chirco





Pic: "flash" - © 2009 Giuseppe Quattrocchi - Size: 11k
© 2009 Giuseppe Quattrocchi



Oju orun teye fo, lai fara gbara
("The sky is big enough for all the birds to fly without touching wings")
—Yoruba proverb, mentioned on Swans by Femi Akomolafe


(Swans - April 6, 2009)   I have been writing about linguistic blending for many years, and trying to use it in different ways. The most original is the one I called "Cosmopolitan multilingualism," which is composing a poem using verses that are not necessarily mine; that is to say joining other poets in their original linguistic version following a common theme. For instance, I used to work a long time on the possible links between Dante, Virgil, and Blake. I found so many similarities that in the end in my English translation the reader could hardly distinguish one writer from another. I followed this different way for years, then I decided that my experiment could have been more original if I applied it in a "collaborative." I was not the only one who would choose verses and authors, but other people as well, including researchers, friends, people I knew and people I did not. In this way, the archetypical meaning of my research could become more universal. As a matter of fact, as Borges says, if "an only Book ever written" does exist, everyone must search within himself for the cosmic fragments of this mosaic, he should also search for them in the external world, for example in poets' verses from all over the world. In summation, a new creative form of comparative literature.

Since I teach humanities at high school, my students were the perfect subjects for my experiments. When I explained to them my linguistic blending "technique," I asked for volunteers to research poets on their own and/or poets I recommended. The verses they selected had to be similar to the main author I proposed: the first time I chose Qoèlet, the Ecclesiastes. After I read the biblical verses to them, the volunteers were very good at finding similar authors such as Grief, Blake, Leopardi, Baudelaire, Puškin. Here is an excerpt of the work that was published in Ygdrasil, a Canadian review, in 2006. It is entitled "echo n.5: duònus (good)."

et laudavi magis mortuos quam viventes
they stumble all night
et feliciorem iudicavi
qui necdum natus est
al gener nostro il fato non donò che il morire

[and I saw the dead,
they stumble all night,
they were better off than the living,
but best of all the never born...though—
one choice left: to die]

(See http://www.synapse.net/kgerken/Y-0606.HTM)

The first verse belongs to the Book of Ecclesiastes, the second to Blake, the third to the Ecclesiastes again, the last to the Italian poet Giacomo Leopardi. The verse I suggested to them was "et laudavi magis mortuos quam viventes"; in this case my students' choices were based on anthologies or a complete work by Leopardi or Blake.

Here is a synthesis of what I wrote on the frontispiece, with the title of the entire work.

AHA n.1: Echoes

(Qoèlet, Grief, Blake, Leopardi, Baudelaire, Puškin)

The author thanks Laura Costantini, Andrej Arena (for the help with the translation), and Manuela Catarcia, Federica Corona, Marco Ferrante, [...] (for the research on the echoes).
The Sanskrit term "aha" embraces all the letters of the alphabet in its depth, symbolically embracing the whole universe. [...]

Biblia Sacra Vulgata, liber Ecclesiastes (legenda: eccl.)
Andreas Grief, Kirchhofsgedanken, Einsamkeit (legenda: eins.)
William Blake, Poems from the Rossetti Manuscript; The Songs of Experience (legenda: poems)
Giacomo Leopardi, Canti (legenda: canti)
Charles Baudelaire, Les fleurs du mal (legenda: fleurs)
Aleksandr S. Puškin, Polnoe Sobranie Socineij v destati tomach (legenda: poiesie)

At the beginning of each poem I indicated the authors and their works following the legend of abbreviations; for instance, in the excerpt I mentioned "echo n.5," under the title I wrote "eccl. 4, 2-3; poems; eccl.; canti...," in order to indicate the presence of Ecclesiastes, Blake, and Leopardi.

Once it became possible to use colours to format a Web site, I began to distinguish between the selected poets by adopting different colours. Here is an example from Swans Commentary of 2007.

Shir Hashirim (part III, the end)

by Guido Monte, Viviana Fiorentino, & Francesca Saieva

Research for this experiment by Chiara Cappello (J. L. Borges), Costanza Dimitri (P. Eluard), Gianvito Mistretta (R. Frost)

Virgin turned around the Loved, where're you
your names my distance elusive veil
roaming I don't find wishing I don't find

Ce que j'aime dans ton visage c'est l'arrivée
I virgin found my sperm it fecundated me
light loving light
recuerdos superpuestos
night drew covered my wet hair
Bodhidharma says again: I don't know
Nothing would heal
sky hides stars then strips them

escrituras de luz
où nous sommes des otages de l'obscurité
Now close the windows and hush all the fields

A white home... "out of the garden with no word" (A. Achmatova). A sound... Mitleid, "between themselves the difference feeling was vanished" (Gottfried) because tat tvam asi (A. Schopenhauer), you're That One — take me like a seal. "Lily between thorns," has it stopped raining?, "the room of the woman who gave birth to you" (Song of Songs) opens the doors. What do you see? Stained glasses on blossomed pomegranates, copious waters. I don't know... but "I alone can feel you on these threads of memory" (A. Achmatova). One Seal on your heart, on your arm. What do you see? A white home... a green meadow, that pure white bed. Now, listen to the Silence of it.

(See http://www.swans.com/library/art13/gmonte31.html)

Besides the technical innovation of colours, I constructed a text together with Fiorentino and Saieva, then I proposed it to my students. Their selected authors were Borges, Eluard, and Frost (the first was recommended by me, the last by my student Gianvito). The final philosophical comment by Saieva ("A white home...") is instead an attempt to associate universal ideas without using the original language of the authors. The archetypical link is still present, but in a structurally and substantially different way, also because poetry is tied to philosophical thinking. This new element Saieva introduced helps us understanding how "fluid" Cosmopolitan multilingualism is. It does not only blend authors and cultures on a common archetypical road, it also helps other scholars to creatively associate different topics resulting in an unforeseen original product. It seems to be an infinite creative process whose future evolution is unpredictable.

Comparative literature usually involves the study of comprehensive texts or complex comparisons between books that are part of philological systems; on the contrary, this way becomes a creative tool of knowledge. At the same time the student is a "creator" and a "researcher." By this new method he/she can visually review the results of his/her process under the guidance of the teacher.



Giusy Chirco (b. 1965) studied languages in Perugia and in the U.S.A. and is now a psychologist in Palermo.

Drawing: Flash (2009) by Giuseppe Quattrocchi.


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Guido Monte on Swans (with bio). Also, please check Guido's entry on Wikipedia.



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Swans -- ISSN: 1554-4915
URL for this work: http://www.swans.com/library/art15/gmonte65.html
Published April 6, 2009