Cover: Mother Tongues: Sexuality, Trials, Motherhood, Translation, from Harvard University PressCover: Mother Tongues in HARDCOVER

Mother Tongues

Sexuality, Trials, Motherhood, Translation

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Product Details


$65.50 • £52.95 • €59.00

ISBN 9780674011878

Publication Date: 11/30/2003


224 pages

5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches

2 line illustrations


Mother Tongues offers a set of brilliant, interwoven readings of Baudelaire, Benjamin, and Plath, affirming once again Barbara Johnson’s reputation as the most extraordinary of contemporary theorists. In poetry and prose alike, she finds the animated working of a default address, and traces an implicit appeal to the lost maternal or, indeed, to the irrecoverable conditions of language itself. This text weaves its reader into a fine web of writing from which one wants no escape.—Judith Butler, author of Gender Trouble

Barbara Johnson has the most beautiful mind—subtle, fearless, funny, logical, preternaturally alert to words and their worlds. Mother Tongues encounters central figures of modern culture and the great questions of culture—why do we read, why do we write, why do we use a mother tongue? Her illuminations are vital and deep.—Catharine Stimpson, author of Where the Meanings Are

Mother Tongues is a work of psychological depth and poetic organization. It builds on Johnson’s oeuvre by developing new ways of conceiving language and world, most valuably through reinterpretations of Baudelaire, Benjamin, and their reception. Johnson’s turn and return to these authors, and the subtle inquiry into the ontological dimensions of language that results, should be of interest to anyone concerned about modernity and its reifications. This book is an elegant, important, and subtle addition to Johnson’s searching work, a valuable contribution to Benjamin scholarship and scholarship on modern sexuality, and an idiosyncratic and inventive work of contemporary literary theory and comparative literature.—Rei Terada, author of Feeling in Theory

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