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

Mother Tongues

Sexuality, Trials, Motherhood, Translation

Add to Cart

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

Recent News

Black lives matter. Black voices matter. A statement from HUP »

From Our Blog

Jacket: A Brief History of Equality, by Thomas Piketty, from Harvard University Press

Five Reasons Why You Should Read Thomas Piketty’s A Brief History of Equality

In his surprising and powerful new work, A Brief History of Equality, Thomas Piketty reminds us that the grand sweep of history gives us reasons to be optimistic. Over the centuries, he shows, we have been moving toward greater equality. We asked him about his impassioned new book: why he wrote it, how it’s optimistic, and what we need to do to continue making progress on creating an equitable world.