Paul Klee, Praise of a pear (1939)


how to do words with things

to the memory of Caleb Gattegno 1911-1988


The infinite productions of language mirror the innumerable states of the world; the more we talk about the world, the more the world talks back to us, further unravelling eddies of complexities. But mirror here is a bit deceptive, for words and worlds are intertwined, so intimately entangled to be at times undistinguishable.

Yet, 'in the beginning, there were no words' (CG), and the world is circumscribed by the oval of a plate with two holes —the face of a parent heavenly floating over the newborn infant. Over the years, language capacity and states of affairs grow out of their reciprocal and evermore personal engagements, to evolve into a supremely integrated system as they partake so to speak of the same flesh. The grasp —hands & words, one has of the world houses the world one lives in; language is the house.

We may then ask —this will be the theme of the lecture, what happens when this delicate and intimate cooperation is thrown off balance, when, for example, the rules of hospitality change; for example, but not only there, in the context of foreign language study: As the student prepares to take the first steps into the foreign language —inventing it along its discovery, a curtain of silence cancels the world, if only temporarily. What then to chart the course?


Jean-Marc Raynal, Kamakura, 2011