International Symposium on Challenging the Myth of Monolingualism

International Symposium on
“Çħãłņgıňģ ţĥė Mŷţh ǿf Mhölngūałism
Ŀęidĕņ, 23–24 Mŷ 2012

Multilingualism seems nothing less than the sign of our present time. Nevertheless, discussions about

multiculturality, migration and, most emphatically, integration in West-European societies continue to
revolve around the claim that flawless fluency in the “national tongue” is a fundamental requirement
for a full-fledged membership of the national community. Irrespective of the subsequent question,
whether acquiring this national language as a second language (or third, or fourth, etc.) can ever suffice
to fulfil this requirement (seen the many “unique” qualities attached to the notion of the mother tongue),
monolingualism appears as the indisputable norm that guarantees true national belonging and
unconditional loyalty.
In her recently published monograph Beyond the Mother Tongue. The Postmonolingual Condition
Yasemin Yildiz insightfully states that a tension results from the contradiction between multilingual
realities and the seemingly unwavering persistence of the monolingual norm. This two-day symposium
sets out to probe this tension. By focusing on manifestations of and reflections on this tension in the
field of literature, we aim to investigate the various ways in which prejudices on multilingualism on the
one hand, and practices of multilingualism on the other, respectively corroborate and challenge the
myth of one exclusive language of national belonging.
The symposium starts with a lecture by Yasemin Yildiz on what she calls “the postmonolingual
condition.” Following up on Yildiz’ opening lecture, we will examine and situate the related concepts
of mono- and multilingualism. By considering the ethics and aesthetics of multilingualism, by studying
its various strategies (such as code-shifting and code-mixing, neologisms and wordplays, as well as the
use of linguistic “barbarisms”), and by taking the issue of translation into account, we aim to map the
conceptual problems and possibilities of what is called “multilingual literature.”
The second day of the symposium focuses on some more concrete examples of multilingual challenges
to the monolingual myth, especially in the context of contemporary migration. In the morning lecture
Fouad Laroui will present his ideas on what he calls “the Moroccan Multilingual Tragedy” and its
traces in Dutchophone literature of migration. The discussion of several case-studies from Dutch and
Flemish literature aims to highlight and compare some of the multilingual strategies at work in this
literature. By relating the (destabilizing) effects of these strategies to the specific Dutch and Flemish
contexts, we attempt to assess their context-specific multilingual efficacy.
For more information, please contact Liesbeth Minnaard:
Participation in the symposium is free of charge, but registration is required:
The number of participants is limited to 25 (admittance is on a “first come, first served” basis).
This symposium is organized by the Institute for Cultural Disciplines, Leiden University, in
cooperation with the Laboratoire de linguistique et de littérature allemande, Luxemburg University, as
part of the CORE-project “Multilingual Literature.” The symposium is supported by the National
Research Fund, Luxembourg.

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