Desperate Linguistics: Missionary Aspirations and the Massachusett and Micmac Limits of Translation

Thursday Lecture Series, Hide and Seek

April 26, 2012 Thursday, 12:15pm EDT The Heyman Center, Columbia University

This talk examined one of the more prolific periods of missionary linguistics in seventeenth-century North America. Professor Rivett argued that the practice of missionary linguistics arises out of a fragmented theological and philosophical context in which transatlantic ideas about language splintered into a variety of mystical ideas and proto-Enlightenment notions of a separation between human words and divine knowledge. Missionary encounters in the New World became language laboratories of a sort, where we see the confluence of epistemic ruptures engendered by these disparate ideas about the significance of words, particularly in the work of John Eliot and Chrétien Le Clercq.