Publications by Year: 2004

Bilingual Aesthetics: A New Sentimental Education
Sommer D. Bilingual Aesthetics: A New Sentimental Education. Durham, NC: Duke University Press; 2004. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Bilingual Aesthetics: A New Sentimental Education, a sequel to Proceed with Caution, attends to code-switching as a specific kind of rhetorical gate-keeper. If you haven’t yet been wondering about the ways that bilingualism can improve a range of private and public moves—in aesthetics, politics, and philosophy (not to mention business and commerce)—let’s take some time out together. What if I said that an extra language, beyond a coordinating lingua franca, promotes personal development, fair procedure, and effective education, while one-way assimilation derails progress on all counts? Would you be curious about the arguments and perhaps willing to change your mind if bilingualism had seemed irrelevant or even damaging? I hope you are willing, and I offer this book as an invitation to consider the cultural conditions for fair and fulfilling contemporary life. This book is about added value, not about remediation. More than one language is a supplement, not a deficiency. It is a dangerous supplement to monolingualism, whether the addition amounts to two languages or to many. Bilingualism overloads mono systems; and multilingualism does it more. But in principle bi- and multilingualism make similar mischief with meaning. The underlying goal of thinking about these overloads as intellectual, artistic, and ethical enhancements will be to open public debates beyond the failing standard of monolingual assimilation. Throughout this book, I address the enhancements in the most theoretically sophisticated terms I can muster, but in plain language. Partly the gambit is to demonstrate that theory is practically second nature to bilinguals who normally abstract expression from meaning; and partly the range of refinements that follow from the “open sesame” of bilingual readings means to persuade some readers that bilingualism is intellectually advantageous. Others will know that already.