Laura Shannon Prize Winner

Yildiz Beyond Mother Tongue

Publisher: Fordham University Press

Publication Year: 2012

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Beyond the Mother Tongue: The Postmonolingual Condition

by Yasemin Yildiz

2014 Silver Medalist in Humanities

Jury Statement (Honorable Mention)

No problem is more crucial for European identity than that of the relationship of the monolingual to the multilingual and the relationship of each to the concept of the nation-state. Yasemin Yildiz’s Beyond the Mother Tongue is a finely-crafted exploration of a group of 20th-century German writers which excitingly recasts how these authors are defined or define themselves in terms of German as a language, revealing how the powerfully affective notion of the “mother tongue” functions for writers as different as Kafka (and Yiddish), Adorno (and the Fremdwort), Tawada (and Japanese), and Zaimoglu (and Turkish). Her studies disrupt a “monolingual paradigm,” showing how multiple our relations with languages can be. Yildiz brilliantly highlights what is at stake, ethically and politically, in the monolingual paradigm and in resistance to it, even where—perhaps especially where—the resistance might simply appear as linguistic playfulness. At stake is whether national identities can come to terms with multilingual realities. All future work will have to take account of her innovative work.

Final Jury

Russell A. Berman
Walter A. Haas Professor in the Humanities
Stanford University

Thomas Elsaesser, FBA
Professor of Film and Television Studies Emeritus
University of Amsterdam

Jennifer Herdt
Gilbert L. Stark Professor of Christian Ethics
Yale Divinity School

Peter Holland
McMeel Family Chair in Shakespeare Studies
University of Notre Dame

Alasdair MacIntyre
Professor of Philosophy Emeritus
University of Note Dame