Fantasies of Forgetting Our Mother Tongue

Journal of Speculative Philosophy 33 (3):368-380 (2019)
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In the Confessions, Augustine speculates that before we are aware of language, we learn our mother tongue through our mother's touch. These early lessons in language are first taught through a gentle touch: the nipple of the mother in the mouth of the infant. Language is later reinforced by a violent touch: the schoolmaster's switch. Augustine suggests that any memory of a time before the touch of language is purely imaginary. Nevertheless, his autobiography attempts to return to a time before the touch of the mother, which, for Augustine, is at once the touch of the mother tongue.1 Since our relationship to our own infancy is imaginary, our infancy neither properly belongs to our memory nor can it be properly...

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Rachel Aumiller
Columbia University


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