Dark Tongues: The Art of Rogues and Riddlers

Dark Tongues: The Art of Rogues and Riddlers

by Daniel Heller-Roazen

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Overview

Dark Tongues: The Art of Rogues and Riddlers by Daniel Heller-Roazen

An exploration of secret languages, moving among hermetic artificial tongues as diverse as criminal jargons and divine speech.

Dark Tongues constitutes a sustained exploration of a perplexing fact that has never received the attention it deserves. Wherever human beings share a language, they also strive to make from it something new: a cryptic idiom, built from the grammar that they know, which will allow them to communicate in secrecy. Such hidden languages come in many shapes. They may be playful or serious, children's games or adults' work. They may be as impenetrable as foreign tongues, or slightly different from the idioms from which they spring, or barely perceptible, their existence being the subject of uncertain, even unlikely, suppositions.

The first recorded jargons date to the time of the Renaissance, when writers across Europe noted that obscure languages had suddenly come into use. A varied cast of characters—lawyers, grammarians, and theologians—denounced these new forms of speech, arguing that they were tools of crime, plotted in tongues that honest people could not understand. Before the emergence of these modern jargons, however, the artificial twisting of languages served a different purpose. In epochs and regions as diverse as archaic Greece and Rome and medieval Provence and Scandinavia, singers and scribes also invented opaque varieties of speech. They did so not to defraud, but to reveal and record a divine thing: the language of the gods, which poets and priests alone were said to master.

Dark Tongues moves among these various artificial and hermetic tongues. From criminal jargons to sacred idioms, from Saussure's work on anagrams to Jakobson's theory of subliminal patterns in poetry, from the arcane arts of the Druids and Biblical copyists to the secret procedure that Tristan Tzara, founder of Dada, believed he had uncovered in Villon's songs and ballads, Dark Tongues explores the common crafts of rogues and riddlers, which play sound and sense against each other.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781935408338
Publisher: MIT Press
Publication date: 08/02/2013
Series: Zone Books
Pages: 240
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Daniel Heller-Roazen is the Arthur W. Marks '19 Professor of Comparative Literature and the Council of the Humanities at Princeton University. He is the author of Echolalias: On the Forgetting of Language, The Inner Touch: Archaeology of a Sensation, The Enemy of All: Piracy and the Law of Nations, and The Fifth Hammer: Pythagoras and the Disharmony of the World, all published by Zone Books.

Table of Contents

I Forkings 9

II Coquillars 19

III Principles of Cant 31

IV Signs 45

V Knowings 55

VI Riddles 66

VII Nomina Divina 83

VIII Nomina Sacra 95

IX Anaphones 109

X Patterns 131

XI Secrets of Tristan Tzara 153

Notes 185

Bibliography 215

Index 233

What People are Saying About This

Stephen G. Nichols

In this brilliant book, Heller-Roazen descends into the half-world of literary history to which rogue and riddling poets have been exiled. His archeology of 'dark tongues' reveals the consummate mastery of language displayed by rogue poets. No one plumbs the arcane depths of poetry better than Heller-Roazen, and never more so than in Dark Tongues.

From the Publisher

Daniel Heller-Roazen's brilliance and originality, the depth and range of his scholarship, are inspiring: if you loved (as I did) Heller-Roazen's archaeology of the vanished in Echolalias, you will love this book too. Dark Tongues is aimed at readers fascinated by the ways of words, language, and its users. Here is God's post-Babel plenty. Dark Tongues is a rare and delectable treat.

Roberta Frank, Marie Borroff Professor of English, Yale University

I am one of many poets who have considered Daniel Heller-Roazen's books essential reading ever since Echolalias. Once again, in Dark Tongues, he evinces his accustomed depth and range of intelligence and scholarship. His aphoristic prose style, with its sense of mischief and wit, reaches its apogee in this meditation on rogues, riddlers, linguists and poets. Heller-Roazen continues his exploration into almost buried tongues, illuminated by his belief in the power and mystery of poetry. He is the Joycean juggler of words and letters constantly in motion, shifting with twists and turns that yield to, yet resist even the most erudite of interpretations.

Susan Howe, author of Sorting Facts, That This and Souls of the Labadie Tract

In this brilliant book, Heller-Roazen descends into the half-world of literary history to which rogue and riddling poets have been exiled. His archeology of 'dark tongues' reveals the consummate mastery of language displayed by rogue poets. No one plumbs the arcane depths of poetry better than Heller-Roazen, and never more so than in Dark Tongues.

Stephen G. Nichols, James M. Beall Professor Emeritus of French and Humanities, Johns Hopkins University

Endorsement

In this brilliant book, Heller-Roazen descends into the half-world of literary history to which rogue and riddling poets have been exiled. His archeology of 'dark tongues' reveals the consummate mastery of language displayed by rogue poets. No one plumbs the arcane depths of poetry better than Heller-Roazen, and never more so than in Dark Tongues.

Stephen G. Nichols, James M. Beall Professor Emeritus of French and Humanities, Johns Hopkins University

Susan Howe

I am one of many poets who have considered Daniel Heller-Roazen's books essential reading ever since Echolalias. Once again, in Dark Tongues, he evinces his accustomed depth and range of intelligence and scholarship. His aphoristic prose style, with its sense of mischief and wit, reaches its apogee in this meditation on rogues, riddlers, linguists and poets. Heller-Roazen continues his exploration into almost buried tongues, illuminated by his belief in the power and mystery of poetry. He is the Joycean juggler of words and letters constantly in motion, shifting with twists and turns that yield to, yet resist even the most erudite of interpretations.

Roberta Frank

Daniel Heller-Roazen's brilliance and originality, the depth and range of his scholarship, are inspiring: if you loved (as I did) Heller-Roazen's archaeology of the vanished in Echolalias, you will love this book too. Dark Tongues is aimed at readers fascinated by the ways of words, language, and its users. Here is God's post-Babel plenty. Dark Tongues is a rare and delectable treat.

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