Thursday Lecture Series: Hide and Seek

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

Thursday, The Heyman Center

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.