Cat in the Throat: Caroline Bergvall's plurilingual bodies

Thumbnail Image
Camerlynck, Nathalie
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Rights Holder
How does Caroline Bergvall's plurilingual poetic practice reimagine language embodiment? What are the implications for cultural identity and linguistic belonging? For the gendered and sexualised body? 'Fighting off one language with another,' Bergvall displaces standard English and crosses national borders. Her work explores how this crossing, this fighting and resistance, is physically articulated. Though accessible to a monolingual English reader, the texts collected in Meddle English incorporate elements of French and Norwegian, and seek to distort and undermine standard English. The Deleuze-Guattarian concepts of minorization and deterritorialization are explored and adapted to a feminist understanding of poetic practice. 'Cat in the Throat' is a literal translation of the French expression un chat dans la gorge - the equivalent in English being 'a frog in the throat.' In French chatte (female cat) is equivalent to the colloquial English 'pussy.' The cat (in the throat) is symbolic of Bergvall's cultural and sexual resistance to standard English. Her language incorporates these stuttering moments of untranslatablity, and is characterised by ellipsis, plurilingual puns, misspellings and linguistic contamination. This article will explore the ways in which these characteristics are used to assert a queer experience of language embodiment.
Caroline Bergvall