Sawyer Seminar Working Group

Intended audience: 
Faculty, Graduate Students, Post-doctoral students

This 2018-2019 seminar, funded by the Mellon Foundation, aims to explore the potential of a set of concepts, tools, and critical practices developed in the field of linguistic anthropology for work being done in the fields of literary and cultural criticism.

The seminar is organized into multiple two-day sessions that will take place during Fall 2018 and Spring 2019. The first three sessions are oriented around creating a common frame of reference, exploring and elaborating on recent linguistic anthropological thought through a set of interlinked topics that are currently prominent in literary and cultural studies: translation/transduction, sound, and publics. The second half of the seminar is devoted to exploring how those topics are, or could be deployed, in interdisciplinary and intercultural work that investigates discourses and practices of sexuality, religion, and politics. A final segment of the seminar provides an occasion, in the light of the earlier work of the seminar, to investigate the history, and the political and ethical commitments of the field of linguistic anthropology itself.

Central questions to be pursued throughout the seminar include: How might attunement to language’s dynamic use—the shifts in meaning as words and utterances travel in different contexts—alter our conceptions of texts as primarily referential objects? What can we learn of literary forms when we consider them as the effects of a series of ritualized performances rather than transhistorical norms? What can attention to sound’s social functions teach us about how sounds hail, divide, or otherwise create communities of all kinds?

For more information, please visit this website:

Hosted by:

Michael Lucey, Departments of Comparative Literature and French
Tom McEnaney, Departments of Comparative Literature and Spanish & Portuguese
Andrew Garrett, Department of Linguistics