Lingua Barbara or the Mystery of the Other

Otherness and Exteriority in Modern European Poetry

by Johanna M. Buisson (Author)
©2012 Monographs VIII, 352 Pages
Series: European Connections, Volume 9


This book explores the multifaceted concepts of otherness, barbarism and exteriority. Is encountering the ‘Other’ still possible in a world in which we all have become rootless, disconnected and strangers, alienated from the outside world and from ourselves? Does the question of ‘Otherness’ still bear a meaning after the deconstruction of the self and the crumbling of the very concept of identity? The author examines some major twentieth-century poetic responses to the violent denial of otherness and difference in modern Europe. The myth of Medea is brought in to reflect upon the tragic history of the encounter with the Other in European thought, epitomising the way rationalist Positivism suppressed the Other, through either assimilation or exclusion.
The volume goes on to explore the concept of barbarism in language, revealing how some modern or post-modern European poets confronted their respective languages with the barbaric – otherness, the outside, the ‘uncivilised’. The author focuses on three twentieth-century poets who experienced barbarism in some way and whose work constitutes a poetic counter-attack and an attempt at regeneration: Henri Michaux, Paul Celan and Ted Hughes. These poets wrote within post-modernity in a state of endless displacement and their anguished alienation echoes the plight of Medea – the barbarian amongst the ‘civilised’ Greeks. Their new lingua barbara became a language of otherness, of inter-space and displacement.


VIII, 352
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2012 (June)
otherness barbarism exteriority
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Wien, 2012. VIII, 352 pp.

Biographical notes

Johanna M. Buisson (Author)

Johanna Marie Buisson is a Research Fellow at the Centre de Recherche pour l’Afrique et la Méditerranée (CERAM, Rabat, Morocco) and Assistant Professor at the École de Gouvernance et d’Économie de Rabat (EGE, Rabat, Morocco). She studied at the Sorbonne in Paris and completed her PhD at the University of Cambridge, where she also held a scholarship at Trinity College. Her research focuses on religious philosophy, ethics, gender studies and comparative literature.


Title: Lingua Barbara or the Mystery of the Other