I’m pleased to announce that today is the official release date of my book, Trading Tongues: Merchants, Multilingualism, and Medieval Literature (Ohio State University Press, 2013). It is the most recent addition to the series “Interventions: New Studies in Medieval Culture” (ed. Ethan Knapp), where KARL’s book also appeared.
This book has been a long time coming. It began a decade ago (!) as a dissertation project about merchant culture in medieval London but it gradually transformed into a broader exploration of the social dynamics of travel, polyglot literary identities, and languages in motion.
Here’s the description from the OSU Press website:
Trading Tongues offers fresh approaches to the multilingualism of major early English authors like Geoffrey Chaucer, John Gower, Margery Kempe, and William Caxton, and lesser-known figures like French lyricist Charles d’Orléans. Juxtaposing literary works with contemporaneous Latin and French civic records, mixed-language merchant miscellanies, and bilingual phrasebooks, Jonathan Hsy illustrates how languages commingled in late medieval and early modern cities. Chaucer, a customs official for the Port of London, infused English poetry with French and Latin merchant jargon, and London merchants incorporated Latin and vernacular verse forms into trilingual account books.
Hsy examines how writers working in English, Latin, and French (and combinations thereof) theorized the rich contours of polyglot identity. In a range of genres—from multilingual lyrics, poems about urban life, and autobiographical narratives—writers found venues to consider their own linguistic capacities and to develop new modes of conceiving language contact and exchange. Interweaving close readings of medieval texts with insights from sociolinguistics and postcolonial theory, Trading Tongues not only illuminates how multilingual identities were expressed in the past; it generates new ways of thinking about cultural contact and language crossings in our own time.
And here are a few lovely blurbs:
“Hsy’s development of the concept ‘translingual’—emphasizing the capacity for languages within the same space to interact, to influence, and to transform each other through networks of exchange— is visionary. Trading Tongues is poised to make a significant contribution both to linguistic studies of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries in England and to the study of Middle English literature.” — Christopher Cannon, New York University
“Trading Tongues is accomplished, intelligent, and assiduous. Hsy provides some excellent and original close readings of multilingual texts; I particularly admire his chapter on London merchants, and his final discussion of a Charles d’Orléans ballade is superbly interesting. The research is strong, the style elegant and well-turned, and the quality of argument high.” —Ardis Butterfield, Yale University
You can read excerpts from the book (contents, introduction, first chapter, and index) on the OSU Press website (top left corner of page)—and you can search and preview other parts of the book on Amazon.
Many people—including my colleagues, my co-bloggers and ITM readers, and other people (online and in real life)—have played a role in shaping this project. I hope those of you with interests in translation studies, comparative literature, historical linguistics (among other things) will find this worth your while!