Cassin will discuss, under the sign of ‘nostalgia’, the connections between homeland, exile, and mother tongue. The Odyssee, recounting the adventures of Odysseus and his endlessly delayed return to Ithaca, is the very poem of nostalgia. Odysseus’s final arrival in his “home” is sympbolized by his bed: carved with his own hands from a tree around which he had built his house, a secret shared only with his wife. Rootedness and uprootedness conjoined: that is nostalgia.
As for Aeneas, when he flees Troy in flames, he carries his homeland on his back, his father Anchises and his gods of the earth. He wanders from place to place until Juno agrees to let him found the city that will become Rome, on one condition only: that he forget Greek and speaks uno ore, ‘one tongue’ with the Latin people. The founding epic is, on this occasion, the very founding of a language.
To possess one’s language as a homeland, or even as one’s only homeland: that is how, in dark times, Hannah Arendt, “naturalized” in her American exile, chooses to define herself: not in relation to a country or a people but only in relation to a language, the German language. What is proper? What is foreign? When are we ever at home?
ICI Lecture Series ERRANS