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Dean of the College presents

“Displeas’d ambitious TONGUE”: Lingua and Lingual Multiplicity in Seventeenth Century England

A Faculty Seminar Presented by Lianne Habinek

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Though Thomas Tomkis’ early 17th-century academic play Lingua, Or, The Combat of the Tongue, and the five Senses, for Superiority bills itself as “a pleasant comedy” that has “taught severe Philosophy to smile,” its chief conflicts involve civil war amongst the five senses in the land of Microcosmus and the serious revenge of the “half-sense” of language upon the other five. The play’s central and controversial figure is Lingua, a woman, who represents alternately speech (or, more broadly, discourse) and the tongue itself, and who desires to be numbered among the other (male) senses.

The key questions facing the reader of Lingua are two-fold: first, what is Lingua actually meant to represent, both from anatomical and allegorical standpoints; and second, what does such a characterization of the tongue as an effective agent of chaos reveal about the connection between body parts and senses on a broader scale? Lingua demonstrates the crucial role of language in either forging or destroying the connections amongst the senses, and between the senses and the intellect. Tomkis employs anatomical knowledge to make a critical point: that the double (or more) nature of the tongue allows Lingua to do what the other Senses cannot, namely, to parse information selectively, and that this ability poses a threat to an established sensory order. On an allegorical level, the play engages with contemporary English literary, medical, and philosophical theories about the tongue and its part in creating discourse to suggest that certain types of knowledge offer an alternative to dominant modes of accessing information about the world.

Please join us at 6:30pm for a reception prior to the event in the Olin Atrium.

For more information, call 845-758-7490, or e-mail jcerulli@bard.edu.