language for communication

Lars Martin Fosse l.m.fosse at
Sat Sep 14 07:07:51 EDT 1996

Dear Dominique Thillaud,

>>If I remember correctly, one of the reasons why *Dumezil*'s work
>>had trouble reaching the USA was that he *wrote in French*, which a large
>>number of American scholars do read with ease. *That is a pity*, because
>>Dumezil was extremely important (no matter what you think of his ideas).
>*c'est moi qui souligne*
>        A part de rappeler que le College de France n'est pas encore une
>institution americaine, l'etiquette du reseau m'interdit de reagir comme je
>le devrais aux implications de ce discours; j'espere simplement que le
>clavier de l'auteur a ete plus vite que sa pensee!

Let me first of all quote C. Scott Littleton, who wrote "The New Comparative
Mythology. An Anthropological Assessment of the Theories of Georges Dumézil: 

"Yet with a very few exceptions, this new comparative mythology [of Dumezil]
has been totally ignored by British and American anthropologists, even by
those primarily concerned with the analysis of myth and folklore. The
principal reason for their neglect - *aside from the fact that as yet none
of Dumezil's works have been translated into English* [my emphasis] - would
seem to lie in the history of the relationship between comparative mythology
... and anthropology."(p. 2)

(Littleton's book was published for the first time in 1966. My own edition,
the third, was published in 1982).

I see, however, that my posting contains a very unfortunate printing error: 

"... a large number of American scholars do read with ease" should be "... a
large number of American scholars do *not* read with ease. 

I think Littleton's remark speaks for itself. If the relevant scholars had
been able to read French, Dumezil's work (which I admire very much
personally, by the way) would have reached the Anglo-Saxon world much
quicker. Again, communication is the keyword. Apart from that, no offense
was intended. 

Best regards,

Lars Martin Fosse

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