Elliot Cooper recently completed his PhD at the University of Canberra. His thesis investigates the value of Ferdinand de Saussure’s analyses of glossolalia to understanding the development of general linguistics. He has published and presented papers on photography, narrative in Jacques Lacan’s seminars, and ‘bad cinema’ in the films of M. Night Shyamalan. In 2008 he wrote for twenty600, and in 2010-2011 he was curator of Quickflick Tokyo. He currently teaches in the Special Program in English Communication at Fukui University of Technology in Japan. 

Glossolalia Assemblage: Saussure

This paper discusses Ferdinand de Saussure’s participation in a case study of somnambulism with glossolalia from 1896 to 1899. The subject of that study, a medium named Catherine-Élise Müller, claimed to speak in languages she had never learned. Saussure produced a theory of how she assembled her glossolalia in a way that sounded like Sanskrit. That theory of glossolalia assemblage met belated controversy when Tzvetan Todorov criticised Saussure for overlooking a ‘symbol’ at operation in Müller’s glossolalia. I show that Saussure’s theory of Müller’s glossolalia has broader explanatory power than the symbolic aspect favoured by Todorov, and that what Todorov perceives as a complicated ‘symbol’ can be better explained with simple physiology.