To stutter is often to feel the edges and the walls of lamguage, in the mouth, in the glottis, on the face, in the chest. It can be to experience those parts of language which do not signify but that force us to encounter the stuff that language is made of and the other buccal functions from which language is inseparable, such as eating, breathing, chocking, kissing, humming, hissing, coughing, drinking, sucking, vomiting, licking, swallowing, wheezing, and blowing. We often avoid paying attention to the stuff of language because it reminds us of the mechanical and involuntary crust upon the transparent flow of social and economic institutions and the rational expectations of social interactions.
I have two examples about what it might mean to experience the matter of language queered. The first I’ll call wood, and it comes from the Italian thinker Giorgio Agamben. Agamben writes in his essay “The Idea of Matter:”
“There where language ends is not where the unsayable begins, but rather the matter of language. He who has never reached, as in a dream, that woodlike substance of language that the ancients called silva remains, even when he is silent, a prisoner to representations.”
This is a very loaded assertion, but by “prisoner to representations” Agamben is referring to a use of language that is reduced to transparent meaning, pre signification, supple communication, and pure intelligibility that conceals the medium of that which you use to communicate. You’re a fly in a box who doesn’t see the glass walls. Silva, meaning wildwood, is also a term for a poetic form enjoyed by the ancient Romans, and it trades on its metaphorical meaning as material for construction. If language is woodlike, it has a texture, a grain, colour, rings. It is hard while it can be broken down, built up, pulped, and refigured. It is attached to non-wood things like leaves. Agamben’s reference to the dream gives it a more ethereal resonance. Without going too deeply into the dream theory, Freud noticed that words are often treated in dreams as though they were things. Jean-Francois Lyotard provides an example from a poster of what dreaming does to language. In Frédéric Rossif’s poster Révolution d'Octobre, the words are physically folded as if rippled on a 3D surface by the wind, and the letters become distorted. Conor Foran’s stuttering font is another example of the distortion of words by the pressures of desire upon language. Language can do a great deal outside of representation.