College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

5: Extreme language: discovery under pressure

Lord Williams of Oystermouth's Gifford Lecture series is made of six lectures under the overall title ‘Making representations: religious faith and the habits of language’; the fifth lecture of the series is entitled 'Extreme language: discovery under pressure'.

Lecture abstract

One of the most complex aspects of our language is that we refine the patterns we create in it - by rhyme and metre and metaphor - in the confidence that through this process we will discover something about what our habitual language does not disclose.

The language of art - and in striking measure the language of innovative theoretical science too - assumes that what we perceive is more than it appears, and that it ‘gives more than it has’. The processes of rediscovering ourselves through the deliberate distortions and re-workings of familiar language (as we do in poetry, prose or scientific narrative) once again suggest a significant confidence in the bare practice of speech to transform understanding and the relation with what is real.

What is encountered is essentially oriented towards something like communion or integration.

Lecture video