The Historical Certainty of the Interpretively Uncertain: Non-Referentiality and Georgian Modernity


Department of Music
Barnard College, Columbia University
3009 Broadway
New York, NY 10027


Throughout the last century, Georgian artists and intellectuals have appropriated the form of archaic, primitive, and otherwise referentially ambiguous words as material sound or shape, and/or as signifiers of a new symbolic order. Intellectual searches for meaning in the semantically ambiguous have emerged concomitantly with narratives of cultural loss, and found their largest audiences at moments of radical social, political, and economic transformation. This article posits language of this sort as a lens for inquiry into unintelligibility as a salient aesthetic and political trope in the turmoil and ideological anomie of Georgian modernity. It explores variable and shifting tropes of interpretive ambiguity as produced and performed by artists, intellectuals, poets, and politicians, and as articulating points of intersection between frequently nostalgic, exclusivist forms of nationalism and avant-garde, future-oriented, cosmopolitan expressive aesthetics. [Republic of Georgia, ambiguity, modernism, linguistic nationalism, music]