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Neohelicon (2011) 38:267287 DOI 10.

1007/s11059-011-0096-7

The place of philology in an age of world literature


Michael Holquist

Published online: 31 July 2011 miai Kiado , Budapest, Hungary 2011 Akade

Abstract A more globalized concept of culture and the tsunami of information made available by the digital revolution call for new reading practices. The emerging discipline of World Literature is an attempt to create such practice, but one that would seem to have very little place in it for the highly specialized skills that dene philology, the closest of all close reading strategies. It is this tension that has sparked several calls for a return to philology. A historical overview of the Golden Age of classical philology in Germany (17771872) suggests that the skills that have dened the profession all over the globe from earliest times are still valuable, but in future can best be employed only in cooperation with scholars having other competencies. Keywords Philology German Enlightenment Universities Reading World literature

Although a great cosmopolitan and visionary, even Goethe could not have foreseen the surge in global economic interconnectedness that in the years since 1827 (when he coined the phrase world literature) have transformed the denition of world; nor could he have imagined the digital tsunami that is currently revolutionizing the meaning of literature. World literature is an emerging phenomenon, so its study is predictably future oriented, with titles framed as questions, such as David Damroschs What Is World Literature?1

In what follows, I will essentially be using the understanding of what we currently mean by World Literature as it is laid out in Damrosch (2003); I have also found Franco Moretti an exciting source of ideas on the subject. He has written copiously on the topic, but see especially his manifesto-like essay (Moretti 2000). An example of what scholarship based on a philosophy of distant reading might look like is Morettis Graphs, Maps, Trees, 2005. Another helpful anthology in shaping my own ideas has been the anthology (Saussy 2006). Haun Saussys essay (pp. 342), is full of good ideas, and raises serious issues about the viability of traditional philology in

A shorter version of this essay will appear in Damrosch et al. (2011). M. Holquist (&) 455 FDR Drive, B-1704, New York, NY 10002, USA e-mail: michael.holquist@yale.edu

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What is surprising, however, is that the ancient discipline of philology is also a topic that currently nds itself hedged about with question marks.2 For instance, there is so little agreement on the elds current identity that high-powered conferences are held to ask the question, What is Philology?.3 The paradox here is that everyone agrees philology is among the very oldest disciplines in those cultures where it has ourished, yet a hardedged, agreed upon denition has not emerged. Modern dictionaries provide a range of vague denitions, often beginning with the literal love of words, then adding some mention of languages and old texts, while ominously concluding, as does the OED, now rare.4 It is generally understood that philology has somethingexactly what is usually a little vagueto do with the study of both language and literature. So it is not helpful that current specialists in these two areas are quick to deny such a claim. Among linguists, philology is perceived to have been a primitive, long sublated concern with languages that pre-dates the happy moment in the nineteenth century when the modern study of linguistics is born as a grown-up science.5 Students of literature also nd the relation of philology to their own subject slightly embarrassing6: there is ample colloquial evidence that philologist is sometimes even a term of abuse applied to those members of the profession who are perceived by their peers as theoretically naive or lacking in civic commitment. We might say of philology in the 21st century what Kant said of metaphysics in the eighteenth

Footnote 1 continued the global future that any future attempt to blend the two disciplines will have to face. (cf. pp. 710) I regret to say I came upon Pascale Casanovas The World Republic of letters (2004) too late to engage in this essay. The eminent Indologist, Sheldon Pollock, has recently published the opening shot in what will be a more extended battle he has initiated to bring philology back into the limelight. He is currently at work on a history of world philology (personal communication). See Pollock (2009, pp. 931961). A spate of books devoted to philology appeared in the 1980s and 1990s. Learned and well intentioned though they were, none has succeeded in establishing a clear-cut denition of the discipline, or its place in the university as it is now constituted. See Cerquiglini (1999), and Gumbrecht (2003) [but see the devastating review of this book {and a somewhat less abrasive consideration of Lerer (2002)} by Ziolkowski (2005, pp. 239272). See also Pascale Hummel (2003), and also her more polemical (and ineluctably ironic) take on the same subject (2000). Most of these books assume philology is essentially Classical Philology as it has been long practiced in Europe, the study of ancient Greece and Rome that begins in Peisistratus Athens but which has its golden age in 19th century Germany. So all draw, implicitly or explicitly, on the 3-volume juggernaut account of Greek/Latin scholarship published by Sandys (19031909). See History of Classical Scholarship (or the more digestible version of the same story published by Briggs, Jr. and Calder III 1990). In the late 1980s, Romance medievalists in the United States sought to formulate (or, as they were ironically aware, to reformulate) a version of New Philology. See the special edition of Romanic Review (79, 1), pp. 1248, edited by Stephen G. Nichols, and his essay Philology in a Manuscript Culture, the introduction to a another special edition he edited (of Speculum 65, 1, pp. 110. Another essay of particular interest is by R. Howard Bloch in the same issue: New Philology and Old French, pp. 3858. A brilliant illustration of the Russian Formalist doctrine of perspective by incongruity is the cosmopolitan take on philology in general that emerges from the meticulous study of Chinese scholarship in the Qing period (16441911) by Elman (1984).
3 2

What is Philology? was the title of a conference held at Harvards Center for literary and cultural Studies in 1998. Two years later, the conference papers were published in a special edition of Comparative Literature (vol. 27, vol. 1, 1990; later that year, Ziolkowski (1990) republished the papers as a book with the more neutral title. As in the Oxford English Dictionary (1972, p. 778). For an intelligent account of Philologys relation to Linguistics, see Manczak (1990, pp. 261272).

4 5 6

Even so smart and sympathetic a literary scholar as John Guillory nds philology protohumanistic. See his essay (2002, p. 28).

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(quoting Ovids Hecuba); Modo maxima rerum, Tot generis, natisque potens [...] Nunc trahor exul, inops (Greatest of all by race and birth, I am now cast out, powerless.).7 Philologys identity is now indistinct because the discipline is widely perceived to have died at some point in the past. The presumed disappearance of philology is conrmed in a number of recent calls for its return: Paul De Mans 1982 TLS essay, The Return to Philology,8 spawned a small sub-genre of essays bearing the same title,9 all of which add to the sense that philology is something that expired or was abandoned in the past, and which thus requires resuscitation in the present. Philology does, of course, have an ineluctable association with the past, and has so from its birth. The appearance of philology heralds a cultures discovery that language has an existence and a history of its own. Such alienation comes late in the life of civilizations. By the time cultures achieve this sophistication, they usually have ceased to ourish: at the moment of their decline, they come alive as philological subjects. Since philology itself is now seen by many as moribund, the obvious question arises, why bother with it at all, much less call for its return? And why invoke so relentlessly antiquarian a discipline in a discussion of the still very new phenomenon of world literature? Like the dead body of Dostoevskys Father Zosimma, the revered corpse stinks. In order to understand philologys nevertheless continuing power to fascinate, it is useful to think of it as having two aspects: it was (and is) both a history and a practice. As a history, philology is remarkable for its great age among the disciplines, arising as it did in the Fertile Crescent thousands of years ago. It makes its rst, rudimentary appearance only a short timeas measured in the sweep of world historyafter the rst invention of writing itself. Philologys subsequent geographical scope has been enormous, with activity found in the Mid East, China, India, Islamic Africa, and Europe. In the past, these widespread centers of learning were unaware of each other.10 So it is all the more remarkable that the practice of philology, the characteristic procedures and tools that dene it as a profession, are surprisingly similar wherever it is found in the ancient world. Moreover, they have remained relatively unchanged until recent times. It generally assumed the rst writing system is found in cuneiform tablets unearthed in the city of Uruk11 dating roughly from 3200 BCE. Sumerian, the language represented in these tablets died out as a spoken language early in the second millennium.12 If the Akkadian speaking Babylonians and Assyrians who came after them were to maintain contact with the religious myths, laws, the epics and histories of their ancestors, they had to study the tablets and translate them into their own language, much as we now read Beowulf

7 Ovid, Metamorphose, xiii, 508510. Quoted and translated in Preface to rst edition (Geyer and Wood 1998, p. 99). 8 9

Republished in Godzich (1993, pp. 2126).

See Lee Patterson (1994, p. 241), and Harpham (2005, pp. 926). A particularly thoughtful piece is a posthumously published essay by Said (2004, pp. 5784) (a great admirer of Erich Auerbach).

10 Just as world literature emerges when previously isolated literatures, locally conceived as unique, discover other centers where similar practices have evolved, so we might now speak of a world philology, insofar as a new self-consciousness is now emerging that will let us study centers and traditions previously unrecognized. 11 Scholars debate whether Egyptian hieroglyphs might be somewhat earlier, or contemporaneous with Sumerian cuneiform, but its clear that writing enters human history roughly at the end of the fourth millennium. Uruk, appropriately, is the city that was ruled by Gilgamesh. Cf. Damrosch (2006, esp. Chaps. 5 and 6, pp. 151235). 12

Cooper (1996).

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(and even Chaucer) in our later English. The priests and scholars who kept the wisdom of the Sumerian past alive in the second millennium BCE are the rst philologists. The subsequent history of philology has had its ups and downs across the globe. In the great learning centers of Nalanda and Taksashila, where knowledge of the formal features of Sanskrit was employed in studying Hindu, and later Buddhist texts, for both of which Sanskrit is the liturgical language (as it also is for the Jain religion). In the seventh and eighth centuries CE, the rapid spread of Islam meant that a uniform administrative language and script were urgently required, unleashing a storm of philological activity. What resulted was classical Arabic as we still know it. Study continued in the great learning centers of Fez13 and Al Azhar in Cairo, where the Islamic classics were pored over for centuries.14 Confucius organization of ancient texts into the ve classics in 6th century BCE China was continually studied and debated by great scholars such as Su Shi (10371101); and in the early 17th century when the Qing dynasty scholar Hao Ching (perhaps under Jesuit inuence) used philological methods to demonstrate once again that the old text Documents [most important of the Classics] was a forgery.15 Sheldon Pollock, whose authority derives from his expertise in both the European and Indian classical heritage, has recently proposed a denition of philology that can cover most of these appearances at different times and in different places across the globe: Philology is the discipline of making sense of texts. It is not the theory of languagethats linguisticsor the theory of meaning or the truththats philosophybut the theory of textuality as well as the history of textualized meaning. If philosophy is thought critically reecting upon itself, as Kant put it, then philology may be seen as the critical self-reection of language.16 What would the global history of a discipline so dened look like? It would rst of all threaten to be immense, as J. E. Sandys acknowledged when he apologized for the length of his standard history of classical scholarship in the Westwhich is, after all, only one strand of philologyby remarking, I confess that the work has grown under my hands to a far larger bulk than I had ever contemplated; but when I reect that a German History of Classical Philology, which does not go beyond the fourth century of our era, lls as many as 1900 large octavo pages, I am disposed to feel (like Warren Hastings) astounded at my own moderation.17
13 Site of the Qarawiyyin Mosque, where Gerbert of Auvergne (9301003), later Pope Sylvester II, was once a student, and who, according to legend, introduced the use of zero and Arabic numerals to Europe as a result of what he learned in Fez. 14 However, since the Koran was the central document for these scholars, they often hesitated to practice critical philology out of piety or fear. Cf. Kopf (1956, pp. 3359). The particular problem that religious texts raise for philology is a red thread running through other traditions as well, of course, none more so than the Christian. It is precisely this ancient, heteronomous, faith-based reading practice that begins to be resisted in Europe after 1650. For a less optimistic account of the role of religion in philology after Sir William Jones discovery, see Olender (1992). Olenders important book demonstrates how the discovery of Sanskrits relation to European languages created new myths about Aryans and Semites that were secretly fueled by religious and racial prejudice. 15 Elman (1983, p. 200). As in the case of Lorenzo Valla, here is another example of how philological tools when brought to bear on a societys key texts can have far reaching consequences that affect the whole culture. 16 17

Pollock, p. 934. Sandys (1909, p. vii).

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In an effort to gain a clearer (and more economical) vision of what a possible future relation between philology and world literature might look like, it will, I hope, sufce for purposes of this short essay to limit the example of philology to what is widely conceded to be its Golden Age: from April 8, 1777 (when the rst student matriculated for an academic degree in the subject) to 1872 (the year in which the young philologist Friedrich Nietzsche effectively renounces his profession in The Birth of Tragedy).18

Philologys golden age: The rise of a new paradigm in education and society While this tale is essentially a Europeanand even more narrowly, a Germanstory, and involves only the study of ancient Greek and Latin, it is a narrative that nevertheless has international cogency insofar as the model(s) of philology that reached fruition in those years became the near numinous paradigm for most later scholarshipno matter where practiced on the globethat has since aspired to the name of philology. When essays are now written calling for a return to philology, it is usually the professional austerity and the worldly importance the profession achieved during those yearsa particularly powerful example of what William Clark has called academic charisma19that subsequent authors have in mind. The tale of philologys Golden Age has been told many times, so in what follows I will concentrate only on those aspects of its history that are relevant to the potential future relation it might have to world literature. The central role philology played in the invention of the modern research university is an important part of the story, if we are to speculate about the future role philology might play in the global academic network that is now emerging and where the study of world literature will have its home. And the history of philologys break up into a myriad of new disciplineslinguistics, the academic study of modern vernacular literatures, cultural studies, programs in literary theorymay help us conceive ways to put the Humpty-Dumpty of philology together again in a new conguration adapted to the fresh realities of World Literature. As everyone recognizes, the greatest challenge of World Literature is its vast scope and variety: the world now presents us with material so varied as to call into question any logic of representation20 No one can be an expert on all the differing texts, languages, and cultures that now sweep over us in the digital empire of Googlevania. Clearly, any student in this new world of roiling literacies must have an appetite for the unfamiliar. If, then, a key aspect of World Literature is that it is not a set canon of texts but a mode of reading, a detached engagement with a world beyond our own,21 then philologys birthdaythat fateful day in April, 1777 when young Friedrich August Wolf insisted he ttingen university as studiosus philologiae be identied in the Matriculation Book of Go is simultaneously a milestone in the evolution of World Literature as well. It is not by chance that Wolf makes his move when and where he does. His aim was to redene philology during the German late Enlightenmentin other words, at the same

18 19 20 21

Although he did not resign his professorship at Basle until 1879. Clark (2006). Damrosch (2003, p. 281). Ibid., p. 296.

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time and place22 that his contemporary (and admirer) Goethe begins to speculate about world literature. Both the Golden Age of philology and the rst steps to conceive World Literature are deeply implicated in the great changes that transform Germany during the eighteenth century. Both evolve out of the particular shape that Enlightenment secularism assumes in the German lands during these years. Each is a version of the new sensibility Schiller called the sentimental,23 but which is perhaps more recognizable at our remove as a profound sense of alienation that arises in the decline of religiously-based authority. Nowhere was the pathos of this challenge felt more deeply than in Kants Copernican Revolution, which engendered a new conception of the nature of thinking itself, and thus impelled a fresh interrogation of how thoughts relate not only to the world, but to words. His work would have enormous consequences for bonding the fate of philology to the new institution of the research university that came into existence in the rst decades of the nineteenth century. Roughly speaking, it may be said that prior to the nineteenth century, language had been conceived as expressing thought so naturally that it was for all intents and purposes transparent, and thus did not exist as a phenomenon separate from thought; it was, in other words a subset of ones subjectivity. Or, if one did see it as an object, as in rhetoric, it was available to the knowing will of the speaker. Beginning in the 17th century, all this changed. Language was increasingly seen as a topic for examination in its own right: there arose a different way to think of the relation between thoughts, things, and words. A spate of works now appeared devoted to the subject of how languages came to be in the rst place (Adam Smith, Lord Monboddo, Condillac, Rousseau, Herder).24 No matter how abstruse or bizarre such theories might have been, in retrospect they do truly reect a ller could already speak of the discovery of language: language as such. By 1865 Mu science of language, which Chomsky would nominate Cartesian linguistics, arguing that Wolfs friend, Wilhelm von Humboldt, was its culmination.25 The questions that Kant raised about our epistemological distance from things as they are in the world beyond our senses and reasonthe world-in-itselfand Wilhelm von Humboldts paradoxical new vision of language as something in its own rightlanguagein-itself, independent of any particular speaking subject or national languageeffected a qualitative difference in how both philology and literature were perceived. Call it what you willa Kuhn-ian crisis that initiates new paradigms among the disciplines,26 a Bachelardian epistemological rupture,27 or the emergence of a new Foucauldian episteme28 philology during the Golden Age is not just another historical instantiation of a set of practices going back to the dawn of history.29 The philology that comes into being in
22 Although there is a span of 50 years between Wolfs matriculation (he was 10 years younger than Goethe) and Goethes use of the word Weltliteratur, both men and events were very much shaped by the same cultural currents. 23 24

Schiller (17941795).

The number of theories about how language originated was so great, that nally, in 1866, the Linguistic Society of Paris famously included in its bylaws a provision that it would not accept any communication on the subject.
25 26 27 28 29

Chomsky (1966, p. 2). Kuhn (1962). Bachelard (1947). Foucault (1970).

These different versions of radical discontinuity in the Enlightenment assign what is perhaps an undue weight to events in the West. For a critique of Eurocentric intellectual history of science, see Bala (2006).

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eighteenth century Germany appears as something novel and different. Unlike so many postmoderns, Wolf was not returning to philology, he was part of a movement that reinvented it. By refusing to matriculate in the Theology faculty, Wolf chose not only to embrace the alterity of another peoples culture from the distant past. In so doing, he at the same time made a decision about method, about the principles that would guide his textual study. Golden age philology is grounded in a new epistemology: in Kants famous formulation, Our age is the genuine age of criticism, to which everything must submit.30 The mode of reading Wolf chose to abjure was characteristic of scholarship in the Faculty of Theology, still guided by confessional faith.31 Wolf instead opted for a secular, critical stance toward texts grounded in scholarship and rigorous method, as opposed to a mode of reading governed by faith and ecclesiastical authorityconvictions held prior to examination of the text.32 Later in life, he refused to admit into his seminar students who studied Greek as part of their preparation for going into the ministry (Predigerstand), accepting only those committed to pure philology (Schulstand). He is at the end of a transitional period in the history of reading sacred texts in the West, marked by increasingly critical study of the Bible. In 1536, Tyndale could be garroted and burnt at the stake for his translated edition of the Bible. But 200 years later, there arose a New Criticism that treated holy works as texts written in languages that could be studied by means of technical procedures derived from classical philology. The fact that there was no degree in Philology did not mean that the disciplines of philologydeep study of ancient languages, establishing grammars and editionswere not practiced in Germany in 1777: in fact, the Rektor with whom Wolf argued about his matriculation status was none other than Christian Gottlob Heyne (17291812), himself a great scholar of ancient Greek and editor of denitive classical editions, whose name was awful through all the schools of North Germany33 The problem was not the study of ancient Greek as such, but rather what you would do with the knowledge of the language thus gained. That is, ancient Greek was ttingen, and had been since the universitys founding in 1737. But if you taught at Go studied Greek, you did so in order to get a degree in the Theology Faculty, Greek being the medium of the New Testament. Thus, by insisting on having the novel status of Philolog, Wolf was not only making a gesture toward an emerging discipline. By doing so, he was turning his face against the
30 31

Kant, Preface to rst edition (Geyer and Wood 1998, pp. 100101).

ttingen was the most liberal of One reason why Wolf was able to matriculate so eccentrically is that Go German universities in 1777. Founded only 40 years previously, it was self-consciously designed to be a model of Enlightenment learning in Germany, remarkable among other reasons because all the faculties including the Theologicalwere put on the same footing. Its nominal patron was the Elector Palatinate Georg August (also George II of Great Britain and patron of Kings College [or, after the Revolution, ttingen became Columbia University] in New York). But the actual architect of the reforms for which Go nchhausen (16881770)not to be famous was the Hanover Minister Gerlach Adolph Baron von Mu nchhausen, Karl Friedrich Hieronymus (17201792), who became confused with that other Freiherr von Mu the legendary teller of tall tales in Raspes famous Adventures and, since 1951, an eponym for a factitious psychiatric disorder. http://www.uni-goettingen.de/en/90607.html. Accessed September 2, 2010. As further evidence of how far philology has fallen since the eighteenth century, this ofcial account of the universitys history fails to list Wolf among its famous graduates. For a more detailed history, see Ziolkowski (1990, pp. 218308).

32 At an earlier stage in the evolution of German universities, Johann Winkelmann (17171768), whose adulation of the noble simplicity and quiet grandeur in ancient Greek art inspired later generations of Germans (including Wolf) in their Grecophilia, also wished as a student to eschew the koine of the Septuagint Bible and New Testament in order to study the ancient Greek classics. But, unlike Wolf, he had to matriculate in the theology faculty while a student at Halle. 33

Pattison (1889, p. 344).

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existing profession of Theology.34 In other words, he wished to make ofcial, as it were, the increasing secularization of study that was already animating Biblical scholarship. He opted for a different mode of reading: he wished to use his knowledge of Greek not to study the Bible as the word of god, or to qualify him for appointment as a schoolteacher. He just wanted to read the pagan classics. He was in love with ancient Greece, another people in another time, and he was not alone in his passion. The great majority of eighteenth century German intellectuals felt not just admiration for, but a deep kinship with, the Greeks. There were many reasons behind what E. M. Butler called the tyranny of Greece over Germany,35 not least the checkered political reality of the imperial cities, dukedoms, and other small political units that comprised the soon-to-expire Holy Roman Empire. Ancient Greece was both a cause and a result of Philologys Golden Age. But Wolfs break with tradition is not only an iconic moment in German grecophilia. It is as well a key index of the rejection of blind faith as a way of life and of theology as the watchdog of that faith,36 a decline in which philological technique had already by 1777 played a signicant role, arguably beginning as early as Erasmus (14661536), who published the rst version of the New Testament in its original Greek (1516). Spinozas famous equation of God or Nature, that eternal and innite being that we call God, or Nature [quod Deum, seu Naturam appellamus]37 was part of the new attitude toward scriptural authority that underlay his philological forays into examining the language of the Bible in the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus of 1670. Twelve years later, Richard Simon published his Histoire critique du Vieux Testament, which advanced the principle of classifying manuscripts in generic families and argued that in reading the Bible believers should be guided by paradosis (tradition, meaning Mother Church) not noesis (rational knowledge), because philologically speaking, there was no version of scripture that was denitive. This tradition of studying the language in which biblical texts were written as if they were the words of men and not of God was nowhere stronger in the eighteenth century than ttingen, where the great scholar of Semitic languages, Johann David Michaelis at Go (17171791) was longtime professor and the teacher of a man who was to have a large inuence on Wolfs 1795 masterpiece, Prolegomena to Homer, Johann Gottfried Eichhorn t(17531827). After graduation, Eichhorn became Professor at Jena, but returned to Go tingen as replacement for Michaelis in 1788. He is generally considered to be the founder of the Higher Criticism (or New Criticism), the philological study of biblical texts in their original languages. Wolfs English translator and editor, the American philologist Anthony
34 Taking a degree in the Theology Faculty did not necessarily mean you became a pastor; the Theology degree was also a kind of license to teach in the school systems that were blossoming throughout the German states in the eighteenth century. Before nding a place as a Classics Professor, Wolf, too, taught at the government school in Ilfeld. 35 The classic here is: E. (Eliza [or Elsie]) M. (Marian) Butler (1935). A good short account of the same phenomenon can be found in the rst chapter of Holubs book (1981). 36 As a leading student of the secular break has summarized it: During the later Middle Ages and the early modern age down to around 1650, western civilization was based on a largely shared core of faith, tradition, and authority. By contrast, after 1650, everything, no matter how fundamental or deeply rooted, was questioned in the light of philosophical reason and frequently challenged or replaced by startlingly different concepts generated by the New Philosophy and what still may be usefully termed the Scientic RevolutionWhereas before 1650 practically everyone disputed and wrote about confessional differences, subsequently, by the 1680s, it began to be notedthat confessional conict, previously at the enter, was increasingly receding to secondary status and that the main issue now was the escalating contest between faith and incredulity. Israel (2001, pp. 34). 37

Spinoza (1925, vol. IV, Praef, p. 206). My emphasis, MH.

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Grafton,38 has shown the enormous inuence that Eichhorns methodology (history of alphabets and writing implements, changes in language use, etc.) exercised on Wolfs analysis of Homeric textology.39 This symbiotic relation marks the emergence of philology as a science in its own right, independent of the claims made on the technical study of texts by institutionalized religion. So a rst indication that philology might have a role to play in a new age of world literature is that in its Golden Age, it found a way to connect to the most vital tendencies characterizing its own period with the traditional skills and methods of the ancient science whose name it bore. That is, Wolf demonstrated a deep knowledge of ancient languages, a curiosity about the cultures that spoke and wrote those languages, a command of technical, grammatical detail and vocabulary that allowed judgment of historical precedence based on linguistic usage. But in addition he brought to bear information gained from ancillary disciplines such as archeology, numismatics, etc. In this he was still deploying many of the techniques used by ancient philologists. What is revolutionary in eighteenth century philology is the vast new importance these narrowly disciplinary skills acquired in an era when language, the topic at the heart of all philologies, was in the process of being recognized as the primary means by which human beings organized their profoundest thought. Wolf taught for many years at Halle, the rst of the modern German centers dedicated to transforming the medieval model of the university. From its founding in 1694, Halle was a center of intellectual exploration and institutional innovation, the institution, for instance, where instruction in the German (instead of Latin) language was rst introduced. While at Halle, Wolf, a charismatic teacher, produced an army of students who spread out all over Germany to preach the gospel of Altertumswissenschaft. In his 1807 textbook of the subject (Darstellung der Altertumswissenschaft) he broadened the conception of philology to include virtually all aspects of life in ancient Greece and Rome. Wolfs student, August Boeckh, took this intellectually imperialist tendency to an insupportable extreme. More than any other single gure, including Wolf, Boeckh may be regarded as the man who made philology for a brief period the Queen of Sciences in Germany. During his long life (17851867) he published what became the Bible of philology at the time, his great Encyklopdie und Methodologie der philologischen Wissenschaften40 As opposed to Boeckhs Sachphilologie focused on objects, scholars such as Leipzigs Gottfried Hermann (17721848) proposed a Wortphilologie, a word based philology, grounded in the deepest understanding one could achieve of the language one was studying.41
38 39 40

Working with Glenn Most and James Zetzel. See Wolf (1985). In the Introduction to the English translation cited above, pp. 2026.

ckh) gave over a period This enormously inuential book was a compendium of lectures Boeckh (Bo stretching from his 2 years at Heidelberg (18091811) through his 54 years as Professor at Berlin, where he repeated the seminar on the denition and methodology of philology twenty six times over the span of 54 years. The reverential editors of the second edition give the exact number of students who took Boeckhs course during these years (an astounding 1696 auditors did so)! The nal version was published only after his death by a student (Ernst Bratuschek), in 1877. A second edition was immediately called for, but Bratuschek died during its preparation, and Rudolf Klussman completed it in 1886 (published by Teubner Verlag in Berlin). The best known parts of the Encyclopedia, its rst sections on the idea of philology, and two chapters on theory of hermenutics (Boeckh was inuenced by Schleiermacher, who encouraged his study of Plato) and theory of criticism, have been republished, but a new edition of the whole is badly needed, and there are rumors such an edition is being prepared. The earlier sections of the 1886 edition have been translated into English (and abridged) translated and edited by Pritchard (1968).
41 The opposition between these two poles continues to be a major consideration in modern classical studies, as witness the tension between two French schools of classicists led by Jean Bollack of Centre de tudes recherche philologique in Lille and the recently deceased Jean Pierre Vernant of the Ecole des hautes e

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Hermann, a Formalist avant la lettre, attempted to achieve a more precise semantics and metrics by invoking Kants abstruse logic. But for other philologists, most notably Wolfs friend, Wilhelm von Humboldt (17671835), Kant was signicant as ground for a new sense of the category of personhood and the novel theory of human developmentthe famous doctrine of Bildungthat owed from such a view. Kant had posited knowledge as always having two aspects, one that derived from the categories (Kategorien) and concepts that order human thinking and are a priori; a second aspect of knowledge consists in intuitions (Anschauungen), messages that come to us from empirical experience in the present. In order to think at all, the individual subject must combine the abstract and the concrete in an act of synthesis. Synthesis or Verbindung is arguably the key to Kants whole system in the rst Critique, since it is cast as the fundamental activity of the human mind. Kant denes the distinctiveness of human beings precisely in their ability to synthesize: it is the basis for transcendental logic, the logic that ` priori knowledge through the synthesis of concepts and intuitions. yields synthetic a The great question left unanswered was this: if the subject is constituted as a work site where concept and intuition come together to form pictures of the world, what are the tools by which such labor gets accomplished? What is the glue that binds concept and intuition together? The obvious answer, of course, in Kant, is Reason, the very Vernunft he criticizes in order to defend. But even hedged about with the limitations Kant assigns it, naked Reason still struck most readers as too abstract to provide the actual means required for synthesis to come about. Humboldts great work was to turn Kant on his head, but to do so very respectfully. He posited representation through signs as the means by which humans could simultaneously experience and think the world. He sought to solve the riddle of the I think by transposing the problem into an investigation of the I speak. In other words, Humboldt put forward language as not just representation of experience to the mind, but as the activity that rst of all enables access of the mind to experience itself. Humboldt began by supposing, together with Kant, that the gap between the categories that ruled perception in the mind on the one hand and the existence of the world outside the mind could not be overcome absolutely. But by negotiating the simultaneity of sign and signied in language, something very like a parallel negotiation of mind and world could be accomplished within the mind. In other words, it was von Humboldt who understood that the gap opened by Kant might be both admitted and at least partially overcome if the assumption were made that language and thought are inseparable. In his lifework on the differences and similarities between human languages (published posthumously, 18361840 by his admiring but not always understanding brother, Alexander) von Humboldt sought to understand the relation between universality and particularity by conceiving language as a constant interaction between external sound forms and internal conceptual forms (inner speech). The secret to overcoming the gap between reason and experience lay in the strategies language made available for bridging the distance between a thing and its representation as a sign. Such negotiation was precisely the work that language does when it is conceived as an activity. Humboldt argued this in a theory that conceived thought as inner speech, and language as the means by which combinations

Footnote 41 continued en sciences sociales in Paris. Vernant was heavily inuenced by Levi-Strauss whose theory of myth plays a large role in Vernants picture of the Greeks (See Vernant 1974). Bollack (1997) has argued that the anthropologically oriented approach missed the mark because it did not pay sufcient attention to ancient Greek language.

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between abstract concepts and immediate intuitions were joined in the synthesis of signs and their referents.42 He says quite unambiguously Language is the formative organ of thought. Intellectual activity entirely mental, entirely internal, and to some extent passing without trace, becomes through sound, externalized in speech and perceptible to the senses.43 The new conception of thinking that results from Kants revolution had immediate repercussions in education. If knowledge resulted from enlightened criticism exercising its judgment through language-enabled thought, how students were taught to think needed to be reformed so as to take these discoveries into account. Both Kant and von Humboldt thus became actively engaged in educational reform, Kant in his attempts to reform the structure of authority at Konigsberg described in his Conict of the Faculties (1798), and von Humboldt through his activity as minister in charge of Prussian education, culminating in the foundation of the University of Berlin in 1810. Key to the educational philosophy of both men was the concept of Bildung, an ideal that derived from Kants famous 1783 essay on Enlightenment, which he denes as mans emergence from his self-imposed immaturity (Unmndigkeit). Immaturity is the inability to use ones understanding without guidance from another.44 Humboldt took from this injunction the idea that education is essentially the act of gradually taking responsibility for ones own knowledge. The term Bildung is closely interwoven with Urbild and Abbild, an original and its reection, the idea being that the individual increasingly makes what he has learned his own. The University of Berlin was founded precisely to enable such autonomy, conceived as a kind of semi-religious transformation of the Greek ideal of paideia: some idea of the utopian excitement aroused can be gathered from the numerous poems and even cantatas that Berlin occasioned when it opened. In one of these, by Clemens von Brentano, the opening chorus (sung by a group of ministers and other government ofcials) proclaims, To teach is sacred work (Es ist ein ttlich Werk zu lehren).45 go Berlin famously became the model for the majority of subsequent research universities across the globe. In each case the meaning of research was different, but for most it was a term conned to the natural sciences. But in Berlin in 1810, the heart of this enterprise was not research in physics or chemistry, areas that have since monopolized the concept.
42 It could be argued that Herder was rst to perceive the relation between thinking and speakingeven before the publication of Kants rst Critique (although not before Kants completion of his Inaugural dissertation). In 1771, Herders prize-winning essay On the Origin of Language had argued, language appears as a natural organ of reason, a sense of the human soul, as the power of visionbuilt for itself the eye and the instinct of the bee builds its cell. Two Essays on the Origin of Language: Rousseau and Herder, trans. John H. Moran and Alexander Gode (1966, p. 128). The reason why Humboldt plays such an important role in Kantian linguistics and Herder does not is that Herder never developed his 1771 insight into a systematic account of how language might serve to connect concept and intuition, as von Humboldt magisterially did. In fact, very soon after publication of the essay on the origin of language by the Berlin Academy, Herder tried to back away from the views he had expressed in the essay. In a letter to his future wife, he went so far as to say of the essay, It is a disaster, I wish it did not exist. Today I would not write it for anything and never again will write anything like it. Cited in Aarsleff, p. 342.

von Humboldt (1999, p. 54). rung ist der Ausgang des Menschen aus seiner selbst verschuldeten Unmu ndigkeit. Unmu ndigkeit Aufkla gen, sich seines Verstandes ohne Leitung eines anderen zu bedienen. Selbstverschuldet ist ist das Unvermo ndigkeit, wenn die Ursache derselben nicht am Mangel des Verstandes, sondern der Entsdiese Unmu chlieung und des Muthes liegt, sich seiner ohne Leitung eines anderen zu bedienen. Sapere aude! Habe rung. Muth dich deines eigenen Verstandes zu bedienen! ist also der Wahlspruch der Aufkla
44 45

43

Quoted in Ziolkowski, p. 295.

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Rather, Humboldt put classical philology, the study of ancient Greek civilization at the center of Berlins effort to encourage autonomy. The royal road to Bildung wound its way through the ancient classics: amassing knowledge of the ancient world and making it ones own in the present was the key to personal enlightenment. Such a course overcame the conundrum of how to teach masses of students how to become individually responsible for their own thought. This is not the place to go into a history of German universities, but a few facts will help us to grasp the rise and fall of philology as a unied subject in the modern period. In barest outline, before 1779, philology as such was not taught; Greek and Latin were studied, of course, as was Hebrew at most places, but their study was in the hands of professors and students in the Theology Faculty. There was no separate philological faculty divorced from the study of the Bible. A century later, Philology was not only well and truly established in Germanys universities, it was the major reason those universities enjoyed the highest reputation all over the world. Giants such as Friedrich August Wolf, Jakob Grimm, August ller, Hermann Diels, and Ulrich von WilBoeckh, Gottfried Hermann, Karl Otfried Mu amowitz-Moellendorff insured that Germany absolutely dominated the study of classical philology, from which all other versions (such as Romance philology) derive. No German university, whether Catholic or Protestant, was without its powerful representative of Alterthumswissenschaft. No other nation could compete with the Germans in this area. The importance of the university as an institution during these yearswhich we today can only envyis explained by the goal it was thought universities could achieve: Bildung was the royal road to creating a race of subjects who would be, in the Kantian sense, both free and responsible. The reformers were attempting to solve the paradox of how to institutionalize autonomy. It was in wrestling with this apparent contradiction that at a crucial moment in German history, philology came to be conceived as more than merely one more discipline among other subjects of study. It came to occupy a central place in education because it was perceived as the best means for realistically objectifying the vision of a vast unifying science, a secular alternative to the former regina scientiarum, theology. At a critical initiatory point in German university reform, then, philology becomes dominant because it was seen as the subject best able to dramatize and instill newly emerging Enlightenment ideals, thus making it a model for what all other forms of education should be.

The end of the golden age Wolfs matriculation as a student of philology in 1777 heralds the beginning of philologys Golden Age. Its apogee is no less certainly marked in the opening of von Humboldts University of Berlin in 1810. But very soon after this, the hope that philology might integrate all the sciencesable to instill the autonomy that Kant had argued was the hallmark of Enlightenmentimplodes. It fragments into new disciplines that challenge its formerly central role. There are many reasons for the collapse, some deriving from the internal history of the discipline, others from changes taking place in German society outside the academy. In retrospect, it was symbolic that a Prussian governmentrecovered from the shock of French invasion and occupationnow determined to re-impose a more conservative government. Von Humboldt was deposed as Minister of Education in the very year his university opened. The academic study of Greek and Roman classics would continue to ourish in German universities, but philologys central role as a universal

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educational ideal was lost. Its decline was dramatically made public in the defection of a young man considered to be one of its brightest future stars. The publication of Nietzsches Birth of Tragedy in 1872, aroused disputes among philologists that made public the disciplines loss of its former magic promise. The books dithyrambic style was at odds with the stately prose that characterized the style of academic philologists up until that time. But what aroused the anger of Nietzsches fellow scholars was his celebration of the Dionysiac aspects of ancient Greece, a slap in the face of their dignied profession as it was then practiced. Nietzsche essentially redened the subject of the discipline in which he then held a chair. Instead of a paradise of noble simplicity and quiet grandeur, he posited a Greece where bacchantes and unreason had their home. Although the books title is the birth of tragedy, it really tells the tale, as Nietzsche sees it, of the death of Greek tragedy. In celebrating the Dionysian qualities in Aeschylus and Sophocles, Nietzsche attacked the demise of real tragedy among the Greeks in their later turn to apollonian Euripides, who was, Nietzsche charged, sympathetic to the rational worldview of Socrates and Plato: metaphysics replaced music in Athens. Nietzsches argument aroused the ire of another, even younger philologist, Ulrich Wilamowitz-Moellenmdorff (18481931), who, was already famous for his encyclopedic knowledge of classical culture. But Greek tragedyand especially Euripideswas a specialty of his, so he found Nietzsches book particularly offensive. He published a review of The Death of Tragedy (Philology of the Future!),46 a withering and factually detailed critique of Nietzsches scholarship. Having written so eccentric and factually unsound book, he implied, Nietzsche should get out of the profession. The majority of scholars agreed with Wilamowitz-Moellendorf. The following seven years were hellish for Nietzsche, scorned by his peers and avoided by students at Basle; he nally gave up his Chair in 1879. The dispute Nietzsche initiates may be read as an outward sign of the problems facing philology as a discipline in the years following its triumph in the rst decades of the nineteenth century. Already ten years earlier, when as a precocious twenty-four year old Nietzsche assumed the Chair of Classical Philology at Basle University, he had made clear that philology was already in trouble due to its all-encompassing ambition. He opened his inaugural lecture by recognizing the parlous state of the discipline he had been called to profess: At the present day no clear and consistent opinion seems to be held regarding classical philology. We are conscious of this in the circles of the learned just as much as among the followers of that science itself. The cause of this lies in its many-sided character, in the lack of an abstract unity, and in the inorganic aggregation of heterogeneous scientic activities which are connected with one another only by the name philology.47 What Nietzsche is concerned about in these remarks is the extraordinary disciplinary mitosis that divides philology in these years. Boeckhs triumphant denition of it as das Erkentniss des Erkannten, the knowledge of what is known,48 made clear how bloated the claims being made for philology had become. His dream of a great all-encompassing empire of knowledge would lead to the break up of classical philology. In his Encyklopedie
46 47

For a detailed account of Wilamowitz-Moellendorffs attack, see Groth (1950, pp. 179190).

Kennedy, p. 1. http://www.davemckay.co.uk/philosophy/nietzsche/nietzsche.php?name=nietzsche.1869. homerandclassicalphilology.kennedy accessed, September 1, 2010.


48

Klussman (1886, p. 10).

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he writes about philological sciences in the plural, and the great bulk of his book (over 600 pages) is devoted to separate chapters on agriculture, coinage, architecture, economics, music, etc. of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Philologys claims to be an allencompassing science broke down under the weight of its own ambition, resulting in a reduced and splintered discipline. In the process of its decline, philological study of the Greek past had produced systematic effects on its own culture. It did so because some of the major features in its makeup had an inherent a capacity for development beyond the limited scope of ancient Greece. Among these were the emphases philology put on topics of language, history, and literature, each of which now spun off new disciplines not associated with philology. German Romanticism was enabled by the efforts of a small group of young men who, at the end of the eighteenth century, reoriented philological attention to language, history, and literature in new directions. The modern study of vernacular languages, the modern (postNiebuhr/von Ranke) study of history, and the new study of national literatures all now became academic subjects that threatened to eclipse their philological parent. Romantiker such as Friedrich von Schlegel took for granted the extraordinary importance that Fichte, Humboldt, and other leading thinkers of the period assigned to language. But they were also aware that language was taking on new meanings in light of developments outside classical philology. The most signicant of these was the demonstration in 1786 by Sir William Jones of the historical kinship between Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, and the Germanic languages. The signicance of this event can hardly be overstated, not only because of its foundational role in the rise of the modern science of linguistics, but also because of the expanded new sense of values that it opened up. Jones not only showed connections between Sanskrit and the European languages (no philologer could examine all three without believing them to have sprung from some common source), but he did so in terms that valorized the greater antiquity of Sanskrit: The Sanskrit language, whatever be its antiquity, is of a wonderful structure; more perfect than the Greek, more copious than the Latin, and more exquisitely rened than either49 Here were new vistas in timeand in taste. Sanskrita language not only older, but more rened than Greek! It is not by chance that the study of Sanskrit should soon nd its greatest centers in Germany, where the prestige of Greek was higher than in any other European nation. In 1808 Friedrich Schlegel published ber die Sprache und Weisheit der Indier,50 eloquently calling for a deeper study of Sanskrit in German universities. In the wake of universities that came back to life or were founded in the years following the Napoleonic Wars, new chairs for Sanskrit studies were established. Bonn University opened its doors in 1818, and in the very next year August Schlegel (Friedrichs brother) was appointed professor of Sanskrit. The history and comparison of Indo-European languages became an important new subject in its own right, making the nineteenth century the origin of modern linguistics. Germany dominated the new discipline of Sprachwissenschaft. It was recognized internationally thatas Yales William Dwight Whitney put it in 1867the birth of linguistics, has been wholly the work of the present century51 Moreover, As Whitney went on to concede, Germany is, far more than any other country, the birthplace and home of the

49 50

As quoted in Robins (1990, p. 149).

You can see the shift in philology in Schlegels own career: in 1797 and 1798, he had published books on the Greeks and the Romans; but a mere decade later, he was publishing on Sanskrit.
51

Whitney (1867, p. 1).

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study of language, and he goes on to list the great pioneers of linguistics such as Humboldt, Bopp, Grimm, etc., all of whom are German.52 Those who pioneered linguistics in other countries, such as Whitney himself, got their ller in England, expatriates from Germany. training in Germany, or were, like Max Mu Rasmus Rask (a Dane working in Germany), Jakob Grimm, Franz Bopp, and Wilhelm von Humboldt himself, were indeed the founders of the new science of linguistics. The climax to this development occurs in 1878 when Osthoff and Brugmann publish their paper on Morphological Researches, the manifesto of the Neo-grammarian school that marks the transition from the old comparative method to the new scientic method of linguistics (there is some irony in the fact that this was only a year after the publication of the nal, authoritative version of Boeckhs encyclopedic account of classical philology [1877]). The new science was conscious that it was indeed a new science, and not just a continuation of philology: Researches into the genealogies and afnities of words have exercised the ingenuity of numberless generations of acute and inquiring mindsNothing, however, that deserved the name of a science was the result of these older investigations in ` -vis the domain of language53 Philology is specically put into its (inferior) place vis-a the new science, and is now regarded as a mere handmaidenthe forerunner and founder of the science of human speech.54 So, the rst new discipline that classical philology gives birth to in Germany is linguistics, understood rst as the comparative study of the several languages in the Indo-European family, but increasingly after the 1860s as the berhaupt). study, the science, indeed, of language itself (die Sprache u A second new discipline that emerges out of philologys decline in the same years is a logical development of the rst: specialized research on non-classical, vernacular language families, producing rst German (as opposed to Classical) philology (Germanistik) in such masterpieces of scholarship as Grimms Deutsche Grammatik (18191837) and his great dictionary, nished only in the twentieth century. Romance philology, especially the study of French, now ourished. At the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century, it was again the Germans who would play a leading role even in this area of bkes great 4 volume grammar of the Romance lanscholarship, resulting in Meyer-Lu guages (1890-1902) and his 13 volume etymological dictionary (19111920). The uncontrolled mitosis of German classical scholarship produced among its other affects the departments of national language and literature in modern universities. Perhaps predictably, national traditions were translated into departments of national literatures55 rst in nations on Europes periphery, such as Russia and the United States, and then later in

52 53

Ibid., p. 4.

Ibid., p. 2. Nevertheless, it took almost another century before linguists were able to get recognition from other sciences. In December, 1923, the American Philological Association, which was still the professional society most linguists belonged to, held its meeting in Cincinnati, because the august American Association for the Advancement of Science (founded 1848) was meeting in that city. The negotiations worked, and the Linguistic society of America was founded (and recognized by AAAS) in 1924. Cf. Sturtevant (1924, pp. 142144).
54 55

Whitney, p. 3.

The moment when literature begins to be studied as a subject in its own right is always a turning point in a cultures literacy. The study of Arabic poetry qua poetry is a particularly interesting example. Because of the need to separate the Arabic of the Koran from the canonical poetry written in Arabic before the seventh century, Al-Suli (880-946) called for the establishment of literary criticism as a separate discipline already in the tenth century. For this fascinating story, see Gruendler (2010).

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condent old centers such as Oxford (rst Merton Chair in English, 1885).56 The international, non-nationalist study of ancient Greece broke up into the national and nationalist study of increasingly modern literatures. Philologyenvisioned by the founders of the University of Berlin in 1810 as unier of all other knowledgewas 50 years later a fractured science splintered into several different disciplines. Although Philology is still to be found in European universities (where it is felt to be somewhat anachronous) it now gures in the United States as a professional modier almost exclusively among classicists as a descriptor in journal titles and professional associations. Experts on ancient Indian, Arabic, or Asian languages and literatures are scattered across the academic map in departments of area studies, anthropology, linguistics, and a number of other units in which they are housed in decreasing numbers.

Philology and world literature The decline of the particular form of philology that fueled the ambitious dreams of the late German Enlightenment is what has conduced to the general sense that philology, as a subject, is dead. But that version of philology was always more a dream of German idealist and Romantic utopians than a fully actualized institution. Contemporary calls to revive philology, even when made by modern sophisticates such as Paul De Man, are naive in ways that are similar to seventeenth and eighteenth century attempts to identify the original language spoken by humans (variously identied as Hebrew, Swedishor my favorite Flemish).57 We cannot go back beyond Babel; there is no trans-historical version of philology to which we can return. The Golden Age was philologys high point because under challenging new conditions it reinvented what the discipline had been. If philology is to play a role in the still unfolding drama of world literature, it will have to reinvent itself again. As the greatest philologists have discovered again and again, there is no original text, even of such carefully maintained documents as the Bible, the Koran, Homer, the Confucian classics, or the ancient Vedic texts. It is signicant that exposure of forgeries plays so large a role in the history of so many different schools of philology. As Wolf himself says in his Prolegomena to Homer: If we demand the bard in Simon-pure condition, and are not content with what contented Plutarch, Longinus, or Proclus, we will have to take refuge either in empty prayers, or in unrestrained license in divination.58
56 It was characteristic of foreign language departments in the US as late as the 1970 s to have specialists in the language as well as the literature of their area. Such experts would teach courses in the history of their particular language, plus courses on how to read the earliest manuscripts in Anglo-Saxon, Old Church Slavonic, Old High German, etc. Such experts would usually not have an appointment in the linguistics departments of their universities (orat very liberal campuseswould have at most a joint appointment in linguistics). Even this last institutional vestige of the old commitment of philology to a combined study of language and literature has now pretty much died out. 57 58

See Olender (1992) for details.

Prolegomena, 1985, p. 46. The concept of philological doubt (i.e., there is no original text) is extremely complicated. Scholars such as the Oratorian Richard Simon (16381712) might conclude, as he did in his Critical History of the Old Testament, that much of scripture was corrupt because of the machinations of the Masorete Jews, or because the Church at its inception had no version of the Bible except for the Greek Septuagint. But he then, as I noted above, went on to claim that while the text was corrupt, the holy mother Church was not, and believers could be secure in their faith because of Gods covenant with Catholic custom

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Knowing that there are no original texts, authoritative because they are of a purity denied other versions did not mean for the early Renaissance scholar Lorenzo Valla, or the Qing dynasty philologist Hao Ching the same thing as post-modernist declarations of the death of the author. Philology is a version of academic agnosticism: beginning with the conviction that there is no text privileged in itself, the scholar then goes on to do the work of establishing as honestly and as painstakingly as he can, what might be called a good enough text. As Wolf says of his work on the Iliad and the Odyssey: Once I gave up hope, then, that the original form of the Homeric Poems could ever be laid out save in our minds, and even there only in rough outlines, it seemed appropriate to investigate how far the ancient evidence would take us in polishing these eternal and unique remains of the Greek genius.59 Philology, then, as I began by saying, is a multiple history, composed of the various attempts made at different times and in different places to appropriate past meanings through minute study of texts based on expert knowledge of language. It is, in other words, the history of how a set of technical practices (attention to changes in grammar, lexicon, the appearance of neologisms, changes in word usage, spotting details in manuscripts such as dittographies, etc.) has been employed across the globe and in different ages to establish as close to a past textual meaning as humans reasonably can be expected to achieve. There are, then, living aspects of philology so understood that might well be helpful to scholars in the emerging age of world literature. But this can be the case only if the differences between the texts traditionally studied by philology and the new texts coming on-line in world literature are taken into account. Without the technical skills that have dened it for millennia, philology does not exist. That is what is meant when we say it is a way of reading. Traditional philology, devoted to the ancient works that have always been its targetthe establishment of denitive editions, work on historical changes in the technologies of literacy, etc.will go on. The exploration of meaning from the past never ends. However, in order to be part of world literature, the skills that dene philology will have to be integrated into a vast new body of texts, different from those that have been its traditional subject of study in almost every way. A crucial difference will be the new temporal horizons of world literature texts, many of which are of recent creation. World literature expands not only the spatial limits of literary study; it widens as well the time frame from the earliest writings to works that appeared yesterday. So the rst adjustment philology will have to make is to bring the skills it has honed over the centuries from the study of antiquarian works to bear on very recent, even contemporary, works. This can be done only within the shared activity of a community, a group of scholars with different skills but with shared aims. It is sentimental to call for philologys return; under the revolutionary conditions of world literature it must once again re-invent itself, as it did in the eighteenth century. It can no longer be the enterprise of individual giants of learning, legendary gures such as Wilamowitz-Moellendorff, intimidating in their solitude of their erudition, intimidating in their pietist-Lutheran single-mindedness and selfabnegation, scholars whose names will be awful through all the schools of North
Footnote 58 continued as laid down over the centuries. This is doubt only on its way to philological status. Wolf goes all the way: for him, there is no supernatural guarantor of the truth that stands over against corrupt texts: only the learning and labor of the scholar in the present can come up with a (good enough) truth from the past.
59

Prolegomena, 1995, p. 47.

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Germany So philologists will have to continue to learn to work in their own narrow area of expertise, but as well nd new ways to bring their knowledge to a table they share with other specialists expert in different kinds of reading. Without the technical skills that have dened it for millennia, philology does not exist. Thats what is meant when we say it is a way of reading. But new ways must be explored to use these techniques in conjunction with colleagues who read in other ways. One way in which world literature makes itself felt as a radical challenge to the academy is that it calls into question some of the most sacred idols of the professorial tribe. Humanists of all kinds must necessarily work together if they are to be responsible to multiple texts and their clashing traditions. It may well be that World literature is fully in play once several foreign works begin to resonate together in our mind,60 but I suspect that resonance will be all the richer if it derives from a choira choir in which a small role would be assigned to narrow experts in the particular cultures from which those foreign works derive. That is, the kind of learning required to read philologically is necessarily narrow, because it must be so deep. Very few human beings possess the gifts required to be at home in the history and linguistics of more than one culture. The history of the discipline that used to be known as Comparative Grammarbased on tracing liations between ancient Sanskrit and modern European vernacularsfoundered on just this limitation. The inevitable result was, as Saussure noted, that their work was exclusively comparative, not historical.61 What Im suggesting is that much as World Literature is not a canon of particular texts, but rather a mode of reading, so is philology. But it is a way to read that is necessarily at the opposite end of the spectrum from that which is appropriate to world literature. I hasten to add, that this polarity difference does not disqualify the two reading strategies from working to inter-illuminate each other. The depth of historical and linguistic knowledge that philology requires mandates it devote itself to single cultures. As a result, it has in the modern period all too often been used as one of the weapons in the armory of nationalism. But there is no necessary connection between the technical skills of philology and the particular texts on which those skills are brought to bear. As I tried to suggest earlier, just as there is a world literature, so is there a world philology whose integrity is ensured not by what it studies, so much as how it studies. Deep study of texts is of course possible in any language and could help enrich the work that other experts concentrating on different aspects might do. I have been using the word text as if it were an unproblematic term, but of course it is not: not only are we entering a new age of world literature; we must as well attend the fresh challenges raised by digitization in all its ramifying variety. It is still not clear how philological skills, wedded as they are to writing in more stable formats such as tablets, scrolls, or codices will be brought to bear on such evanescent works as, for instance, the cell phone novels so popular in Japan. It is not inconceivable that philology in the future will shift its attention from the material stuff of literacy, such as books and manuscripts, screens and other digitally produced texts to the physical act of reading itself. It would do so not as a rehearsal of amateurish reader response criticism, but as a turn to the intricacies of the brains activity as it translates visual signals from the page into aural signals in the brain, thus realizing the text as language (i.e., as phonemes able to convey meaning). If philology as we have
60 61

Damrosch (2003, p. 298). de Saussure (1966, p. 4).

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known it were to morph into a science devoted to the neurophysiology of literacy, its relevance to world literature would immediately be enhanced, if only because the human brain is the most cosmopolitan of all sites of text production.62

References
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