Fall 201660 / 58

The Program in World Philology (PWP) aims to unite Columbia scholars across departments and schools around the discipline-based study of texts. Philology, defined over the course of its history as everything from text criticism to “slow reading” to “all erudition in language,” is at base the discipline of making sense of texts. Under this description philology is almost as old as the production of written texts themselves. Over time it has proven to be as central to knowledge as mathematics or philosophy, and its methods, like theirs, have similarly been adopted in other disciplines.

However we define philology it always entails some understanding of the contexts in which texts are produced and in which they circulate/d. In this lecture I shall examine some of the practices that often shape such contexts through looking at the place of manuscripts as they travel from a writer’s working space into collections. Such collections are never stable but grow or disintegrate and in attempting to re-constitute a work from disparate manuscript copies the micro-histories of manuscript movements have to be taken into account. Working in Timbuktu’s manuscript libraries we have found the limitations of working solely from published texts and catalogues and similar scholarly apparatuses. 

View the full history of lectures for The Program in World Philology.


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