Program in World Philology

As part of the Program in World Philology, Karin Barber discusses "Traditions of Exegesis: What Audiences do with Oral and Written texts in Africa."

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.

Philologists seek to understand how texts come into existence, how we determine their authenticity (and what “authenticity” can mean), how they are structured, and how they produce effects across different reading communities through time.  Its object of study is language concretized in texts, and its theory is interpretation, which has been developed across world philological traditions to make sense of texts. Its research methods include (but are not limited to) grammatical, text-critical, rhetorical, historical, and hermeneutical analysis. Philology is constitutively reflexive, aware of its own factitiousness and historicity as a knowledge form; it treats itself as an object of reflexive analysis, and its practitioners know and build on a tradition.

Program in World Philology