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This principle, too, continues to be fundamental to modern philological practice. Or so it seems; in fact, after all, even such a text is the product of philological activity. At risk of paradox, we might observe that the concrete text, seemingly independent of its editor, is a philological interpolation; it is the interpolation produced by a refusal to interpolate. Elsewhere Gumbrecht uses presence as the basis for an advocacy of silent attention, a wordless erotics of literature. But Gumbrecht has a valid point nonetheless: philology is concrete.

If Passannante is right, then philology is fundamentally, one might say inevitably, engaged with material, with those concrete moments when the world—or the text—refuses to yield to our desires to mold it. It is its emphasis on the concrete that gives philology its enormous scope.


He describes his procedure as follows:. Again, a belief is involved […] that the mind of an author is a kind of solar system into whose orbit all categories of things are attracted: language, motivation, plot, are only satellites of this mythological entity as my antimentalistic adversaries would call it : mens Philippina.

The linguist as well as his literary colleague must always ascend to the etymon which is behind all those particular so-called literary or stylistic devices which the literary historians are wont to list. And the individual mens Philippina is a reflection of the mens Franco-Gallica of the twentieth century.

Spitzer attributes to the work what he finds in the world: he explicates , and thus seems to remain concrete. This example makes clear how and in what way philology is not historicism or antiquarianism. Historicism attempts to develop a representation of an epoch; it treats texts as evidence and deploys them as keys to their contexts. It aims for systematicity and comprehensiveness.

Its view is from above. Philology may aspire to work with the whole inventory of historical knowledge, but it organizes this inventory from within a single perspective immanent to its text. It is to be found instead in its longstanding relationship with disciplines of the material text like paleography, codicology, and papyrology. These disciplines take their force and their pleasure from the embodied relationship of text and eye and hand.

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Their objects are not inert material: rather, like literary texts they are socio-historical nodes, points of critical density where philological practice acquires a concrete vantage point. As is also the case with the literary text, philology is the site at which these material practices congeal and acquire significance, resonance, and tangibility.

It is a sur realism. That philology is figurative means that it generates meaning through the tacit positing of correspondences between real historical entities. Homer, quite simply, has not heard of us, and so cannot be explained on our terms. This represents a radical negation of any possible claim to contemporaneity.

Examples of the results are easy to come by. Dodds does not say this—indeed, saying so would violate the principle of interpretive immanence. The relationship between the objectified text and the moment when it is produced by a philologist like Dodds is, rather, akin to the relationship between a figure and its fulfillment in Christian eschatology.

He is most well known for his development of one such starting point: that of mimesis, or the representation of reality in European letters. But this discrete technique allows Auerbach to reveal a central occupation for modern historical thought: signifying both material form first in Lucretius , consciously arranged language most importantly in Quintilian , and the real historical events which find fulfillment in Christological history Turtullian and Augustine , the notion of figura posits rich and resonant connections between radically distinct historical events and contexts.

Figural interpretation creates a connection between two events or persons in which one signifies not only itself but also the other—and that one is also encompassed or fulfilled by the other. The two poles of the figure are separate in time, but they both also lie within time as real events or figures.

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As I have repeatedly emphasized, both figures are part of the ongoing flow of historical life. Only the act of understanding, the intellectus spiritualis , is spiritual. But this spiritual act must deal with each of the two poles in their given or desired concrete reality as past, present, or future events, respectively—and not as abstractions or concepts.

Walter Benjamin was thinking in a mode very much in harmony with this when he undertook the massive and ultimately unfinished study of the Paris arcades of the nineteenth century. Benjamin was no classical philologist. But Rudolph Pfeiffer was, and we find him exploiting the same figurative rhetoric.

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This is a conscious and worked-out historical schema. But we shall see in modern times a sequence of three stages analogous, on a grand scale, to that in the third century B. First came the revival of Scholarship in the Italian renaissance during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries A.

Erich Auerbach and the Crisis of German Philology

Pfeiffer does not provide a theoretical explanation for these repetitions; but they seem to bespeak a philosophy of history in which the relationship between ancient and modern philological history is figural. Another prefiguration, however, appears to insist against the large-scale correspondences just outlined.

We shall find only one parallel in the Italian Renaissance of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries A. The emphasis one is his. Why now does he wish to take away the possibility of a complete sequence of fulfillments over the whole course of modern philology, to retract it and install in its place only the first part of that broader narrative, that is, the Italian renaissance?

Some further correspondences, unstated but hard to pass over, provide clues. The generation of Aristarchus, which for Pfeiffer is the fulfillment and final flowering of the Hellenistic tradition of scholarship, is marred by political crises that lead to the scholarly abandonment of Alexandria and the end of the great epoch of its fruitfulness. From this secessio doctorum the first crisis ensued in the history of scholarship.

Or perhaps he has something else in mind. Equally interesting is the fact that both historicism and realism turn up at the end of the first volume of the History as well, in the context of a figurative prolepsis of nineteenth-century German scholarship:. Demetrius was justly praised, in so far as his realistic exegesis furthered the understanding of a special part of the Iliad.

But in a case like his the poetry itself may get lost from sight behind the mountains of learned stuff heaped upon it. Five generations in Alexandria had been working to restore and to explain the literary creations of the past for their own sake. If the poems were to become merely sources for historical or topographical research, the objective of classical scholarship would be almost lost.

This danger is for the first time apparent in the new Pergamene antiquarianism. Writing in an age in which realist, historicist approaches to literature seemed to have begun to wither the work of restoring and explaining classical poetry on its own terms, Pfeiffer seemed to imagine his age as marked by the shipwreck of classical philology; a world in fragments, which, as it were, breathlessly awaited the next appearance of philologia perennis.

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Cultural Studies and Ecdotics. Gurd, — Find this resource:. Apter, E. Princeton, N. Auerbach, E. Translated by W. Translated by J. Edited by J. Benes, T.

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Benjamin, W. Selected Writings, Volume 4, — Edited by H. Eiland and M. Cambridge, Mass. The Arcades Project. Eiland and R. Bontempelli, P. Breslin, C. Bryant, J. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.