The Powers of Philology
About the BookPhilology–-the discovery, editing, and presentation of historical texts–-was once a firmly established discipline that formed the core study for students across a wide range of linguistic and literary fields. Although philology departments are steadily disappearing from contemporary educational establishments, in this book Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht demonstrates that the problems, standards, and methods of philology remain as vital as ever.
For two and a half millennia philologists have viewed themselves as the modest heirs and curators of their textual past's most glorious periods, collecting and editing text fragments, historicizing them and adding commentary, and ultimately teaching them to contemporary readers.
Gumbrecht argues for a return to this tradition as an alternative to an often free-floating textual interpretation and to the more recent redefinition of literary studies as "cultural studies," which risks a loss of intellectual focus. Such a return to philological core exercises, however, can become more than yet another movement of academic nostalgia only if it takes into account the hidden desire that has inspiredphilology since its Hellenistic beginnings: the desire to make the past present again by embodying it.