Rhetoric of Philosophical Discourse – Philology in Exile
108 002 | CCN: 10030
Philology in Exile
Instructor: James I Porter
Location: Social Sciences Building 54
Date / Time: Tu/Th 12:30pm - 1:59pm
Philology is the study of language in its various manifestations in texts. Its origins in the West lie in classical Greece and, later, in modern classical studies. In the 19th century, philology branched out to cover all ancient and modern languages and literatures, and today it is the unspoken method that underlies every study of texts read as texts. In the process, philology in the modern era frequently served to underwrite and legitimize national, colonial, and imperial aspirations by treating languages and their products as possessions to be had. Conducted in the language of the conquerors, philology became the arbiter of the languages of the conquered. More recently, calls have been made to decolonize philologies. We will consider this historical evolution from a still understudied angle—namely, philology as conducted off-site and off-label—in “exile”—by writers who were marked on racial, ethnic, and disciplinary grounds as ineligible to conduct philology in its conventional academic forms. In response, these writers, a great many of whom happened to be Jewish, turned their focus from the past towards life in the present and the everyday. They produced counterphilologies designed to call out harsh realities in the present that were distorting the realities of the past and the present. Taking our cue from this past, we can learn how counterphilologies challenge existing notions of what constitutes a text, its interpretation, and its ideological value. The aim of “Philology in Exile” will be to engage this history, to arrive at a robust definition of counterphilology as a template for philologies of the future, and to outline a practice that students can carry out in their own lives, given their own experiences of ethnic and racial inequality, and starting with blog posts and then with final papers or public-facing individual and team projects.
No prerequisites. Students from all disciplines are welcome, including STEM and the social sciences.
Format: Close readings and discussions of the principal texts with supplementary readings (TBA).
Principal Texts: Spinoza, Tractatus Theologico-Politicus (sel.); Jacob Bernays (on catharsis); Marx, “The Jewish Question”; Nietzsche, “We Philologists” (sel.); Freud, Moses and Monotheism; Auerbach, “The Scar of Odysseus”; Adorno and Horkheimer, Dialectic of Enlightenment (sel.); Rachel Bespaloff, On the Iliad; Borges, “I, a Jew” and “The Immortal”; Walter Benjamin, “On the Concept of History” and “On Language as Such and on the Language of Man”; Adorno, “Antithesis” (Minima Moralia); Negative Dialectics (sel.); Victor Klemperer, The Language of the Third Reich; Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem; Levinas, Difficult Freedom (sel.); Derek Walcott, “The Muse of History”; Derrida, “Abraham, the Other” and Monolingualism of the Other; Toni Morrison, “Unspeakable Things Unspoken”