Monday, May 06, 2019


A Swamp of Trivia

Roberta Frank, "The Unbearable Lightness of Being a Philologist," Journal of English and Germanic Philology 96 (1997) 486–513 (at 499-500):
Philology has always seemed to its critics to delight overmuch in piling up facts—and to end up bogged down in a swamp of trivia. A parody written in 1908 has the professor of Greek making this response to a scene in Plato's Protagoras: "As you see, gentlemen, the porter shut the gate [on Socrates and his companions]. At this passage anyone would be struck by the question of how this gate was constructed, and also by the important still unresolved problem of door-shutting in antiquity."44 A tolerance for pedantry, for the obscure, esoteric, and devious, characterizes Philology still. Doors are not shut until the last, tiniest fragments of a text's preceding and surrounding world are fully extracted, listed, restored, and conserved.

44. Grafton, Defenders of the Text, p. 214; cited in Patterson, "The Return to Philology," p. 244.
Related post: Door-Shutting in Antiquity.

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