Professor Sarah Kay
The discipline of philology is sometimes associated with dry, mechanical operations on dead texts (“the least sexy and most unmodern of any of the branches of learning associated with humanism,” as Edward Saïd put it). But the love of the word that is at its heart has long been a motive force in literary studies and has given rise to some impassioned and deeply intellectual writing over the last 50 years. As one of the key, indeed defining, disciplines of medieval studies, Philology has undergone a series of theoretical revolutions in that time. In the 1980s the collision of poststructuralist theory with text-editing generated a series of academic querelles which have transformed the ways we conceive of medieval authorship and textuality. Acquiring the skills to discuss the status of the medieval text and enter into discussion of the surviving copies is all the more urgent now that manuscripts are increasingly accessible in digitized form, their availability now almost banal.
This course is in 3 main sections. The first charts the development of the new philology and the disputes over text-editing in the light of key concepts such as mouvance (Zumthor), discourse (Fleischman), variance (Cerquiglini), and their implications for text editing (weeks 1- 4). The next elaborates the study of the material page, looking at mise en page, mise en texte, the concept of the “manuscript matrix,” illumination, and sonority (manuscript as soundscape), using work by Busby, Nichols, Rust, Cruse, Kay, and others (weeks 5-7). The last is about divergent and emergent philologies. We will look at how philology is pursued across languages, at the field of digital philology, and at the intersections between philology and such approaches as postcolonial theory, queer theory, object-related ontology and animal studies (weeks 8-13). A number of visitors will help to guide us through some of these developments.
The course will also comprise a practical dimension in that students will learn to transcribe from manuscript and, by experimenting with editing, confront in their own practice the issues it involves. Students who come with a project to work on can use this workshop dimension of the class to further their own goals. Any topic that involves work on a manuscript or printed book that is accessible via digital scans and that lends itself to the concerns of the class will be acceptable: it does not need to be medieval or early modern.
Students who do not have a project immediately in their sights can work on one that I shall propose, in the field of medieval French. From as early as Week 2, class time will be divided between the general readings listed in the syllabus and their application in these practical projects.