Commenting by Weaving Together Texts: Veṅkaṭanātha’s Seśvaramīmāṃsā and the Sanskrit Philosophical Commentaries

In: Philological Encounters
Elisa Freschi Austrian Academy of Sciences and University of Vienna

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What makes a text a “commentary”? The question is naive enough to allow a complicated answer. In Sanskrit there is not a single word for “commentary”. The present study focuses on an exemplary case study, that of Veṅkaṭanātha’s commentary on the Seśvaramīmāṃsā, and concludes that Sanskrit philosophical commentaries share certain characteristics: 1. several given texts are their main interlocutors/they are mainly about a set of particular texts; 2. they belong to a genre in its own right and are not a minor specialisation for authors at the beginnings of their careers; 3. they are characterised by a varied but strong degree of textual reuse; 4. they are characterised by a shared interlanguage that their authors must have assumed was well known to their audiences; 5. they allow for a significant degree of innovation. The use of the plural in point No. 1 is discussed extensively within the paper.

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