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Abstract

Many Jewish communities around the world have maintained a special site, known as a genizah, for discarding written materials. This article focuses on the genizah of the town of Safed in the Galilee. At the end of the sixteenth century, the Safed Genizah preserved Hebrew manuscripts written by Ḥayyim Vital (d. 1620), foremost student of the influential kabbalist Yitsḥaḳ Luria (d. 1572). These manuscripts were excavated and edited in the mid-seventeenth century and became authoritative texts in the history of Jewish esotericism. My study describes Vital’s burial of his manuscripts and the editorial efforts of the Jewish scholars who followed him, particularly Avraham Azulai (d. 1643) in Hebron and Ya‘akov Tsemaḥ (d. 1666) and his fellowship in Jerusalem. Through analysis of their rhetoric and scribal practices, I explore the ethical, philological, and material aspects of this chapter in the pre-history of Genizah research.

Open Access
In: Philological Encounters
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In: Philological Encounters
In: Philological Encounters
Free access
In: Philological Encounters
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Abstract

This article on the place of the Qurʾān and Islamic theology in Ḥayy ibn Yaqẓān constitutes a study in textual citation and excision articulated in two main parts. The first part of the article studies the interconnections between philosophy and theology in Ibn Ṭufayl’s (d. 581/1185) life and the references to the Qurʾān and to Islamic theology in his Risālat Ḥayy ibn Yaqẓān. In the second part, I track the engagement with the Qurʾān and Islamic theology in the early-modern Latin and English variants of the tale. The article provides a detailed study of the Qurʾanic passages in translation, and reflects on practices of citation, excision and significant paratextual reorganisations. The article argues that the case is less one where the Qurʾān and Islamic theology are excised from the tale and vanish from view, than one where the tale is ‘de-Islamised’ so that it can serve intra-Christian and orientalist interests. The issue resides in making the Qurʾān and Islam epistemically dispensable and in disabling them as hermeneutic interlocutors to be reckoned with in a theological and philosophical debate.

In: Philological Encounters

Abstract

In this Philological Conversation, Dilip M. Menon dwells on the questions of how to think concepts and theorize from the Global South and on writing history beyond the Eurocentric, colonial, nationalist, and terrestrial. We discuss the political and epistemic implications and consequences of such urgent tasks. Dilip M. Menon speaks about his affinities with Edward Said, Mikhail Bakhtin, and Walter Benjamin, among others, and refects on the themes of coloniality of knowledge, postcoloniality, decoloniality, oceanic history, and the idea of paracoloniality. He links his earlier works to his recent decolonial intellectual projects and discusses his intellectual formation and his practice as a historian and social theorist. Put together via e-mail exchanges, this conversation is a culmination of several in-person conversations that took place in Beirut, Delhi and Berlin. One only hopes for many more to come.

In: Philological Encounters

Abstract

There is not much by way of literary theory for kakawin—the classical literature of Java. This article proposes a semiotic model for the study of belletristic texts in Old Javanese: one that is based on the study of literary commonplaces that we have called kawi-samayas. Given the way the mental world of kakawin is deeply enmeshed with the external, natural world, we focus on the ecoliterary treatment of Kapat, the fourth month in the Javanese calendar. By studying the poetic elaboration of motifs related to Kapat in several kakawin texts, beginning with Monaguṇa’s Sumanasāntaka, we discuss the notions of poetic memory and literary tradition. The idea of poetic memory also helps in chalking out the active role of literary audiences in shaping the allusive and reflexive aesthetics of kakawin literature.

In: Philological Encounters
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In: Journal of World Literature
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Abstract

This article explores the impact of the Nobel Prize in Literature on the acquisition policies of literary archives. Focusing on laureates and the twenty-first-century fate of their manuscripts, it argues that the international reach of the prize is mirrored by a contemporary archival landscape that is at once global and unequal. Although many archives concentrate on collecting material from the linguistic and cultural context of which they themselves form part, the past two decades have also seen the emergence of a competitive international market for the papers of authors whose writings are marked – through high-profile distinctions such as the Nobel Prize – as belonging to the world literary canon. Illustrating its larger argument with the help of three case studies (Harold Pinter, J.M. Coetzee, Gabriel García Márquez), the article suggests that archivization consecrates laureates’ papers as global heritage at the same time that it reinforces the logic of literary nativism.

In: Journal of World Literature