Browse results

You are looking at 1 - 10 of 71 items for :

  • Asian Studies x
  • Comparative Studies & World Literature x
  • Criticism & Theory x
Clear All

Abstract

In the late sixteenth century, the Mughal Emperor Akbar sponsored the translation of more than one dozen Sanskrit texts into Persian, chief among them the Mahābhārata. The epic was retitled the Razmnāma (Book of War) in Persian and rapidly became a seminal work of Mughal imperial culture. Within the Razmnāma, the Mughal translators devoted particular attention to sections on political advice. They rendered book twelve (out of eighteen books), the Śānti Parvan (Book of Peace), into Persian at disproportionate length to the rest of the text and singled out parts of this section to adorn with quotations of Persian poetry. Book twelve also underwent significant transformations in terms of its content as Mughal thinkers reframed the Mahābhārata’s views on ethics and sovereignty in light of their own imperial interests. I analyze this section of the Razmnāma in comparison to the original Sanskrit epic and argue that the Mughal translators reformulated parts of the Mahābhārata’s political advice in both style and substance in order to speak directly to Emperor Akbar. The type of advice that emerged offers substantial insight into the political values that Mughal elites sought to cultivate through translating a Sanskrit work on kingship.

In: Philological Encounters

Abstract

Nineteenth-century travelogues by British travelers to Persia commonly include warnings against “excessive” Persian politeness, casting it as flattery or deceit. While this pejorative representation of Persian cordiality is a token of British Orientalism, it also highlights the incompatible measures for pleasantries in Persia and Britain. This essay traces the competing economies of social courtesy in these two contexts: a desire for utmost calculability in the British market entailed a new conception of politeness, one more moderate and commercial; by contrast, Persian politeness operated through gift-giving and “extravagant” greetings and complimenting. While the former hinges on a “modern” conception of commerce, the latter pivots around the bargain entailed in gift-giving. (Mis)recognition and (mis)translation of Persian “excess” as the hypocrisy of the ancien régime in the travelogues, however, signpost a teleological fabrication of the past which urges a global circulation of the British notion of polite character.

In: Philological Encounters

Abstract

In the New Science (1744), Giambattista Vico defined filologia as “the doctrine of all the institutions that depend on human choice” of the mondo civile. When nineteenth-century European nationalism was on the rise, supported by narratives of cultural homogeneity and specificity, philological comparatism was the state-of-the-art and it, often, legitimated the obsessions with the purity of origins and genealogies. Italy, characterized by internal plurality and its Mediterranean entanglements, is a model case. Whereas many discourses of the Risorgimento aspired to shape a new Italian nation after the classical model, Michele Amari’s History of the Muslims of Sicily (1854–1872) marked an astonishing exception. For him, going back to Islamic-Sicilian history, its literary, rhetorical and linguistic culture, meant to resume, on a higher level of incivilmento (Vico), what had been obscured by cultural decline: the spirit of freedom and equality, which Ibn Khaldūn had attributed to the Bedouins and their dynamics in history.

In: Philological Encounters

Abstract

The history of Khaldunian readings in the twentieth century reveals an analytical capacity of non-Orientalists definitely greater than that demonstrated by the Orientalists. The latter, at least until the 1950s, prove to be prisoners of that syndrome denounced by Edward Said’s Orientalism (1978), which projected on Islamic historical development a specificity and an alterity, which make it an exception in world history. Orientalist scholarship has often wanted to see in Ibn Khaldūn’s critical attitude to the philosophy of al-Fārābī and Averroes only the confirmation of the primacy of the sharīʿa over Platonic nomos. This article seeks to highlight some aspects of Ibn Khaldūn’s critique of classical political thought of Islamic philosophy. His critique focuses on the importance given to the juridical dimension of social becoming, and to the role of the political body of the jurists in the making of the City. Those aspects witness Ibn Khaldūn’s effort to interpret change and fractures as factors which make sense of history and decadence.

In: Philological Encounters

Abstract

In his historical and legal works, Giambattista Vico points out several times that there are significant differences between human societies. From The Universal Law onwards, the Neapolitan philosopher proposes the restoration of the history of nations and recognizes that travel, migration and cultural exchanges play a significant role in the vicissitudes of peoples. At the same time, he also searches for constants (economic and social, political and cultural) that are common to all nations and that may be compatible with the natural and historical differences remaining between them. This project grows and matures over the three editions of the New Science. In this regard, this article aims to dissect the course of Vico’s intent and show that he does not appear to neglect cultural differences or the importance of cultural exchanges in the history of humankind to the exclusive benefit of the invariants occurring in all human communities.

In: Philological Encounters

Abstract

In the nineteenth century, the reception of Giambattista Vico’s writings came along with nationalist interpretations of his Scienza Nuova as an ‘Italian Science’. This tendency was based upon an increased examination of the role that the philosopher Pythagoras and his Italian school of Croton played in Vico’s hierarchical conception of the ancient Greek and Italian civilizations. Writers, archaeologists and historians used the New Science as a metonymic reference work for their own nationalist concepts by updating the Pythagorean myth in accordance with relevant narratives of exclusive genealogies concerning an ancient Italian wisdom. These narratives follow tendencies in Vico’s own writings that were quoted strategically and mixed with further interpretations of the Scienza Nuova as reliable testimonial for a glorious Italian history. A theological poet characterized by deeper insight into the secrets of nature and some parts of the divine providence, Pythagoras gains his special position in Vico’s general conception of knowledge.

In: Philological Encounters

Abstract

Philology was more than a scholarly tool in the system of classical Arabo-Islamic writing; it was a cognitive model. This cognitive model was embodied by scholars and repeatedly performed by them in oral and written expression. It can be understood as a habitus. This article takes seriously pre-modern critiques of a revisionist darling al-Ṣafadī’s masterful commentary al-Ghayth al-musajjam fī sharḥ «Lāmiyyat al-ʿAjam» to consider the cognitive logic of this philological habitus and the ways in which modern scholarly agendas manipulate the chronological plane of Arabic literary history.

In: Philological Encounters

Abstract

In 1748, the monk Arsāniyūs Shukrī al-Ḥakīm (1707–1786), a member of the Lebanese Maronite Order in Mount Lebanon, was sent to Catholic Europe, tasked with securing financial support and the protection of the French King for his indebted order. The literary byproduct of this journey through the Christian lands of Western Europe was an extensive travel account. Based on recent manuscript findings, the present contribution examines the different versions in which this ego-document has been transmitted, including the original travel journal written en route by Arsāniyūs himself, copies by contemporaries who turned the travel journal into a travelogue, an excerpt included in an anthology dating to the 1870s, and finally the edition by the Jesuit scholar Ferdinand Taoutel (1887–1977). The account of the journey, it is argued, remained the object of a philological engagement that was meant to guarantee the continuity of its relevance and use in changing contexts.

In: Philological Encounters

Abstract

This article examines the social meaning of philology in Arabic from the perspective of a contemporary Indian Shīʿī Muslim community, known as the Alawi Bohras. Rather than approaching philology as a tradition of canonical texts, it considers philology as a social act: a set of practices that are imbedded socially in the community. We focus on the community’s khizāna, or manuscript treasury, and investigate its social role as a sacred site of philology, its Arabic manuscripts being only accessible to the highest clerics. Even though inaccessible to believers, the khizāna manuscripts have rich social lives as objects of concealment, agency, and healing. These social lives precisely lay bare the encounter between the philological and the community. As a study in social codicology that explores this encounter, the case of the Alawi Bohras is an invitation to rethink the social meaning of philology and manuscripts in Muslim societies.

In: Philological Encounters