A new republic of letters : memory and scholarship in the by Jerome McGann

By Jerome McGann

A manifesto for the arts within the electronic age, A New Republic of Letters argues that the background of texts, including the equipment in which they're preserved and made to be had for interpretation, are the overriding matters of humanist examine within the twenty-first century. conception and philosophy, that have grounded the arts for many years, now not suffice as an highbrow framework. Jerome McGann proposes we glance in its place to philology--a self-discipline which has been out of favor for lots of many years yet which versions the troubles of electronic humanities with remarkable fidelity.

For centuries, books were how one can defend and transmit wisdom. yet as libraries and museums digitize their documents and readers abandon paperbacks for capsule desktops, electronic media are exchanging books because the repository of cultural reminiscence. whereas either the venture of the arts and its conventional modes of scholarship and significant examine are an identical, the electronic atmosphere is riding disciplines to paintings with new instruments that require significant, and sometimes very tough, institutional adjustments. Now greater than ever, students have to recuperate the idea and approach to philological research if the arts are to satisfy their perennial commitments. Textual and editorial scholarship, usually marginalized as a narrowly technical area, will be made a concern of humanists' attention.

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The key critical means for displaying that information is the text/apparatus device. Linked to that elementary machinery are various commentaries, annotations, indexes, bibliographies, maps, chronologies, and appendices that help to elucidate the materials in brief or extensive ways. Most important—and rarely noticed as such—is the use of various symbols and abbreviations in these works. So in Mays’s edition we have notes like the following (to the title of poem no. , Poole I 202, H Works XVII 119, Cottle Rem 150–151.

For the philologist, astrology is as true and as rich in consequence as the Pythagorean theorem, dialectics, or Planck’s constant. And philology has a science, an order of method, for accessing its kind of truth. 9 It is a book for the scholar and the interested citizen alike—not the least of its virtues. Another is its critical understanding that “the Internet”—the hero of the book—“by its nature contains much diversity and many, many disagreements” (46). Here I want to pursue one line of disagreement, and 42 from history to method I’ll begin with a key sentence that invites me to do so.

Until the early decades of the twentieth century what we now call literary and cultural studies was called philology, and all its interpretive procedures were clearly understood to be grounded in textual scholarship. But twentieth-century textual studies shifted their center from philology to hermeneutics, that subset of philological inquiry focused on the specifically literary interpretation of culture. From the vantage of the nineteenth-century philologist, this “turn to language” would have been seen as a highly specialized approach to the study of literature.

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