Drawing on writings of the German Romantic tradition, Werner Hamacher’s aphoristic Minima Philologica develops a philosophy of philology, one operating without the control mechanisms of instrumentalized thought but not without internal rigor. Hamacher conceives philology as an art of (slow) reading bound to the spirit of experiment and linguistic play. Versed in the conventions and operations of literature in order to do it justice, philology nevertheless speaks in another voice, one more ascetic and conjectural. Having broken with the positivism of the Alexandrian tradition of philologia, this other philology plays the trickster in humanistic disciplines. Its task today is twofold: to unmask the industrial manufacture of language, complicit as it is with hostility to the word; and, as remedy for reification, to reawaken the philia in philology by cultivating—with historically informed critical vigilance—the power of affect, the mimetic power, in language and discourse.
The Fate of Philology
Howard Eiland is author, with Michael W. Jennings, of Walter Benjamin: A Critical Life (2014) and translator of Benjamin works such as Berlin Childhood around 1900 and Origin of the German Trauerspiel. He recently published Notes on Literature, Film, and Jazz. Eiland taught literature at MIT from 1983 to 2014.
Howard Eiland; The Fate of Philology. boundary 2 1 February 2021; 48 (1): 237–250. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/01903659-8821498
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