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Philological Procedure

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    To: WSW Cc: GPG, Synoptic, etc On: Philological Method From: Bruce In working with the ancient Chinese and some other texts, I find myself in the company of
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 31, 2009
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      To: WSW
      Cc: GPG, Synoptic, etc
      On: Philological Method
      From: Bruce

      In working with the ancient Chinese and some other texts, I find myself in
      the company of those who, about a century ago, practiced an art which is
      little recognized in the present day. There is even a problem of what that
      art should be called. The old name was "higher criticism," distinguished
      from "lower" criticism. The latter is well understood and (under the name of
      "textual criticism") still practiced: it is the correction of scribal
      corruptions as revealed by the testimony of variant manuscripts, and the
      establishing of an archetype: the text from which the extant manuscripts can
      most convincingly be seen as derived. The evolutionary history of the text
      itself, if any, before the stage of the archetype (which is far as lower
      criticism can in principle go), has to be recovered by somewhat analogous
      procedures, but based solely on the character of the evidence contained in
      the critical archetype itself: the stage of the history of the text
      preceding the period for which manuscript variants exist. It is this second
      step that the term "higher criticism" used to denote. That term was still
      live as late as the Thirties. It is now disused, and as far as I have been
      able to discover, no equally distinctive term has replaced it.

      So much for the present age. It is accordingly all the more of a treat to
      find someone who not only knows the difference between the two kinds of
      criticism, but practices both, being aware, as he does so, of which is
      which. I have in mind Patrick Olivelle, in his recent critical edition of
      the Laws of Manu (Manava-Dharmasastra, MDh). With Patrick's permission, I
      will here quote, with one indicated omission, about a page from his
      "Introduction to the Critical Edition." Chris Beckwith [of WSW] may like to
      add Patrick's work to his short list of competent critical editions of Asian
      classical texts. I commend it to his and others' attention. For the quote
      itself, see below.


      [E Bruce Brooks
      Warring States Project
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst]

      -------From Olivelle: Manu's Code of Law, Oxford 2005, p378f-----------

      The aim of a critical edition is, no doubt, to establish a text as close to
      the original written by the author as the extant evidence permits. This is
      often merely the editorial horizon towards which we march determinedly but
      which we never reach. After it leaves the hand of the author a text begins a
      life of its own in the hands of readers, commentators, and copyists. Over
      this after-life of a text the author has no control; but it is,
      nevertheless, as much a part of the text as the labors of the author that
      brought it into being. The richer a text is, and the more it becomes a part
      of a culture and society, the richer its after-life will be. And the MDh has
      been a text that has occupied a central position in the culture and
      intellectual life of India for close to two millennia; it has had a rich
      after-life. The aim of a critical edition is not merely to reconstruct the
      original text but also to document its after-life. Just as at an
      archaeological dig the archaeologists do not throw aside all the earlier
      layers to get at the oldest stratum, so the editor does not throw away all
      the changes and accretions to get at the original text. The story both at
      the dig and of the text is told not just in the oldest stratum but at every
      stratum. . . .

      . . . A critical edition, however carefully and painstakingly carried out,
      is limited by the available data: manuscripts, testimonia, commentaries. Any
      additions and emendations carried out between the author's original and the
      beginning of the extant manuscript tradition are beyond the scope of a
      critical edition. Thus, it has been called "lower criticism" to distinguish
      it from the "higher criticism, which depends on a close reading of the text
      and the acumen of the scholar. Higher criticism aims at disclosing different
      sources and layers within a text, layers that may be older and younger. It
      is this sort of criticism that discovered the four sources of the
      Pentateuch: J (JHVH), E (Elohim), P (Priestly), and D (Deuteronomic). A
      critical edition is not the place to undertake this sort of criticism. I
      have attempted to identify later additions to the MDh using higher criticism
      in my general introduction that precedes the translation."

      [I may be sharing some specimens of these "later additions" with WSW, later
      on, as elementary lesson material - EBB]
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