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Interpolations in Context

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    To: WSW Cc: GPG, Crosstalk On: Interpolations in Context From: Bruce If memory serves, I published in 1998 an accretional analysis of the Analects of
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 10, 2009
      To: WSW
      Cc: GPG, Crosstalk
      On: Interpolations in Context
      From: Bruce

      If memory serves, I published in 1998 an accretional analysis of the
      Analects of Confucius, which sought to show in detail how that text was
      built up by successive additions, made by successive heads of the School of
      Confucius in Lu, and also how that growing text was itself supplemented now
      and then, in its earlier portions, by those same School heads, so as to
      maintain contact and consistency between the older and the newer material.

      Exception was taken to the very idea of such interpolation by certain
      reviewers, who professed themselves offended on behalf of the text so
      treated, and did not stop short of such sensationalistic terms as "rape" to
      describe, and by implication to disrecommend, the purported process.

      All of which is beside the point. The reason for adding material to a
      previous text, one's own or someone else's, whether Homer's Iliad or the
      Platonic Corpus or some mediaeval monastic charter, is to render that text
      more agreeable to its later audiences, or more adequate to its later
      devotees, or more serviceable to its later proprietors. The fundamental
      process is not one of violation, but one of respect. The interpolation would
      indeed be pointless, it would not have worked and it would not have been
      attempted, without the assumption of ongoing respect for the text. This is
      brought out very well in a comment by Anderson and Giles (2005) in
      discussing the Samaritan interpolation of late parts of Genesis or Exodus
      into early parts of Genesis or Exodus, or of parts of Deuteronomy into parts
      of Numbers or the reverse, or of adding wholly new material to the
      Pentateuch at large, by no means excluding its most sensitive segment, the

      They say (p27), "The expansions unique to the [Samaritan Pentateuch] give
      the text a distinct theological and literary focus. Presumably for political
      or sectarian reasons, they were accomplished to set forth more clearly the
      group's agenda without altering or violating reverence to the sacredness of
      the words of the received text. One of the key passages to invoke this
      interpolation technique is the Decalogue of Exod 20."

      Just so. It is in exactly this spirit, as it seems to me, that the filial
      piety passages were added to the otherwise early and authentic Confucian
      sayings of LY 4 (date: c0479), the most sensitive portion of the Analects,
      sometime in the late 04c, in order to present the historical Confucius as
      already acknowledging what by then had come to be seen as essential
      Confucian doctrine: the continuity between familial and public virtues.
      Nothing could be more normal or natural than such retrospective extensions,
      in terms of the way the ancients themselves seem, at need, to have handled
      their own venerated texts: their constitutive documents, their charters of
      identity and right thinking.

      But what do we get in Sinology, in response to such highly precedented and
      normal proposals? Indelicate language. Facial rubidity. Banging on the table
      with one's shoe, à la Khrushchev. Screams of "You're taking Confucius away
      from us!" Tantrums. Playpen behavior.

      Is it asking too much, that those who profess to be certified to speak in
      and for Sinology should have some slight modicum of acquaintance with what
      is standard method and common knowledge in Sinology's older sister sciences?



      E Bruce Brooks
      Warring States Project
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst
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