Philology’s Figures of Thought and Their Genealogies. Divination and the Organological Conception of the Text

This project was part of a broader analysis of the formative phase of modern philologies in Germany in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It was planned as a cooperation between the Leibniz Center for Literary and Cultural Research and the Internationale Koordinationsstelle Theorie der Philologie established at the Department of Classical Philology at the University of Heidelberg. In this case study, Friedrich August Wolf’s Presentation of Classical Studies in Terms of Concept, Scope, Purpose and Value (1807) and August Boeck’s Encyclopedia and Methodology of the Philological Sciences (1809–1865), two central founding texts of classical philology, were examined to determine the extent to which figures of thought from Latin literature have been methodologically constitutive to the rhetoric of these programmatic writings.

The focus, here, was on divination and the organological concept of the text as figures of thought. For instance, Wolf’s and Boekh’s respective attempts to establish a rational and methodological basis for conjectural procedures in textual criticism and interpretation (divinatio) implicitly refer to the proto-hermeneutic thoughts articulated by Cicero (de divinatione) on the interpretation of (divine) signs: Here, already, there is an explicit relation between interpretative practices of priestly interpretes, on the one hand, and philological grammatici, on the other. At the same time, Cicero addresses, in the form of dialogue, the question of the (im)possibility of a rational foundation of divinatory practices. The notion of the object of analysis as an organic whole entails, for one’s own practices of definition and disposition, a tension between nature and artifice. This is already reflected upon by Varro in the figure of thought of agriculture (de re rustica) and is still pertinent in cultural theories today. By investigating how two central founding figures of classical philology employ strategies of sacralizing one’s object and at the same time naturalizing one’s own practices, this study aimed to highlight the rhetoricity of a discipline’s self-description.

Head researcher(s): Christian Haß