Orientalism, Philology, and the Illegibility of the Modern World
[Orientalismus, Philologie und die Unlesbarkeit der modernen Welt]

Europe’s Legacy in the Modern World
Bloomsbury Academic Publishing, London 2020, 376 pages
ISBN 978-1-35-011737-2 (Print), 978-1-35-011738-9 (E-Book PDF), 978-1-35-011739-6 (E-Book EPUB)

Orientalism, Philology, and the Illegibility of the Modern World examines the philology of orientalism. It discusses how European (and in particular German) orientalism has influenced the modern understanding of how language accesses reality and offers a critical reinterpretation of orientalism, ontology and modernity.

This book pushes focusses on the global history of knowledge, entangled between European and non-European cultures. Drawing from formal oriental studies, epigraphy, travel literature, and theology, Henning Trüper explores how the attempt to appropriate the world by attaching language to the notion of a ‘real’ reference in the world ultimately produced a crisis of meaning. Thus, received understandings of the intellectual genealogies of oriental scholarship and its practices are challenged.

This study is a meaningful contribution to current discourses about philology and adds to our understanding about the relationship between discursive practices, cultural agendas, and political systems. As such, it illuminates not only the history of Europe and the modern world, the history of philology, but also serves to historicize the prevalent debates in theory.


Table of contents

List of Illustrations
Preface: History in Meaning
1. After Philology, a Wild Goose Chase
2. The Suicide of Naffa' wad 'Etmân
3. The Travel Diary
4. The Archive of Epigraphy
5. Burdened with Gods
6. A Trade in Shadows
Conclusion: The Grammar of Modernity
Unpublished Source


“Less concerned with providing an exhaustive guide through much of the terrain, Trüper oscillates between soaring theoretical flights and close examination of individual cases. Nevertheless, his examination likewise successfully unveils (to use the orienatlist trope) many further possible avenues of investigation.”
Doug McGetchin, The Journal of Modern History 94.1 (2022)
“Trüper solidifies the arc of continuity embedding recent critical theory in a linguistic turn that transpired in the early nineteenth century, artfully capturing the surprising importance of referential semantics in the myriad, fraught ways meaning is constructed.”
Tuska Benes, American Historical Review 126.4 (2021)

Media Response

01 Mar 2022
Orientalism, Philology, and the Illegibility of the Modern World

Review by Doug McGetchin, in: The Journal of Modern History 94.1 (2022), 172–174