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Philology and Source Criticism in the Study of Talmudic Literature: Tomorrow

Mon, December 17, 8:30 to 10:00am, Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center, Federal 1 Complex


For much of its history, “Talmudic philology” has had a restrictive and restricted function. Restrictive in the sense that it has often been used to exclude certain kinds of scholarship and even certain kinds of scholars; restrictive in the sense that it has often been imagined to operate in an autonomous sphere, secluded from the investigation of cultural history or literary theory prevalent in other parts of the field. This talk proposes that these two issues are connected, and explores the pathways that might be opened if we expand the scope of what “philology” might mean and what it can do, arguing for a further integration of philology into the broader field, not merely as a preparatory or ancillary step (“establishing the text before you can talk about it”). Specifically, the talk will press for further emphasis on approaches that have been taken on by various scholars but have not been as central to the field: examining the literary-theoretical, ideological, and historical assumptions we bring to our philological work – and how, by treating textual formation as a problem of literary theory, cultural history or even rabbinic thought, philological work may change these assumptions; taking more seriously the medieval context from which most of our evidence comes; and taking better advantage of "distant reading" while being aware of its limitations.


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