Old Fashioned Philology: Dead? Useless? Not so fast…

So I haven’t read this book and I am cherry picking a money-quotation but these words offer balm to my troubled soul.

“All the more reason that the sense of what is and is not a sound reading needs development in every historian who seeks to work with papyri–a sense that comes from reading a lot of texts and from working with the artefacts themselves, from bearing the editor’s and critic’s burden oneself.  It would be pleasant to be able to offer to historians in general the good news that all of that philological baggage and training really is not essential, that the doors have been flung wide open, but this is just not the case.

“The necessity of sound philological underpinnings to historical work is only part of the explanation of the durability of philology…it remains a fertile source of questions and insights.  The best collaboration, as Louis Robert never tired of saying, takes place inside a single brain, and it is above all the well-stocked mind that tends to generate connections previously unnoticed (Roger S. Bagnall.  Reading Papyri, Writing Ancient History. 1995) ”

I am not a papyrologist but I believe in the value of general, wide reading of primary sources in their original languages.   But lately I have been feeling insecure because I get the sense that this is a dinosaur-mentality and that my training has damned me to the ranks of the intellectually obsolete.  And that I have wasted my 12 years of adulthood.

So thanks, Roger Bagnall, you made my day.

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