Publication Details

Willis, I. "Philology, or the art of befriending the text." Postmedieval 5 .4 (2014): 486-501.


This essay examines the 1960s/1970s' transformation of the text as an object of reading, and argues for an equivalent transformation of philology as a practice of reading. I focus on the oscillation between reading as literacy (the capacity to recognize and decipher a given language) and reading as interpretation (the capacity to respond to the text). This oscillation itself results from an irreducible ambiguity in the text: both a stable verbal artifact with a determinable form and a bearer of indeterminate meaning. Reading Roland Barthes's critique of philology and Ursula Le Guin's science-fictional paean to its possibilities ('The Author of the Acacia Seeds'), I argue for a philological practice that resists, questions, and repositions the closure of the text.



Link to publisher version (DOI)