My Project: The Rise and Fall of British Philology, 1750–1916

At a moment when the humanities are in crisis, some scholars look back fondly to a golden age of philology. But that nostalgia assumes that philology was the study of language and analysis of text.

My dissertation asks and answers a new set of fundamental questions about the historical practice of philology. Why did it first take off? How, at the turn of the 19th century, did it come to focus on the study of language? Why, in the early 20th century, did it dramatically fall?

At the precise moment in the mid-18th century that usage of the term first took off, philology was not about language; philology was about knowledge. To do philology meant to tell the tale of how knowledge changed over time.

I retrace the subsequent proliferation of philology’s concepts and modes of analysis across the realms of knowledge across almost 200 years, through Darwin’s theory of evolution, the beginnings of linguistics, and the new, cross-period genre of philological poetry, which connects the Ossian poems, Walter Scott’s historical novels, and Ezra Pound’s Cantos.

At stake in my work is a new and empowering perspective on why philology matters to our profession today.


Peer-reviewed

2017. ‘Counter-Philology: Ezra Pound as Translator of Provencal and Cavalcanti, 1917–32’, Textual Practice 33.4. 2019 (web 2017)


Article in progress

‘1750: Philology and the Progression of Knowledge’


Talks

2019. ‘Philology, Knowledge, and Morphology in The Origin of Species’, Morphology and Historical Sequence, Nov 21–22

2019. ‘Troubling Mediation: Philological Poetry and the Academy’, British Association of Modernist Studies, Jun 20

2019. ‘Reflux Philology: From Knowledge to Language; Or, There and Back Again’, MLA, Jan 3–6

2018. ‘Eighteenth-Century Philology; Or, How to Reconcile the Universal and the Particular’, Eighteenth-Century Literature Colloquium, New York University, Oct 18

2018. ‘Philology’, Keywords: Coming to Terms with the Environmental Humanities, Royal Holloway University of London, Feb 20

2017. ‘At the Traverse of the Wall: Archaeological Transformations in David Jones and Thomas Percy’, Theoretical Archaeology Group, Dec 18–20

2017. ‘Hugh MacDiarmid, Translation, and History’, Northeast MLA, Mar 23–26

2017. ‘Whither the Caesura: The Question of “Scoto-Saxon” in the Eighteenth Century’, MLA, Jan 5–8

2016. ‘Unreading the Fragment’, Poetry and Political Theory: The Bureau of Imaginative Proposals, The New School, Apr 23

2015. ‘Countertranslations: Ezra Pound’s Provencal English Gesnings’, Modernist Studies Association, Nov 19–22

2014. ‘A Terrible Beauty is Born: Transformations, Complicity, and Anglo-Irishness in W. B. Yeats’s “Easter 1916”’, Transformations, University College London, May 30