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Notes from Babel: Toward a Colonial History of Comparative Literature Author(s): Siraj Ahmed Reviewed work(s): Source: Critical

Inquiry, Vol. 39, No. 2 (Winter 2013), pp. 296-326 Published by: The University of Chicago Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/668527 . Accessed: 29/12/2012 13:53
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Notes from Babel: Toward a Colonial History of Comparative Literature


Siraj Ahmed
In our culture, which lacks specic categories for spiritual transmission[,] it has always fallen to philology [alla lologia ` e da sempre afdato il compito] to guarantee the authenticity and continuity of the cultural tradition. This is why a knowledge of philologys essence and history should be a precondition of all literary education; yet this very knowledge is hard to nd even among philologists. Instead, as far as philology is concerned, confusion and indifference reign. Giorgio Agamben, Infancy and History Philologism is the inevitable distinguishing mark of the whole of European linguistics. . . . However far back we may go in tracing the history of linguistic categories and methods, we nd philologists everywhere. Not just the Alexandrians, but the ancient Romans were philologists, as were the Greeks (Aristotle is a typical philologist). Also, the ancient Hindus were philologists. V. N. Volosinov, Marxism and the Philosophy of Language I know the philologists [Ich kenne sie]: I am myself one of them. Friedrich Nietzsche, We Philologists

Recent attempts to make comparative literature respond to contemporary global conditions have taken their cue from Edward Saids career-long engagement with the work of Erich Auerbach, which spanned from Saids 1969 cotranslation of Philologie der Weltliteratur to his 2003 reintroduction of Mimesis.1 Auerbach symbolized for Said both the possibilities and
I am grateful for the crucial responses of Anjuli Gunaratne, Richard Neer, and Critical Inquirys editorial board to an earlier version of this essay. Unless otherwise noted, all translations are my own. 1. See Aamir R. Mufti, Auerbach in Istanbul: Edward Said, Secular Criticism, and the Question of Minority Culture, Critical Inquiry 25 (Autumn 1998): 95125 and Orientalism and the Institution of World Literatures, Critical Inquiry 36 (Spring 2010): 45893; Vilashini Cooppan, World Literature and Global Theory: Comparative Literature for the New Millennium, Symploke 9, nos. 12 (2001): 1617 and Ghosts in the Disciplinary Machine: The
Critical Inquiry 39 (Winter 2013) 2013 by The University of Chicago. 00093-1896/13/3902-0001$10.00. All rights reserved.

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the limitations of romance philology or, in other words, traditional approaches to comparatism. On one hand, Said presented Auerbachs philological method as a model of secular criticism.2 Auerbachs alienation from Germany in particular, nationalism in general, and orthodoxies of all sorts enabled him to transform humanism, making it responsive to contingency, exile, and minority experience.3 But, on the other hand, Said acknowledged that Auerbachs concept of literature was, nonetheless, Eurocentric, with its roots in the Christian incarnation and its rst eforescence in The Divine Comedy.4 Where Auerbach famously wrote that our philological home [Heimat] is the earth: it can no longer be the nation,5 Said added an acid qualication: his earthly home is European culture.6 The calls for new approaches to philology, Weltliteratur, and comparative literature that have followed in Saids wake have not directly addressed the question that underlies his engagement with Auerbach: how can literature, a concept with a strictly European provenance, ever hope to be adequate to non-European forms of writing? Jacques Derrida observed that when we say literature, . . . we speak and make ourselves understood on the basis of a Latin root. . . . There is . . . no world literature, if such a thing is or remains to come [aucune litte rature mondiale, sil en est, ou si elle reste a ` venir] . . . that must not rst inherit what this latinity assumes. He asked, therefore, what we mean when we say literature: Is it only a mode of

Uncanny Life of World Literature, Comparative Literature Studies 41, no. 1 (2004): 1036; Jonathan Arac, Anglo-Globalism? New Left Review 16 (JulyAug. 2002): 4044; Emily Apter, The Translation Zone: A New Comparative Literature (Princeton, N.J., 2006), pp. 4181; Djelal Kadir, Memos from the Besieged City: Lifelines for Cultural Sustainability (Stanford, Calif., 2011), pp. 1940; and Edward W. Said, Introduction to the Fiftieth-Anniversary Edition, in Erich Auerbach, Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature (Princeton, N.J., 2003), pp. ixxxxii, rpt. Erich Auerbach, Critic of the Earthly World, Boundary 2 31, no. 2 (2004): 1134. 2. See Said, Introduction: Secular Criticism, The World, the Text, and the Critic (Cambridge, Mass., 1983), pp. 68; Orientalism (1978; New York, 2003), pp. xxivxv, 120, 261, hereafter abbreviated O; and Erich Auerbach, Critic of the Earthly World, pp. 1317, 31. 3. See Mufti, Auerbach in Istanbul, pp. 9698. 4. See Said, Secular Criticism, p. 21 and Erich Auerbach, Critic of the Earthly World, p. 18. 5. Auerbach, Philology and Weltliteratur, trans. Maire and Edward Said, Centennial Review 13 (Winter 1969): 17; hereafter abbreviated PW. 6. Said, Secular Criticism, p. 7.

S I R A J A H M E D is assistant professor of English and comparative literature at Lehman College, City University of New York. He is the author of The Stillbirth of Capital: Enlightenment Writing and Colonial India (2012) and currently writing Archaeology of Babel: Critical Method and Colonial Law.

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writing . . . specic to the little thing that is Europe [propre a ` cette petite chose quest lEurope]? Or else is it already the Weltliteratur, whose concept was forged by Goethe?7 In other words, do we understand our concept of literature to be spatially and temporally bounded, or do we believe it to be universal instead? Until we address this question, there is little reason to hope that any new comparative literature will do more than repeat the prejudices of the old. In this regard, the problem with philologywhich Said described as the most basic and creative of the interpretive artsmight be even deeper than he was willing to acknowledge (O, p. xxiv). Auerbach claimed that his nal essays were responses to the homogenizing force of capitalism and the cold war: The conception of Weltliteratur advocated in this essaya conception of the diverse background of a common fatedoes not seek to affect or alter that which has already begun to occur[; my] conception accepts as an inevitable fact that world-culture is being standardized. Yet this conception wishes . . . to articulate the fateful coalescence of cultures for those people who are in the midst of the terminal phase of a fruitful multiplicity: thus this coalescence, so rendered and articulated, will become their myth. In this manner, the full range of the spiritual movements of the last thousand years will not atrophy within them. [PW, p. 7] Said described Auerbachs attitude toward the advent of modernity as melanchol[ic] and tragic.8 But, if so, this passage nonetheless reveals that Auerbach had little interest in opposing the global tendencies he described: they are, he insisted, inevitable (unentrinnbar). According to his own historical vision, Weltliteraturfor Auerbach, the product of different cultures entering into fruitful intercourseis not coming into existence but, on the contrary, going extinct: it is now nothing more than the diverse [mannigfaltigem] background of a common fate. Auerbach faced the ongoing extinction of literary diversity with equanimity; his own con7. Jacques Derrida, Demeure: Fiction and Testimony, in Derrida and Maurice Blanchot, Demeure: Fiction and Testimony and The Instant of My Death (Stanford, Calif., 2000), pp. 2021, 19. The rst comment prefaces a discussion of Auerbachs one-time colleague, Ernst Robert Curtius. Derridas elaboration on the latinity of literature is relevant here: Roman law and the Roman concept of the State . . . [have] counted greatly in the institution and the constitution of literature (Derrida, Demeure, p. 21). The implication is that literature is an originally Western mode of writing that nds its meaning in the letter and the voice and, by extension, in the logos and the law. See Derrida, Of Grammatology, trans. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (Baltimore, 1997), p. 17. 8. Said, Erich Auerbach, Critic of the Earthly World, p. 20.

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ception of world literature does not seek to affect or alter its predestined passing away (hofft nicht mehr etwas bewirken zu knnen, was doch geschieht). The aim of his philological work was not to protect cultures endangered by global standardization (Standardisierung der Erdkultur) but, on the contrary, to document their end and so turn them into a myth (mythischen Besitz) that would provide an otherwise standardized humanity spiritual inspiration (PW, p. 7; trans. mod.). In Auerbachs work, in other words, philology resembles a New Age religion. I would suggest that Auerbach accepted the supposed passing away of world literature not despite, but because of his philological vocation, at least as he dened its limits. Like Said, he placed its origins in the eighteenth century, when philology underwent a fundamental mutation (see O, p. 120).9 The European encounter with countless non-European languages and archaic literatures initiated what Said called the new or modern philology, which identied the history of each people with the history of their language (O, p. 135).10 The new philology presumed, as a consequence, to reconstruct not only authentic texts but at the same time the genealogy of different peoples. Philologys task metamorphosed from the recovery of a single traditionwhether Judeo-Christian or Western classicalinto the reconstruction of all traditions.11 Hence, in Auerbachs view, the new philology comprehended humanity in its historical complexity and totality: Our knowledge of world literatures is indebted to the impulse given that epoch by historicist humanism[, whose concern] was not only the overt discovery of materials and the development of methods of research, but . . . their penetration and evaluation so that an inner history of mankind . . . of man unied in his multiplicitycould be written. . . . This humanism has been the true purpose of philology: because of
9. See also Said, Culture and Imperialism (New York, 1993), p. 44, and PW, p. 4. 10. See Said, Islam, Philology, and French Culture: Renan and Massignon, The World, the Text, and the Critic (Cambridge, Mass., 1983), pp. 26974. These terms name a eldoriginating with historical (or comparative) linguistics at the turn of the nineteenth century and culminating with Auerbach and Curtiuss literary criticism in the middle of the twentieththat aims to produce a total vision of human history by mastering its languages; see Gerald Graff, Professing Literature: An Institutional History (Chicago, 2007), p. 69. 11. On the normative tradition in Renaissance humanism and in Biblical hermeneutics, see Hans-Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method, trans. W. Glen-Doepel, Joel Weinsheimer, and Donald G. Marshall (New York, 2004), pp. 17578, 198, 33334. The new philology considers the value and meaning of history to be variety and consequently undermines the possibility of a single, normative tradition; see pp. xxiii, 199200, 321. See also Thomas M. Seebohm, Hermeneutics: Method and Methodology (London, 2004), pp. 3539. In the case of Renaissance humanism, though, the tradition may be normative, as in the work of Lorenzo Valla, or historically disjunct from the present, as in the work of Poliziano; see Anthony Grafton, Defenders of the Text: The Traditions of Scholarship in an Age of Science, 1450 1800 (Cambridge, Mass., 1991), pp. 69, 33.

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this purpose philology became the dominant branch of the humanities (PW, pp. 5, 4). In other words, the recognition of human diversity depends, paradoxically, on a single analytic method, which arrogates to itself the privilege of knowing history objectively: The progress of the historical arts [der geschichtlichen Geisteswissenschaften] in the last two centuries . . . makes it possible to accord the various epochs and cultures their own presuppositions.12 From this perspective, literatures bereft of historical consciousness are inherently programmed to vanish, superseded by a philological understanding capable of containing them all imaginatively even in their material absence.13 It is, therefore, not only market economies and cold-war politics that render such literatures obsolete but also Auerbachs own methodological premises: Whatever we are, he insisted, we became in history, and only in history can we . . . develop [entfalten] therefrom: it is the task of philologists [die Aufgabe der Weltphilologen] . . . to demonstrate this so that it penetrates our lives unforgettably (PW, p. 6). Perhaps it should give us pause that Saids many discussions of Auerbach never identify this problemthat is, Auerbachs belief in the necessary end of Weltliteraturbut instead offer his work as a model for comparative literature.14 This essay locates the source of Auerbachs problem and Saids silence in their understanding of philology. In order to call that understanding into question, it returns to the eighteenth-century moment in which both Auerbach and Said located the new philologys origins, but which neither explored. It argues that those origins were more complicated than Auerbachs descriptor historicist humanism can grasp. Historicist humanism aims, according to Auerbach, to create a concept of man unied in his multiplicity.15 But eighteenth-century philology was born in an earlier moment, before historical method was dominant. During this moment, as philologists began to study the full extent of global linguistic diversity, the phenomenon of language appeared too dispersed ever to be unied again. Auerbachs account of the new philology is teleological: European secularization naturally produces historicist humanism, which elaborates, in turn, a single method to understand all languages, literatures, and traditions. His history omits a crucial event: no
12. Auerbach, Mimesis, p. 573. 13. Spivak, Death of a Discipline (New York, 2003), p. 15. The quotation describes indigenous languages from a European colonial perspective. 14. For Said, the problem with Auerbach was his exclusive focus on history at the expense of geography; see Said, History, Literature, and Geography and Arabic Prose and Prose Fiction after 1948, Reections on Exile and Other Essays (Cambridge, Mass., 2000), pp. 45373, 4751. 15. See Auerbach, Scenes from the Drama of European Literature: Six Essays (1973; Minneapolis, 1984), p. 197.

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less than Renaissance humanism, the new philology became the scholarly protocol of sovereign power.16 Only under this pressure would it engender what Hans-Georg Gadamer called a universal hermeneutics.17 Hence, whereas Auerbach and Said presented the history of philology as a continuous development from its eighteenth-century origins to its nineteenthand twentieth-century elaboration, this essay begins to disentangle the two. While scholars as diverse as John Guillory and Sheldon Pollack have located the new philologys roots in late eighteenth-century colonial India, the political consequences of such a matrix for historical method have not been considered.18 If we return to colonial India, we will nd that though Auerbach and Said gave historicist humanism credit for the birth of the new philology, it deserves little. Historicist humanism was the intellectual basis, ironically, of the English East India Companys approach to native populations, and it was responsible, as a consequence, less for the new philologys birth than for its colonial subjugation. Where philological research into South Asian languages and literatures called European humanism, historicism, and sovereignty radically into question, colonial rule demanded those incommensurable languages and literatures be understood in terms of a unied secular history that could be the basis of colonial law. Saids secular criticism, no less than Auerbachs philology, was silently programmed by a related ambition, the dream of a universal discourse that would contain the diversity of tonguesin Auerbachs words, the fruitful multiplicity (fruchtbaren Mannigfaltigkeit) of literatures now in their terminal phase (Endstadium). Though this dream would take various forms in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, it was in fact much older. The dream of a universal discourse begins with Babel.
16. Nietzsche was more caustic: Philologists are eager slaves of the state (Friedrich Nietzsche, Notizen zu Wir Philologen, Nachgelassene fragmente, 187579, vol. 8 of Smtliche Werke: Kritische Studienausgabe, ed. Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari [Berlin, 1988], p. 57). On Renaissance humanism and the early modern state, see Grafton and Lisa Jardine, From Humanism to the Humanities: Education and the Liberal Arts in Fifteenth- and Sixteenth-Century Europe (Cambridge, Mass., 1986), pp. xiiixiv, and Grafton, Bring out Your Dead: The Past as Revelation (Cambridge, Mass., 2001), pp. 1025. 17. Gadamer, Truth and Method, p. 178. 18. See John Guillory, Literary Study and the Modern System of the Disciplines, in Disciplinarity at the Fin de Sie `cle, ed. Amanda Anderson and Joseph Valente (Princeton, N.J., 2002), p. 29; Sheldon Pollack, Future Philology? The Fate of a Soft Science in a Hard World, Critical Inquiry 35 (Summer 2009): 938; and Bernard S. Cohn, The Command of Language and the Language of Command, Colonialism and Its Forms of Knowledge: The British in India (Princeton, N.J., 1996), pp. 1656, 54.

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1. The Ruins of Babel and the Rise of Philology Babels signicance is obscure to us now because its meaning shifted fundamentally in the early nineteenth century, when G. W. F. Hegel reinterpreted the Old Testament chapter in which it occurs (Genesis 11) as the ur-narrative of progress.19 While the people of Shinar fail to complete the Tower of Babel, the attempt leads, however unintentionally, to their dispersal across the earth and the production of linguistic and cultural difference, which is, according to Hegel, the precondition of historical development. In the process, humanity lost touch with the language it had spoken before the towers destruction and its own diaspora. Hegel had as little interest in that language as he did in every other prehistory, claiming that once Adam and Eve consume the fruit of knowledge, Paradise is a park, where only brutes [die Tiere], not men, can remain.20 But before Hegel, from the Middle Ages through the eighteenth century, the dream of a lost divine language had bewitched churchmen and heretics alike. Biblical hermeneutics was an attempt to decipher the signs of that lost language, regardless of whether the exegetes aimed to restore the sacred text concealed within the rabbis allegedly corrupt Bible or they intended instead to contest the churchs own misinterpretations. These attempts to recover the language that preceded the destruction of the tower and the confusion of tongues culminated in Bishop Lowths Lectures on the Sacred Poetry of the Hebrews (Latin, 1756; English translation, 1787), which applied the techniques of classical philology to the Old Testament in order to free Hebraic poetry from its supposed imprisonment within the synagogue and to recover its sacred powerto recover, in short, the original and mystically perfect language.21 From the Middle Ages to the eighteenth century, at any rate, the importance of Babel lay in its allusion to humanitys oldest languagein Umberto Ecos words, rst-born and, consequently, supernatural (primigenia e quindi soprannaturale)which as the mirror of nature and of divine creation would enable humanity to transcend its linguistic confusion.22 While Hebrew was generally thought to be the oldest language throughout this period, ancient rumors still circulated in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries of sacred languages as old as or even older than Hebrew
19. See Umberto Eco, The Search for the Perfect Language, trans. James Fentress (Oxford, 1995), pp. 34144. 20. G. W. F. Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of History, trans. J. Sibree (London, 1914), p. 333. See the discussion in Maurice Olender, The Languages of Paradise: Race, Religion, and Philology in the Nineteenth Century, trans. Arthur Goldhammer (New York, 2002), pp. 910. 21. Eco, The Search for the Perfect Language, p. 2. 22. Ibid., p. 17.

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and of revelations that had occurred outside the Judeo-Christian tradition, whether from the Magi, Chaldean oracles, Egyptian Thoth cults, or the Pythagorean and Orphic traditions. European colonialism reactivated such rumors, with missionaries and explorers sending detailed accounts of exotic languages from the New World (for example, Nahuatl) to the Far East (for example, Tagalog) and greatly expanding the European comprehension of global linguistic and cultural diversity as a consequence.23 The Europe-wide interest in languages such as these attested to a common desire to replace or at least supplement the Christian scholarly practice of writing universal historieswhich discounted all literatures outside the Judeo-Christian traditionwith other ways of conceiving humanitys material and spiritual development. It was, however, a singular event in late eighteenth-century colonial India that denitively transformed Europes understanding of Babel. In 1783, William Jones (174694)Europes leading Orientalist and arguably the Enlightenments greatest polymathwas appointed to head the English East India Company Supreme Court in Bengal. His time there enabled him to add Sanskrit to the remarkably long list of languagesancient and modern, Oriental and Europeanin his grasp. Two years after he arrived in Calcutta, Jones made the programmatic declaration that Sanskrit, Persian, Greek, and Latin were descended from a single common language as old as but apparently unrelated to Hebrew. His formulation of what has since come to be known as the Indo-European thesis helped European intellectuals rethink their narrative of world history. The belief in Hebrews primordial status had led to a unilinear concept of history. The hypothesis of separate language families suggested instead a ramied genealogy involving many different but coeval languages, peoples, and histories. Hence, where Renaissance philology reinforced theories of historical monogenesis, Joness scholarship implied that each language constitutes its own history.24 The Indo-European thesis made history a dimension inside languagedened differently by each languages patterns of lexical, syntactic, and semantic changeand in this way engendered the new philology. It enabled comparative approaches across (and indeed beyond) the human sciences, from literature and history to religion and jurisprudencethe boast, as Said noted, of nineteenth-century method (O, p. 117), the source of a quantum expansion of . . . European
23. See Joseph Errington, Linguistics in a Colonial World: A Story of Language, Meaning, and Power (Malden, Mass., 2008), pp. 48, 57, and Thomas Trautmann, Aryans and British India (Berkeley, 1997), p. 55. 24. See Grafton, April Shelford, and Nancy Siraisi, New Worlds, Ancient Texts: The Power of Tradition and the Shock of Discovery (Cambridge, Mass., 1992), p. 33.

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consciousness in Thomas Trautmanns words.25 The famed nineteenthcentury Orientalist Max Mu ller claimed that as a consequence of the IndoEuropean thesis a complete revolution took place in the views commonly entertained of the ancient history of the world.26 In the short run, the ten Anniversary Discourses (178493) Jones delivered as president and founder of the Royal Asiatick Society of Bengal published in the societys annual volume Asiatick Researchesreappeared almost immediately thereafter in pirated editions widely disseminated across Europe.27 They contained, alongside Joness proto-declaration of the Indo-European thesis, comparative studies of languages, literatures, and mythologies spanning from India to Italy, and they were met by a curiosity about [non-European] languages which was, according to Raymond Schwab, seething everywhere in Europe.28 These essays bear in embryo essential premises of the new philology. First, the nature of a people is dened by the language they speak, as Jones explained in An Essay on the Poetry of Eastern Nations: every nation has a set of images, and expressions, peculiar to itself, which arise from the difference of its climate, manners, and history.29 Second, human difference across space and time can be understood, therefore, only by means of philological study. After Jones, philology would produce what Joseph Errington has called languagecentered images of the deep human past.30 Honing in on the historicity of linguistic structures, the new philology claimed to recover traditions with scientic rigor. Its skill in this regard predestined it to become the foundation of the human sciences. Jones pregured this transformation a century before the fact: Grammar is [an] instrument, he explained, of true knowledge.31 Joness grammatical approach to history formed the basis of nineteenth25. Trautmann, The Lives of Sir William Jones, in Sir William Jones, 1746 1794: A Commemoration, ed. Richard Gombrich (Oxford, 1998), p. 96. Michel Foucault and Julia Kristeva also locate the origins of comparatism here; see Michel Foucault, The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences, trans. pub. (New York, 1973), p. 291, hereafter abbreviated OT; and Julia Kristeva, Languagethe Unknown: An Initiation into Linguistics, trans. Anne M. Menke (New York, 1989), pp. 19395. 26. F. Max Mu ller, The Science of Language: Founded on Lectures Delivered at the Royal Institution in 1861 and 1863, 2 vols. (New York, 1891), 2:513. 27. See Tony Ballantyne, Orientalism and Race: Aryanism in the British Empire (New York, 2002), p. 32, and Trautmann, The Lives of Sir William Jones, p. 99. 28. Raymond Schwab, The Oriental Renaissance: Europes Rediscovery of India and the East, 1680 1880, trans. Gene Patterson-Black and Victor Reinking (New York, 1984), p. 33. 29. Sir William Jones, An Essay on the Poetry of Eastern Nations, The Works of Sir William Jones, 13 vols. (London, 1807), 10:347. 30. Errington, Linguistics in a Colonial World, p. 48. 31. Jones, On the Literature of the Hindus, from the Sanscrit, The Works of Sir William Jones, 4:107.

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century philology, the discipline that would presume to transcend the multiplicity of tongues. According to Foucault, Jones was as important for modern philologys emergence from the seventeenth- and eighteenthcentury eld of general grammar as Adam Smith was for political economys emergence from mercantilist theory. Though Foucault barely discusses Jones, he isalongside Smith and the botanist Jussieunothing less than the transitional gure for Foucault in the development of modern knowledge (see O, p. 240). After Jones, language ceased to be the medium of knowledgethe veridical discourse of the Enlightenment, the crystalline lens through which one sees the truthand became instead the privileged object of knowledge. As the founding gures of nineteenth-century philologyFriedrich von Schlegel, Jacob Grimm, Rasmus Rask, and Franz Boppisolated the members of the Indo-European language family and described their peculiar patterns of change, each language acquired an internal history and hence its own type of opacity. Only after the new philology had detached the phenomenon of language from external reference on the one hand and linear chronology on the other could we enter what Foucault referred to as the order of time (OT, p. 293). We could call it historicism instead; we have already observed Auerbach place it at the heart of philology and accord it the highest methodological privilege. Because the new philology transformed the very terms by which we understand languages relationship to knowledge, its consequences have been, according to Foucault, the most far-reaching of any of the modern sciences and at the same time the most unperceived. It replaced Babels confusion with a critical method that claimed to know humanity across space and time. While Auerbach and Said both placed the origins of the new philology in the late eighteenth century, they located the birth of comparative literature in the early nineteenthlike countless scholars writing in their wakewith Johann Wolfgang von Goethes formulation of the term Weltliteratur (see PW, p. 2, 4, and O, p. xxiv).32 A strange choice: however attractive the term, it has never gained conceptual coherence, oscillating even for Goethe himself between a supranational canon of great works on one hand and an inquiry into the transnational conditions of literary production on the other.33 Neither idea will take us very far into the history of comparative literary study. Their vague32. See also Said, Erich Auerbach, p. 18; Vilashini Cooppan, Worlds Within: National Narratives and Global Connections in Postcolonial Writing (Stanford, Calif., 2009), pp. 11, 13; and Stefan Hoesel-Uhlig, Changing Fields: The Directions of Goethes Weltliteratur, in Debating World Literature, ed. Christopher Prendergast (London, 2004), pp. 2653, 27, 28. 33. See David Damrosch, What Is World Literature? (Princeton, N.J., 2003), pp. 136, and Hoesel-Uhlig, Changing Fields, pp. 31, 33, 36.

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ness reects, if anything, only how completely the category of literature had been evacuated of its prior meanings by the early nineteenth century. The development of experimental science had emptied literature (in the classical sense of erudition or book learning) of its epistemological value, while Immanuel Kants third Critique had emptied literature (in the eighteenthcentury sense of beautiful or tasteful writing) of its aesthetic function.34 We should also keep in mind that while Goethe has been credited with a deep interest in Eastern literature, he in fact declared that he had left the Eastern style of West-stlicher Diwan behind, like a cast-off snake skin, the same year he coined the term Weltliteratur (1827).35 I suggest we turn to Jones instead; he not only occupies a seminal place in the history of philology but could also justiably replace Goethe at the beginnings of comparative literature. Within a two-decade span (177189), he translated the most important works of classical Persian, Arabic, and Indian literature, respectively: Ha fezs poetry (fourteenth century A.D.); akuntala the Muallaqa t (sixthseventh centuries A.D.); and Ka lida sas S (c. fourthfth centuries A.D.). Joness versions were the earliest such translations into any European language, and they had a profound effect on romanticism in Europe and beyond, shaping, for example, Goethes original interest in Eastern literature; the West-stlicher Diwan was modeled on the rst and deeply indebted to the second, while the prologue of Faustus was modeled on the last.36 Tracing the genealogy of comparative literature from these translations rather than Goethes mere formulation of the word Weltliteratur would have a number of ancillary benets. First, it would force us to explore comparative methods eighteenth-century roots rather than take them for granted, as both Auerbach and Said do. Second, instead of revolving around the river Rhine, it would return comparatism to its colonial context.37 And hence, third, it would disclose comparative literatures initial political utility. While Goethes scattered speculations on Weltliteratur hardly constitute a project for the eld, Jones dened the purpose of his translations precisely. They were, rst of all, instruments of historical knowledge. He
34. See Hoesel-Uhlig, Changing Fields, pp. 39, 4246. 35. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Conversations with Eckermann, trans. pub. (New York, 1901), p. 151. 36. See Alan Jones, Sir William Jones as an Arabist, in Sir William Jones, 1746 1794, p. 71; Trautmann, The Lives of Sir William Jones, p. 100; A. J. Arberry, Asiatic Jones: The Life and Inuence of Sir William Jones (1746 1794), Pioneer of Indian Studies (London, 1946), p. 33; Garland Cannon, The Life and Mind of Oriental Jones: Sir William Jones, the Father of Modern Linguistics (Cambridge, 1990), p. 313; and Hans Aarsleff, The Study of Language in England, 1780 1860 (Princeton, N.J., 1967), p. 118. 37. Franco Moretti, Conjectures on World Literature, New Left Review 1 (Jan.Feb. 2000): 54.

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described the Muallaqa t as an exact picture of the manners of the Arabs fezs D va n, conin that age.38 He claimed that Persian poetry, such as Ha tains positive information, which one cannot acquire, for example, about the unlettered Tartars; if one does not study its literature, one can at most attain a general and imperfect knowledge of the country.39 And he present[ed] [Sacuntala ] to the publick as a most pleasing and authentick picture of old Hindu manners.40 In each case, Joness comments illustrate how profoundly the new philologys historical ambitions motivated comparative literary study. Literature is the expression of a nationin the case of peoples such as Arabs, Persians, and Indians who supposedly lacked the disciplines of history and philosophy, the only means to know their past. In other words, after experimental science and Kantian critique had hollowed literature out, philology gave it a new epistemic value. If world literature now occupies an ofcial space on the curricular and scholarly agenda, we would do well, rather than simply to recall that Goethe coined the term, to understand how our approach relates to the original practice. In part, then, the discipline of comparative literature was born alongside the new philology as an absolutely essential aspect of its method. As it elaborated Joness approach, nineteenth-century philology would eventually claim that it could subsume and therefore supersede the diversity of tongues. It was the science that would make sense of everything human, turning linguistic confusion into total knowledge. It would become, in this way, analogous to the dream of a divine language, which it would annul and preserve in a higher form. Its authoritywhich both Auerbach and Said acceptedwould ultimately depend on the obsolescence of all other approaches to language. But though we can observe the lineaments of nineteenth-century philology emerge in Joness work, that eld was not hegemonic yet. The late eighteenth century also staked out a different linguistic terrain, which the nineteenth century would abandon.

2. Aryanism and the Ursprache The Indo-European thesis famously led to the Aryan myth. Nineteenthcentury philologists divided the worlds rst inhabitants into two peoples: those who belonged to the Indo-European language family and those who did not. The Aryans supposed conquest of countries stretching from
38. Jones, The Fourth Anniversary Discourse, on the Arabs, delivered 15th February, 1787, The Works of Sir William Jones, 3:59. 39. Jones, The Sixth Anniversary Discourse, on the Persians, delivered 19th February, 1789, The Works of Sir William Jones, 3:103, 107. 40. Jones, Preface to Calidas, Sacontala; or, The Fatal Ring, trans. Jones, The Works of Sir William Jones, 9:367.

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Western Europe to the Indian subcontinent and their invention of the countless languages spoken across that expanse proved they possessed the prerogative of historical progress. In contrast, the Semites connement to the Near East and its few languages indicated a spatial and temporal immobility.41 The Indo-European thesis enabled in this way a categorical distinction between Christians and Jews or, in other words, ruling and subject peoples, as Martin Bernal has argued at length in Black Athena.42 But its effect was, more broadly, a new theory of race in which each language bespoke a unique racial heritage.43 From the perspective of nineteenth-century philology, variations in grammatical systems reected differences in racial consciousness. Building on Johann Gottfried von Herders arguments about the relation between language and race in his Treatise on the Origin of Language (1772), Wilhelm von Humboldt declared that European national languages were each an involuntary emanation of the spirit [unwillku hrliche Emanation des Geistes], no work of nations, but a gift fallen to them by their inner destiny.44 Hannah Arendts description of the philological basis of Eastern European nationalism in The Origins of Totalitarianism could easily be extended across the globe: these liberation movements . . . started with a kind of philological revival . . . whose political function was to prove that the people who possessed a literature and history of their own, had the right to national sovereignty.45 As a consequence of its transhistorical explanatory power, race eventually became the focus of nineteenth-century philological research. In its rst modern iteration, then, the category of race was the strange fruit of the British conquest of Bengal, which enabled Europeans nally to decrypt Sanskrit and to begin uncovering the prehistory of the people rya. Or perhaps it was not so strange after known in that language as the A all: Aryanism was almost as fundamental to colonialism as it was to nationalism and fascism. If ruling groups in Europe invoked Aryan genealogies in order to legitimize their rule and distinguish natives from aliens, colonial administrators in outposts ranging from Ireland to Southeast Asia used such genealogies or the absence thereof to produce knowledge about the native populations they governed.46
41. See Olender, The Languages of Paradise, pp. 1114. 42. See Martin Bernal, Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization, vol. 1 of The Fabrication of Ancient Greece 17851985 (New Brunswick, N.J., 1987). 43. See Trautmann, Aryans and British India, p. 2; Eco, The Search for the Perfect Language, p. 344; and OT, p. 290. 44. Wilhelm von Humboldt, On Language: The Diversity of Human Language-Structure and Its Inuence on the Mental Development of Mankind, trans. Peter Heath (Cambridge, 1988), p. 24. 45. Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism (New York, 1973), p. 271 n. 6. 46. See Ballantyne, Orientalism and Race, pp. 6, 7, 32.

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In either case, though, nineteenth-century philologists imagined that if they could reconstruct the morphological roots of the Indo-European language family, they would recover the thought of the early Aryans. The myth of the Aryans involved, in other words, a quest for the Adamic language that preceded the confusion of tongues, when God, nature, and man existed in an immediate relationship with each other.47 Hence, Ferdinand Saussure identied nineteenth-century philology with the almost conscious dream of an ideal humanityhe described the Aryans as the people of the golden age brought back to life by scholarly thought [revu par la pense e]and he founded the science of semiology in opposition to this false historicism.48 Scholars who focus on the history of colonial philology have read this nineteenth-century quest back into Joness work, claiming that he wanted to recover the language spoken when Adam and Eve were cast out from the garden of Eden;49 the fundamental unity in human thought, belief and action hidden under the veneer of linguistic difference50; and ancient wisdom or primitive monotheism.51 In fact, though, if Jones set out in search of a primordial language, his philological studies only proved to him that it would never be found. Far from uncovering the common language of our earliest ancestors or even dividing them into separate Aryan and Semitic tribes, Jones uncovered three separate language families: he argued that the whole earth was peopled by a variety of shoots from the Indian, Arabian, and Tartarian branches, thereby correctly identifying the lack of liation among the language groups now known as Indo-European, Afro-Asiatic, and Altaic. He claimed that he could not nd a single word used in common by [these three] families and hence concluded that the language of NOAH is lost irretrievably.52 However it began, his research staked itself in the end on the irreducible diversity of languages, whose consequences he claimed even he could not fully comprehend: Thus has it been proved . . . beyond controversy, that the far greater part of Asia has been peopled and immemorially possessed by three considerable nations, whom, for want of better
47. See Jean-Pierre Vernant, Foreword to Olender, The Languages of Paradise, p. x; Oleander, The Languages of Paradise, pp. 8, 11; and Eco, The Search for the Perfect Language, p. 346. 48. Quoted in Olender, The Languages of Paradise, p. 8. See Ferdinand de Saussure, Recueil des Publications Scientiques de Ferdinand de Saussure (Geneva, 1922), p. 395. 49. Errington, Linguistics in a Colonial World, p. 64. 50. Ballantyne, Orientalism and Race, p. 30. 51. Trautmann, Aryans and British India, p. 60. 52. Jones, The Ninth Anniversary Discourse, on the Origin and Families of Nations, delivered 23d February, 1792, The Works of Sir William Jones, 3:186, 199. See also Jones, Fourth Anniversary Discourse, on the Arabs, delivered 15th February, 1787, 3:53, 65.

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names, we may call Hindus, Arabs, and Tartars; each of them divided and subdivided into an innite number of branches, and all of them so different in form and features, language, manners and religion, that, if they sprang originally from a common root, they must have been separated for ages.53 Two centuries later, Joness dazzling twentieth-century counterpart, Georges Dume zil, would reiterate his precursors conclusions for anyone who still hoped to recover the Ursprache: comparative philologists (les comparatistes) know that the dramatic, living reconstruction of a common ancestral language . . . is impossible, since nothing can replace documents and there are no documents.54 Histories of philology identify Jones as the crucial gure in the emergence of linguistic science from prescience.55 Even The Order of Things presents Joness work as transitional, as we have already observed, despite the fact that Foucault generally abjured describing the history of science in terms of progress narratives. But if Jones was a transitional gure in the development of modern knowledge, it necessarily follows that his work cannot be circumscribed within disciplinary protocols that emerged fully only after his death; it must contain other perspectives on language and literature as well. In fact, Foucault acknowledged that the new philology is an arrangement of [knowledge] not yet denitively established by the end of the eighteenth century. He considered it, like political economy, to be part of the great detour that denes modern thought, the great quest, beyond representation, for the very being of what is represented. In the work of Jones and of Smith, this detour has not yet been made; only the place from which [it] will become possible has . . . been established. This place is an ambiguous epistemological conguration involving two different concepts of language: on one hand, language as a veridical discourse, the transparent medium of knowledge; on the other, language as a historical system, the opaque object of knowledge. Joness work, like Smiths, contains a philosophic duality at the point of its imminent dissolution (OT, p. 240). Precisely because Joness work immediately preceded the institutionalization of philology as an academic discipline, it should enable us to recover concepts of language and literature that the new philology disavowed. On what subsequently forgotten approaches is his work premised? Both Derrida and Daniel Heller-Roazen have returned to Genesis 11 in order to explore the peculiar concept of language implied therein. While recognizing the moral of the story to be that linguistic plurality is, hence53. Jones, The Fifth Anniversary Discourse, on the Tartars, delivered 21st February, 1788, 3:1012. 54. Georges Dume zil, Civilization Indo-europe ene, Cahiers du Sud 309 (1951): 222. 55. Trautmann, Aryans and British India, p. 39.

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forward, irreducible, they have also drawn more subtle inferences from one of the chapters strange details: Genesis 11:9 redenes the word babel to mean confusion. The Old Testament thereby confounds a noun, probably Akkadian in origin, signifying the gateway of God with the Hebrew l, to confuse. Ironically, this single alteration contains verb , bilbe Gods punishment within itself: God shatters the original language, making the people of Shinar unable to communicate with each other and throwing them into confusion. Where Babel was the quintessentially proper name because it opened to Gods presence, it becomes the quintessentially improper (or fallen) word because it paradoxically signies the noncorrespondence of word and meaning. Both Derrida and HellerRoazen have inferred that after Babel language and confusion become synonymous. Or to be more precise: because the people of Shinar wanted their language to be universal, God decreed that no linguistic experience except confusion would ever be universal again. Derrida described babel as the only idiom that . . . triumphed (lemporter).56 The triumph of babel implies that, in place of a universal discourse that would comprehend all other languages, there are now only those other languages, different from each other and each one even from itself, subject to change across both space and time. In the same vein, Heller-Roazen has written: As the element from which all languages departed and by means of which they ceaselessly multiplied both temporally and geographically, confusion would remain inseparable from the idioms to which it gave rise.57 After the towers destruction, it is no longer the Word but rather confusion itself that is the origin of language. Alluding to a passage from the Babylonian Talmud that claims the air around the [ruined] tower makes one lose ones memory, Heller-Roazen has suggested that each of us may still unwittingly inhabit the ruins of Babel, fated to forget not only the Ursprache, but also every idiom we have spoken from our rst words to the present (quoted in E, p. 227; see also pp. 23031). It is this unavoidable forgetting that makes languages multiplyor, in other words, that . . . allow[s] all languages to be (E, p. 12). To embrace our linguistic conditionthe noncorrespondence of languages, which ensures their multiplicitywe would need, therefore, to be open to each language on its own terms. Such an attitude toward the
56. Derrida, Des tours de Babel, Psyche, vol. 1 of Inventions of the Other, trans. Peggy Kamuf et al., ed. Kamuf and Elizabeth Rottenberg (Stanford, Calif., 2007), p. 196; hereafter abbreviated B. 57. Daniel Heller-Roazen, Echolalias: On the Forgetting of Language (New York, 2008), p. 225; hereafter abbreviated E.

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noncorrespondence of languages would draw near the concept of die reine Sprache or pure language that Walter Benjamin described in his own meditations on Babels legacy: On the Language as Such and on the Language of Man (1916) and The Translators Task (1921). Benjamins reine Sprache is less a language itself than an approach to language in general that rejects the possibility of understanding any language by means of another. Elaborating a suggestion from the Kabbalah, Benjamin identied alienation from God with the belief that language is a medium of something outside itself, such as truth or knowledge, a concept of language that makes it, according to Benjamin, empty and withered, mere prattle (Geschwtz).58 In contrast, pure language no longer signies [nichts mehr meint] or expresses anything; it refers instead to the expressionless and creative word [schpferisches Wort] that is the intended object of every language.59 Benjamins approach to language presupposes that the confusion of tongues neither can nor needs to be redeemed, and in this way it opens the door to the divine once more. When languages are no longer limited by any overarching analytic discourse, they experience sacred growth (heilige Wachstum), moving increasingly close to the incomprehensible, the secret [Unfabare, Geheimnisvolle], the poeticor even, Benjamin notes, to forms of life that exceed organic corporeality alone. The suprahistorical kinship [Verwandtschaft] of languages takes place in this unworldly realm, which in Benjamins thought potentially interrupts our own at every moment. The attempt to decipher the pure language of any text is, in other words, an approach to the confusion of tongues that does not attempt to transcend it. Benjamin explains that though the great motive of integrating the plurality of languages into a single true language is here carrying out its work (erfu llt seine Arbeit), individual propositions from different languages never arrive at agreement. Instead, the languages themselves . . . agree, reconciled with each other in their common resistance to any form of reference.60 Nineteenth-century philology had to exile precisely this attitude of acceptance toward the confusion of tongues if it wanted to become the master discourse. It is no coincidence, then, that Umberto Eco, George Steiner, and Ge rard Genette each locate the origins of such an attitude in the long eighteenth century (though Eco acknowledges that outside Europe such an
58. Walter Benjamin, On Language as Such and on the Language of Man, Reections: Essays, Aphorisms, Autobiographical Writings, trans. Edmund Jephcott, ed. Peter Demetz (New York, 1986), p. 328. 59. Benjamin, The Translators Task, trans. Steven Rendall, TTR 10, no. 2 (1997): 163. 60. Ibid., pp. 157, 152, 153, 156, 159.

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attitude existed much earlier), when the interpretation of Babel underwent a fundamental, if short-lived, transformation.61 According to Eco, the eighteenth-century reinterpretation of Babel hinged on Genesis 1, which suggests that the multiplicity of tongues was prior to the destruction of the tower and must have been therefore humanitys primitive condition. No longer Gods punishment, the confusion of tongues can be seen, nally, as a gift. Once it reappears in this way, Eco observes, the very sense of the myth of Babel has been turned upside down (ce ` il rovesciamento di segno nella lettura del mito babelico).62 We should recall, in this regard, that Jones considered Babel an actual eventthe fourth important fact recorded in the Mosaick historyand disavowed the possibility of ever recovering humanitys original language.63 He insisted instead on the irreducible diversity of languages. Joness writing occupies a peculiar moment, when the confusion of tongues suddenly and briey ceased to be a curse. To understand his work, we will need, in other words, to untie the eighteenth-century encounter with diverse language families from the nineteenth-century ascendancy of historical method. Though they are both episodes in the history of philology, they are fundamentally different from each other.

3. The Confusion of Languages and the Concept of Literature When philology dissolved the Enlightenment concept of language, it enabled language, Foucault argued, to assume myriad forms. A conceit about Babel tacitly structures his discussion of philology in The Order of Things: when the unity of [Enlightenment discourse] was broken up, language appeared in a multiplicity of modes of being, whose unity was probably irrecoverable (dont lunite , sans doute, ne pouvait pas etre restaure e) (OT, p. 304).64 As philology began to uncover the historical complexity of language, gradually excavating the depth and breadth of Babels ruins, it ensured that its own method would never be equal to the task of reconstruction. Every analytic discourse that claimed to comprehend language in general would, like the tower, fall to pieces before it was nished. In Foucaults account, the concept of literature is born in the West only
61. See George Steiner, After Babel: Aspects of Language and Translation (Oxford, 1975), pp. 7386; Eco, The Search for the Perfect Language, pp. 910, 338; and Ge rard Genette, Mimologics, trans. Tha s E. Morgan (Lincoln, Nebr., 1994), pp. 11541. 62. Eco, The Search for the Perfect Language, p. 339. 63. Jones, Ninth Anniversary Discourse, on the Origin and Families of Nations, delivered 23d February, 1792, 3:194; rst italics, my emphasis; see also 3:19697. 64. See Foucaults discussion of Babel, Language to Innity (1963), Language, CounterMemory, Practice, trans. Donald F. Bouchard and Sherry Simon, ed. Bouchard (Ithaca, N.Y., 1997), p. 66.

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after eighteenth-century philology discloses languages multiple modes of being: there has of course existed in the Western world, since Dante, since Homer, a form of language that we now call literature. But the word is of a recent date, as is also, in our culture, the isolation of a particular language whose peculiar mode of being is literary (OT, pp. 299300). When different modes of language inhabit the same place, they create what Foucault refers to as an unthinkable space (OT, p. xvii). Literature is Foucaults name for the language practice and the theoretical concept that occupy this space. If eighteenth-century philology is literatures antecedent, nineteenth-century philology becomes its adversary because literature must differentiate itself not only from the Enlightenments veridical discourse but also from the new philologys historical systems: Literature is the contestation of philology (of which it is nevertheless the twin gure): it leads language back from grammar to the naked power [pouvoir de nude ] of speech, and there it encounters the untamed [sauvage], imperious being of words (OT, p. 300). In other words, literature is language that makes no reference outside itself: At the moment when language . . . becomes an object of knowledge, we see it reappearing in a strictly opposite modality . . . where it has nothing to say but itself, nothing to do but shine in the brightness of its being (OT, p. 300). It is perhaps no coincidence, then, that while Jones presented grammar as the instrument of true knowledge, his own studies of Arabic, Persian, and Indian literatures question the very possibility of such knowledge. He emphasized, for example, that the nomad poetry of the Muallaqa t denies the stability of human existence: the Bedouin pour out [these poems] almost extempore, professing a contempt for the stately pillars, and solemn buildings of the cities. Here Jones undertook the paradoxical task of reading what was, in his words, originally unwritten, the poetry of an oral culture. The poems extemporaneous form implied, for Jones, a language that exists, as he noted, only in memory. Memory is the trace of what has already passed away, like tracks in the desert sand. Such tracks are the most recurrent topos of the Muallaqa t; they are the poems ultimate signied, what human building always comes to in the end. According to Jones, the language of the Muallaqa t does not merely express but enacts the nomads love of freedom: for the Bedouin, delighting in eloquence, disclaiming . . . dependence on [the] monarch, and exulting in their liberty were one and the same act.65 Jones argued, in other words, that the ancient language of the Bedouin existed in ethical, political, and ontological opposition to the state-centered empires that surrounded them.
65. Jones, Fourth Anniversary Discourse, on the Arabs, delivered 15th February, 1787, 3:67, 66, 69, 6869.

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Joness essays On the Persians and On the Mystical Poetry of the Persians and Hindus discuss literatures that, more radically still, deny external reference altogether. The rst essay notes that Su writing advises its practitioners to break all connexion . . . with extrinsick objects, and pass through life without attachments.66 The second essay includes Joness prose translation of a poem by Ismat Alla h Bukha r that contains an exemplum of Su thought. When Ismat pursues the pagan daughter of Vintner, she commands him, Cast thy rosary on the ground; bind on thy shoulder the thread of paganism; throw stones at the glass of piety; and quaff wine from a full goblet; / After that come before me, that I may whisper a word in thine ear; thou wilt accomplish thy journey, if thou listen to my discourse. Abandoning my heart and rapt in ecstasy, I ran after her, till I came to a place, in which religion and reason forsook me. / At a distance I beheld a company, all insane and inebriated, who came boiling and roaring with ardour from the wine of love; / Without cymbals, or lutes, or viols, yet all full of mirth and melody; without wine, or goblet, or ask, yet all incessantly drinking. When the cord of restraint slipped from my hand, I desired to ask her one question, but she said: Silence! / This is no square temple, to the gate of which thou canst arrive precipitately: this is no mosque to which thou canst come with tumult, but without knowledge. / This is the banquet-house of indels, and within it all are intoxicated; all, from the dawn of eternity to the day of resurrection, lost in astonishment. / Depart then from the cloister, and take the way to the tavern; cast off the cloak of a dervish, and wear the robe of a libertine. I obeyed; and, if thou desirest the same strain and colour with ISMAT, imitate him, and sell this world and the next for one drop of pure wine. Jones commented: Such is the strange religion, and stranger language of the Sus; but most of the Asiatick poets are of that religion . . . If we think it worth while to read their poems, we must think it worth while to understand them. Staying with the Sus strange language, Jones translated the words of Ru m to gloss Ismats poem: the Sus profess eager desire, but with no carnal affection, and circulate the cup, but no material goblet; since all things are spiritual in their sect, all is mystery within mystery.67 As with Arabic poetry, Joness discussions of Persian and Indian literatures
66. Jones, Sixth Anniversary Discourse, on the Persians, delivered 19th February, 1789, 3:13031. 67. Jones, On the Mystical Poetry of the Persians and Hindus, The Works of Sir William Jones, 4:22930.

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emphasize the ways in which they reject objective knowledge and accord language ontological power instead. Joness commitment to understand Asiatick literature on its own terms forced him, in other words, to confront the language of indels, who do not believe in the preconceived meanings of words, for whom the word has become dissevered from the thing and recovered its own creative force. This language, where everything is mystery within mystery, approaches both Benjamins reine Sprache and Foucaults denition of literature.68 Such conceptswhich do not recognize a difference between ontic and phenomenal existenceare precisely what historical method must denigrate because it is premised, as Jean-Pierre Vernant observed, on a sharp and denitive division [coupure] between the strictly rational approach [de marche] and the naive fantasies of the mythological imagination [imaginaire].69 But these concepts of language are also precisely what Joness essays and translations made available to the romantic generation. More than any other gure, Jones inspired the Oriental Renaissance that shaped late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century European literature, as Schwab explained at length.70 Here is Joness often-quoted explanation of the impulse behind his comparative studies: our European poetry has subsisted too long on the perpetual repetition of the same images, and incessant allusions to the same fables: and it has been my endeavour for several years to inculcate this truth, that, if the principal writings of the Asiaticks [were printed] and if the languages of the Eastern nations were studied in our great seminaries of learning[,] a new and ample eld would be opened for speculation; . . . we should be furnished with a new set of images and similitudes.71 What European writers have to gain, though, from the images and similitudes of Eastern poets is more than a new set of tropes. Whereas contemporary European writing is, according to Jones, the likeness of a likeness, Eastern poetry does not represent something else but instead realizes that rich and creative invention, which is the very soul of poetry.72 Jones wanted European literature to share Eastern poetrys ontological power. In Joness account, Eastern poetry emerges not from the already constituted relationships between word and thing but rather from the acceptance of linguistic confusion, which necessarily constitutes that relationship anew.
68. Foucault also uses the term pure language (un pur langage)and the brute being of languageto dene literature (OT, pp. 89, 119). 69. Vernant, Foreword, p. viii. 70. See Schwab, The Oriental Renaissance, pp. 3536, 38, 51, 5661. 71. Jones, Essay on the Poetry of Eastern Nations, 10:35960. 72. Ibid., 10:355.

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According to anthropological studies, the Hindu and Islamic traditions that preceded the advent of colonialism were based not on texts but rather on rituals in which language was inseparable from physical experience.73 Such language cannot be understood on the model of the sign, the signature, or any other European theory of correspondence between word and thing.74 It was thought instead to transmit the being of the one who originates it and, consequently, to transform the being of the one who receives it. A sacred language was, in other words, a material substance and an active force; its simple articulation altered the unfolding of time.75 Within these traditions, therefore, one could not stand outside language and make it the object of historical knowledge. It is philology that rst separates language from the material world.76 Wherever and whenever it has emerged, from the Vedic schools and Aristotelian thought to Renaissance humanism and the higher criticism, philological scholarship and education has abstracted language from living speech and reconstituted it in terms of linguistic categories (such as syntax and grammar) and, ultimately, rules of development (whether phonological or morphological). By formalizing language in these ways, philology turns itself into a science. Indeed, once history has become a dimension
73. See Cohn, The Command of Language and the Language of Command, pp. 1819, and Talal Asad, Formations of the Secular: Christianity, Islam, Modernity (Stanford, Calif., 2003), pp. 224, 24952. As Asad notes, the Arabic word for such embodied traditions is sunna. He relates it to the concept of habitus; see Marcel Mauss, Techniques of the Body, Economy and Society 2 (Feb. 1973): 7088, and Pierre Bourdieu, Outline of a Theory of Practice, trans. Richard Nice (Cambridge, 1977). A Sanskrit-based analog is adhyan; see Spivak, Translators Afterword, in Mahasweta Devi, Chotti Munda and His Arrow, trans. Spivak (Oxford, 2002), p. 289. 74. Benedict Anderson and Cohn make this point; see Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London, 1991), p. 14, and Cohn, The Command of Language and the Language of Command, p. 18. 75. According to Michel de Certeau, the birth of science and linguistics depends on the deontologizing [de sontologisation] of language (Michel de Certeau, The Mystic Fable, trans. Michael B. Smith, 2 vols. [Chicago, 1992], 1:123). Giorgio Agamben claims, similarly, that languages ontological (ontologico) or performative power has been replaced by a purely denotative structure managed by logic, science, and law. He considers the death of God one event in this transformation: Once the performative power of language was concentrated in the name of the one God[,] the individual divine names lose all efcacy and fall to the level of linguistic ruins [macerie], in which only the denotative meaning remains perceptible. The ruin of languagethe loss of its ontological powerpromotes a spectacular and unprecedented proliferation [of] legislative apparatuses that seek obstinately to legislate on every aspect [of] life (Giorgio Agamben, The Sacrament of Language: An Archaeology of the Oath [Stanford, Calif., 2010], pp. 5659, 70). 76. See V. N. Volosinov, Marxism and the Philosophy of Language, trans. Ladislav Matejka and I. R. Titunik (Cambridge, Mass., 1986), pp. 7179; Gadamer, Text and Interpretation, The Gadamer Reader: A Bouquet of the Later Writings, trans. and ed. Richard E. Palmer (Chicago, 2007), pp. 15691, 170; and Kristeva, Language, pp. 44, 14547, 15657, 197.

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inside language, philology can claim to be the only method that produces knowledge about the human pastand hence that still has access to any (and every) tradition. But when a language is made to illustrate laws of historical change, it ceases to be an active part of the present. The new philologys sophisticated effort to reconstruct the relationship between language and history dooms language, in Foucaults words, to be re-apprehensible only within history (OT, p. 294).77 Hence, we need to see the new philology not as the preservation of tradition but rather as its destruction; the physical experience of language is superseded by abstract knowledge. When we assume the perspective of the new philology, we lose access to any tradition in which language is thought to form the very basis of being and hence could not be objectied. Regardless of the European philological premise that literary works become intelligible only when one places them within a historical order, precolonial Indian traditions conceived them instead as constituent elements of present experience, according to both Bernard Cohn and Kamil Zvelebil.78 Joness translations of and essays about Sanskrit, Arabic, and Persian literature attempted to inhabit language practices that historical method would leave in ruins. In his work, we encounter a comparatism that operated outside the prison house of academic philology. Scholarship across the humanities tends to associate philology with the practice that developed after Jones, founded squarely on the kind of historical method Auerbach advocated. But in Joness work, before the constitution of philology as a quasi-scientic discipline, diverse and radically opposed concepts of history, language, and literature coexisted and interrupted each other. The play of such oppositions exemplies what Jonathan Culler considers to be philologys most profound lesson: the contradiction between its desire to reconstruct history and its attention to linguistic details that resist the aesthetic and ideological assumptions on which historical reconstruction depends. Culler concludes his essay AntiFoundational Philology by emphasizing that the play of the term philology . . . is valuable insofar as it captures the crucial tension between the reconstructive project and that critique of construction which philology ought to have as its goal.79 His point about philologys subversive potential
77. Gadamer reiterates this point; see Gadamer, Man and Language, Philosophical Hermeneutics, trans. and ed. David E. Linge (Berkeley, 1976), pp. 5968, 61. 78. See Cohn, Command of Language and the Language of Command, p. 56, and Kamil Zvelebil, Tamil Literature (Wiesbaden, 1974), pp. 24. 79. Jonathan Culler, Anti-Foundational Philology, in On Philology, ed. Jan Ziolkowski (University Park, Penn., 1990), p. 52. See Gadamer, Truth and Method, p. 334: criticism and philology can attain their true dignity and proper knowledge of themselves only by being liberated from history.

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mirrors Foucaults argument that when eighteenth-century philology liberated the mode of language he called literature it brought historical method itself into question. According to Foucault, literature operates outside the historical rules that have been devised for language. It is distinguished by the insistence that though bereft of divine sanction it contains a creative force that cannot be adequately interpreted by any of the analytic discourses that have been imposed on it. Against the reduction of philology to such a discourse, we need to recall other philological practices that accept the irreducible diversity of languages and hence preserve languages ontological power. Before it was housed in academic institutions, philology dwelt for a time in the ruins of Babel. Perhaps those ruinssymbols of irreducible linguistic diversitywould serve as a more tting foundation for the new comparative literature than philologys subsequent development, which disavowed Babel in diametrically opposed ways. While nineteenth-century philologists such as Ernest Renan and Mu ller dreamed of recovering the Aryan Ursprache, twentieth-century philologists such as Auerbach and Curtius wanted to nd a critical discourse that would be equally fundamental. The destruction of the tower was meant to condemn all such aspirations, every attempt, conscious or not, to afliate ones own tongue with the imitative perfection of the Adamic language. Babel was the prototypical punishment for colonial projects; if the construction of the tower was the attempt of early Semites to join together and establish an empire, which entailed a universal language, the destruction of the tower was meant to interrupt what Derrida called their linguistic imperialism (B, p. 199). As soon as they express their desire to be a single people with a single tongue (Genesis 11:4), God confounds their idioms, making them mutually unintelligible. He thereby transforms Babel from a colonial project to a gure for the inadequation of one tongue to another (linade quation dune langue a ` lautre) (B, p. 191). He turns it, in other words, into the babbleor giftof world literature.

4. Colonialism and Comparatism Any new comparatism that wants to be adequate to the alterity of world literature but still remain faithful to philological protocol will come to an old impasse, as one could argue both Auerbachs and Saids work did. If we returned to the eighteenth-century history of philology and comparatism, before they were systematized, we might nd a way out of this impasse. Joness work does not denitively privilege any single theory of language or literature. Here language takes the form, variously, of each of the three types Foucault described in The Order of Things: a veridical discourse; an object of historical analysis; and an ontological force that denies the au-

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thority of truth and history. These diverse forms reect the different possibilities late eighteenth-century philology made available when it called Enlightenment premises about the transparency of language into question: the fragmentation and dispersion of language was an event (e ve nement) that, Foucault claimed, occurred towards the end of the eighteenth century (OT, pp. 307, 238). But if Joness formulation of the Indo-European thesis initiated a dispersion of language, we, unlike Foucault, must nonetheless recall that Jones was the head of the East India Companys Supreme Court. His studies occurred within a colonial context and were meant to serve colonial rule. Hence, while Joness linguistic and literary research put diverse concepts of language into play, his juridical work made a xed concept of language the basis of native law. Even before the company formally established a colonial administration, its ofcials understood that a historical approach to the Subcontinents various languages would be the precondition of colonial hegemony. One of the rst governors of Bengal, J. Z. Holwell, wrote in 1767: A mere description of the exterior manners and religion of a people, will no more give us a true idea of them, than a geographical description of a country can convey a just conception of their laws and government. [One must be] skilled in the languages of the people . . . sufciently to trace the etymology of their words and phrases, and [be] capable of diving into the mysteries of their theology.80 Preguring the new philology, Holwell implied that once company ofcials understood that each Indian language has its own history, they would unlock the truth of their native subjects. During the nal three decades of the eighteenth century, in the wake of Joness pioneering study of Persian (1771), company scholars created an extensive philological apparatus for South Asian languages, including textbooks, literary and linguistic treatises, dictionaries, and grammars.81 These studies formed the
80. John Zephaniah Holwell, Interesting Historical Events, Relative to the Provinces of Bengal, and the Empire of Indostan, 3 vols. (London, 176571), 2:9. 81. See Jones, A Grammar of the Persian Language (London, 1771); George Hadley, Grammatical Remarks on the Practical and Vulgar Dialect of the Indostan Language, Commonly Called Moors (London, 1772); Nathaniel Brassey Halhed, A Grammar of the Bengal Language (1778; Menston, 1969); John Richardson, A Dictionary, English, Persian and Arabic (Oxford, 1780); Francis Balfour, The Forms Of Herkern Corrected from a Variety of Manuscripts, Supplied with the Distinguishing Marks of Construction, and Translated into English: With an Index of Arabic Words Explained and Arranged under Their Proper Roots (Calcutta, 1781); William Kirkpatrick, A Vocabulary, Persian, Arabic and English; Containing Such Words as Have Been Adopted from the Two Former of Those Languages, and Incorporated into the Hindvi: Together with Some Hundreds of Compound Verbs Formed from Persian or Arabic Nouns, and in Universal Use: Being the Seventh Part of the New Hindvi Grammar and Dictionary (London, 1785); and John Gilchrist, A Dictionary, English and Hindustanee, 2 vols. (Calcutta, 178790).

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groundwork for the numerous legal and religious texts Jones and his colleagues reconstructed from archaic originalswhich in turn enabled the colonial state to claim knowledge about Indian history and present itself as an extension of native sovereignty.82 Philology had been apprenticed to colonial rule. In fact, the British colonial governments approach to India was philological in the modern sense: it made native history a dimension internal to language. Company scholars viewed Sanskrit, Arabic, and Persianthe prestige languages of the Brahmanical and Islamic legal canonsas the vessels of Hinduism and Islams true histories. Hence, they were able to reduce Indian society, which they found forbiddingly complex and heterogeneous, to a discrete number of legal and religious texts, which they rendered legible and coherent.83 In the process, they turned native languages into markers of human difference, dividing individuals into groups that had previously not existed and xing social practices that had been uid, as Cohn explained in The Command of Language and the Language of Command.84 In fact, colonial jurisprudence gave natives an ethnological character; it redened not merely the property relations but even the rituals and beliefs that counted as traditional.85 The colonial utility of philology lay here. Because it identies tradition with texts alone, it provides sovereign power a traditional lineage from which native experience itself is exiled. Jones intended his legal codes to achieve this end in colonial India.86 In his view, native lawyers and scholars who had the power to adapt religious law to local circumstances could

82. See in particular Halhed, A Code of Gentoo Laws or, Ordinations of the Pundits, from a Persian Translation, Made from the Original, Written in the Shanscrit Language (London, 1776); rjo Charles Wilkins, The Bha gva t-Gc cta , or Dialogues of Kre eshna and A o n (London, 1785); Ayeen Akbery; or, The Institutes of the Emperor Akber, trans. Francis Gladwin, 3 vols. (Calcutta, 1783 86); Charles Hamilton, The He `edaa ` ya, or Guide: A Commentary on the Mussulman Laws (London, 1791); and Joness works listed below. See also Radhika Singha, A Despotism of Law: Crime and Justice in Early Colonial India (Delhi, 1998), pp. viiix, 8182. 83. See Upendra Baxi, The States Emissary: The Place of Law in Subaltern Studies, in Subaltern Studies VII, ed. Partha Chatterjee and Gyanendra Pandey (Delhi, 1992), pp. 24764, 24950, 252, and Nasser Hussain, The Jurisprudence of Emergency: Colonialism and the Rule of Law (Ann Arbor, Mich., 2003), p. 41. 84. See Cohn, Command of Language and the Language of Command, p. 22. 85. John Comaroff, Colonialism, Culture, and the Law: A Foreword, Law and Social Inquiry 26 (Spring 2001): 306 see also p. 309. 86. See Jones, Al Sirajiyyah; or, The Mohammedan Law of Inheritance (Calcutta, 1792) and Institutes of Hindu Law or, The Ordinances of Menu, According to the Gloss of Cullu ca, trans. Jones (Calcutta, 1794); A Digest of Hindu Law on Contracts and Successions, trans. H. T. Colebrooke, 4 vols. (Calcutta, 1798); Cohn, Law and the Colonial State in India, Colonialism and Its Forms of Knowledge, p. 71; Trautmann, The Lives of Sir William Jones, p. 102; and David Ibetson, Sir William Jones as Comparative Lawyer, in Sir William Jones, 1746 1794, p. 21.

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not be trusted.87 Jones aspired, as a consequence, to replace the embodied learning of the Brahmin pandits and Muslim maulavis with the textual and hence scientic knowledge of the colonial state. His explicit aim was to refound the Hindu and Islamic legal traditions solely on original texts arranged in a scientic methodnot on native experience, therefore, but rather on its destruction.88 His codes enabled the colonial state to overwrite the ungovernable babble of the newly conquered with the language of the law.89 Jones used the philological skills he developed in his translations of akuntala the Muallaqa t, Ha fez, and S to produce versions of Sharia and the Dharmas a stra that would reconstitute native law and have an inestimable effect on Indian colonial and postcolonial history. Nineteenthcentury Indiansand eventually colonial subjects around the world, Said includedwould learn to read standardized texts and understand their histories in terms of the scholarly protocols bequeathed to them by colonial philology.90 The study of world literature would be more attuned to its own genealogy, if it acknowledged how profoundly both its materials and its methods are a colonial legacy. Colonial philology disembedded native literatures from their traditions so that it could dissever native subjects from their forms of life. It initiated a transformation so massive that no tradition now remains untouched. Historicist humanism authorized this transformation. It argued that philologically reconstructed texts contain the truth of tradition more authentically than people themselves do. It became hegemonicthe basis of both critical method and colonial dominationbecause it enabled modern institutions to impose analytic and bureaucratic order on multilingual terrains. According to Michael Herzfeld, it transmuted the polyglot agonies of Babel into a cult of transcendent European erudition.91 Auerbachs presupposition that world literature would exist in the future only as a subject of philological scholarship and Saids silence on this score reect the privilege they placed on historicism above all other approaches to language. They aligned philology and comparatism with this
87. Jones, letter to the rst marquis of Cornwallis, 19 Mar. 1788, The Letters of Sir William Jones, ed. Garland Cannon, 2 vols. (Oxford, 1970), 2:795. See John Strawson, Islamic Law and English Texts, in Laws of the Postcolonial, ed. Eve Darian-Smith and Peter Fitzpatrick (Ann Arbor, Mich., 1999), p. 122, and Jon Wilson, The Domination of Strangers: Modern Governance in Eastern India, 1780 1835 (New York, 2008), p. 80. 88. Cannon, letter to C. W. Boughton Rouse, 24 Oct. 1786, The Letters of Sir William Jones, 2:721. 89. Comaroff, Colonialism, Culture, and the Law, p. 309. 90. See Cohn, Introduction, Colonialism and Its Forms of Knowledge, p. 3 and An Anthropologist among the Historians and Other Essays (Oxford, 1987), pp. 124, 22829, 618. 91. Michael Herzfeld, Anthropology through the Looking-Glass: Critical Ethnography in the Margins of Europe (Cambridge, 1987), p. 31.

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concept of language rather than with an openness to all language practices. Hence, while Said criticized the Eurocentrism of both Orientalism and romance philology, he could not question the concept of language at their methodological foundations.92 Rather than distancing himself from that concept, Said advocated it throughout his career (see O, p. 136).93 In fact, he projected it from nineteenth- and twentieth-century scholarship back into Joness work, where it manifestly does not belong. According to Orientalism, William Jones stated in his Anniversary Discourses . . . that the divine dynasty of language was ruptured denitively and discredited as an idea. A new historical conception, in short, was needed (O, pp. 13536). Such a statement nds little support in the Anniversary Discourses; it reects instead Saids general conception of modern philology, which he believed had determined the origin of language once and for all: the new philology[s] . . . major successes include . . . the nal rejection of the divine origins of language. . . . [It] held language to be an entirely human phenomenon.94 Paul de Man argued that we should conceive philology not as the humanistic discipline it ultimately became but rather as what it is in essence: an examination of the structure of language prior to the meaning it produces. If we did, then philology itself would undermine the assumptions of academic literary study, which has operated as a historical and humanistic subject since its late nineteenth-century inception.95 Joness philological studies proved to him only that, after Babel and as its consequence, the origin of languagewhether divine, secular, or a different ontology altogethermust remain undecidable. His translations of Ha fez, the akuntala Muallaqa t, and even S suggested, furthermore, that literature is the form of writing that plays with this undecidability, denying that language has any reference, foundation, or origin outside itself. These works correspond uncannily to Foucaults description of literature as a mode of language that is folded back upon the enigma of its own origin [replie e sur le nigme de sa naissance] and existing wholly in reference to the pure act of writing
92. For example, he pointedly criticized nineteenth-century philologys politics, not its epistemology; see Said, Raymond Schwab and the Romance of Ideas, The World, the Text, and the Critic, p. 264. 93. See also Said, Raymond Schwab and the Romance of Ideas, p. 260; Islam, Philology, and French Culture, pp. 27374, 278; and Erich Auerbach, Critic of the Earthly World, pp. 1315. 94. According to Agamben, the origin of language cannot be historicized because it founds the possibility [of] . . . any history. Theories that consider languages origin to be divine acknowledge this impossibility (Agamben, Infancy and History: The Destruction of Experience, trans. Liz Heron [London, 1993], p. 56). 95. Paul de Man, The Resistance to Theory (Minneapolis, 1986), pp. 24, 25; my emphasis.

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opposed in other words to any form of knowledge that claims to have transcended the confusion of tongues (OT, p. 300). Joness work can serve as the starting point for a critical history of comparative literature precisely because it took place prior to the hegemony of historicist humanism. Colonialism involved the conquest of an epistemic space, by means of which the physical experience of language was turnedas Ranajit Guha has explainedinto abstract legality.96 The human sciences have rewritten this act of conquest as the gift of historical sensibility. Its legacy lives on in the privilege that Auerbach and Said placed on realism and secular criticism, respectively. In a primer for his Turkish students, Auerbach described philology as an expression of the civilized desire to preserve tradition: The need to establish authentic texts arises when a people of an advanced civilization become aware of this civilization and want to preserve from the ravages of time the works that constitute its spiritual heritage.97 But, for Auerbach, this spiritual heritage comprised texts amenable to historical analysis. The European tradition was intelligible to him only to the extent that it progressively engendered historical thought, thereby fullling the gure of Christs incarnation and realizing, in Hayden Whites words, humanitys distinctive mode of being, that is, historicity.98 The real (or Wirklichkeit) with which Auerbach aligned both European realism and his own critical method is, in other words, an effect of the new philologys concept of language-history. Like Auerbach, Said considered philology the method by which diasporic scholars avoid falling victim to the concrete dangers of exile: the loss of texts, traditions, and continuities that make up the very web of a culture.99 In his view, the new philology laid the foundation for secular criticism, which likewise denies that language has an origin outside history and presupposes instead that it provides epistemic access to the human domain.100 What remained invisible to Said is the genealogy and politics of secularism itself. It emerged, according to Asad and others, not with the replacement of divine providence by human agency, but rather with the removal of divine presence from the material world to a transcendent
96. Ranajit Guha, Chandras Death, in Subaltern Studies V, ed. Guha (Delhi, 1986), p. 141. 97. Auerbach, Introduction aux etudes de philologie romane (Frankfurt, 1949), p. 9. 98. Hayden White, Figural Realism: Studies in the Mimesis Effect (Baltimore, 1999), p. 99. 99. Said, Secular Criticism, p. 6. See Said, Reections on Exile, Reections on Exile and Other Essays, p. 185. 100. See Said, Beginnings: Intention and Method (New York, 1975), pp. 31516, 364, 366; O, pp. 12021, 13839; Secular Criticism, p. 24; Islam, Philology, and French Culture, pp. 27374, 278, 288; Raymond Schwab and the Romance of Ideas, p. 260; Culture and Imperialism, p. 161; and Erich Auerbach, Critic of the Earthly World, pp. 2930.

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realm.101 Once the earth has been secularized in this way, it can be exploited without limit. In fact, the term secularism began its life as the name for a nineteenth-century political movement that wanted to transform European society in line with demands of industrial capitalism. Secularists contested the Christian churchs traditional authority by reconstructing the law. But if this is the function of modern law in Europe, it served an even more fundamental purpose in the colony: it made non-European society secular for the rst time. One could argue that, in his advocacy not only of humanism but also of secular criticism, Said remained trapped within the very language of colonial rule. To extricate ourselves from that trap, we would need to begin a colonial archaeology of historical method. Modern literary studies developed not only in academic institutions but also in colonial legal and print cultures; the latter have had much more global inuence. At some point, therefore, our critiques of literary studies must venture beyond the walls of the academy in order to analyze the spread of colonial law across the earth. We may nd that the development of historical method has less to do with the nineteenth-century research university than with the reconstruction of indigenous life on a planetary scale. Joness philological research was not exclusively historicist in its approach, but his colonial jurisprudence was, because historical knowledge was the necessary foundation of colonial sovereignty. Like colonial jurisprudence, secular criticism assumes that historical method is the precondition of political competence.102 In contrast, an archaeological approach would not take historical method for granted; it would acknowledge that philologys colonial function was to appropriate and effacein a word, destroythe diverse language experiences that preceded it. Such an archaeology would trace not only the colonial arrangement of knowledge that shaped historical methodand secular criticism as wellbut also the precolonial language practices that
101. See Asad, Formations of the Secular, pp. 2327, 3743, 21115, 23536, 253; Jan N. Bremer, Greek Religion (Cambridge, 2006), pp. 56; Owen Chadwick, The Secularization of the European Mind in the Nineteenth Century (Cambridge, 1975), pp. 8893; and Eric Waterhouse, Secularism, in Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, ed. James Hastings, 12 vols. (New York, 190827), 11:34750. 102. See Said, Beginnings, p. 6, Secular Criticism, p. 3, Culture and Imperialism, p. 61, Islam, Philology, and French Culture, p. 288, The Future of Criticism, Reections on Exile and Other Essays, pp. 16572, 170; and Timothy Brennan, Wars of Position: The Cultural Politics of Left and Right (New York, 2006), pp. 109, 114. Recall Claude Le vi-Strausss argument that Jean-Paul Sartres Critique of Dialectical Reason remained Eurocentric despite its best intentions; historical method, though identied with reason as such, reects Europes development alone and excludes people without history from the category of the human. See Claude Le vi-Strauss, The Savage Mind, trans. pub. (Chicago, 1966), pp. 24856, 262.

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existed outside this arrangement. An archaeological project of this kind is, as Agamben has emphasized, philology turned against itselfor the destruction of destruction.103 This project must be part of the comparative literature to come, whose task involves unearthing the approaches to language the new philology buried in its colonial past.

103. Agamben, Infancy and History, p. 161. Nietzsches vision was similar: The philologist of the future [must be] the destroyer [Vernichter] of the discipline of philology; I dream of a human collective [that] wants to be called destroyer (Nietzsche, Notizen zu Wir Philologen, pp. 56, 48).

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