Mourning Philology

9780823255245: Hardback
Release Date: 3rd February 2014

9780823255269: PDF
Release Date: 3rd February 2014

Dimensions: 155.448 x 234.95

Number of Pages: 420

Fordham University Press

Mourning Philology

Art and Religion at the Margins of the Ottoman Empire

Written by
Marc Nichanian
Translated by
G. M. Goshgarian
Jeff Fort
This book offers a monograph on the work of the Armenian poet Daniel Varuzhan (1884-1915), preceded by a general account of how Armenian national philology unfolded in the 19th century, under the influence of European orientalist philology and its two main inventions: the native and mythological religion.
Hardback / £66.00
PDF / £74.00

“Pagan life seduces me a little more with each passing day. If it were possible today, I would change my religion and would joyfully embrace poetic paganism,” wrote the Armenian poet Daniel Varuzhan in 1908. During the seven years that remained in his life, he wrote largely in this “pagan” vein. If it was an artistic endeavour, why then should art be defined in reference to religion? And which religion precisely? Was Varuzhan echoing Schelling’s Philosophy of Art?

Mourning Philology draws on Varuzhan and his work to present a history of the national imagination, which is also a history of national philology, as a reaction to the two main philological inventions of the nineteenth century: mythological religion and the native. In its first part, the book thus gives an account of the successive stages of orientalist philology. The last episode in this story of national emergence took place in 1914 in Constantinople, when the literary journal Mehyan gathered around Varuzhan the great names to come of Armenian literature in the diaspora

Marc Nichanian was Professor of Armenian Studies at Columbia University from 1996 to 2007 and is currently Visiting Professor at Sabanci University, Istanbul, in the Department of Cultural Studies. His publications in English include The Historiographic Perversion and Writers of Disaster.

G.M. Goshgarian has translated from the Armenian the first part of Hagop Oshagan's epic novel Remnants, which won a PEN translation award in 2009 and the translations in Marc Nichanian's Writers of Disaster.
Jeff Fort is Associate Professor of French at the University of California, Davis, and the translator of more than a dozen books, by Jean Genet, Jacques Derrida, Maurice Blanchot, Jean-Luc Nancy, and others.

Marc Nichanian gives us the most extensive account of philology to date – by which I mean that he calls it to account as no one else has as of yet. He identifies philology as the foundational discourse that, hardly limited to the academy, instituted the “order of things” within which we live and think still. Philology’s role was memorably traced by Foucault, while Edward Said crucially implicated it in the history of colonial rule. Nichanian expands on both, and he does so by restoring religion to its place. More important, whereas Foucault and Said saw literature as the site of a possible breach of philology’s hold, Nichanian demonstrates the more complex, indeed, essential link between the aesthetic and the religious. Finally, by placing mourning at the center of these distinct discursive spheres, Nichanian brings together the emerging discourses and practices of “art, religion and philology,” archaeology, ethnography and literature, nationalism and colonialism. He thereby recasts our entire understanding of modernity as the impossibility of mourning. This extraordinary book, subtly argued, wonderfully organized, and impeccably translated, will no doubt appeal to scholars of literature, philosophy and religion.

—Gil Anidjar
Columbia University