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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Maurice Olender on the craft of reading and historical reasoning

A little gem from what Umberto Eco calls "one of the most beautiful books that I know on this subject":
A scholar's writings can be a place where conflicts crystallize: an author's whole work can be based on positions that to us seem mutually contradictory . . . .
  To confine an author to a simple image of his work, often concocted by later researchers for purposes of their own, is to recreate the past by inventing precursors for the present. . . .
  To take an author seriously, to view his work in the context of its times, to attempt to describe the twists and turns of his thinking does not, however, mean that one agrees with his conclusions or subscribes to his views. Obvious as this point is, it is worth making explicitly here.

Maurice Olender, The Languages of Paradise: Aryans and Semites, a Match Made in Heaven, trans. Arthur Goldhammer, revised and augmented ed. (NY: Other Press, 2002), 18

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