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Philology as Explanation for Historical Contexts

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Chapter Summary

Philology deals with language in written historical sources. Philologists usually combine literary criticism, history and language in some way, depending on their aims. During the nineteenth and most of the twentieth centuries one key objective has been to compare the existing copies of a text in order to come as close as feasible to the original. However, at the end of the twentieth century some scholars changed focus from the original toward the copy. The copy was seen as “a version” which contained information about a specific sociotextual context both according to scribes and readers. The physical and material context of a version also attracted more attention. Information about both the sociotextual and the physical context can be used by researchers to explain behaviours, thinking, and to discuss “what is said between the lines.” But to succeed philologists need to take an interdisciplinarity approach. We cannot understand manuscripts just from their content, we cannot ignore the historical and sociotextual context to which the manuscripts belonged. Our interpretation is based on a profound understanding of the period, its religion, politics, culture and arts. This chapter will give an insight into how philology can be combined with critical discourse analysis in order to contribute to understanding different religious contexts and gaps in historical explanations. The focus will be on vernacular manuscripts from the late Swedish Middle Ages.



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