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F. Max Muller and a. B. Keith: "Twaddle", the "Stupid" Myth, and the Disease of Indology

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Despite the recent scrutinization of the history of Indology (under the guise of its parent Orientalism), Indology in the latter half of the nineteenth century, the period when scholars in the West completed the first serious assessment of the Veda, remains largely unexplored. This period's legacy-dictionaries, critical editions, grammars, translations, and even academic chairs-remains the backbone of Vedic studies to this day. The nature of Indology during this period is reflected with special clarity in the work of F. Max Müller and A. B. Keith. Müller's editio princeps of the Rgvedasamhitā, and Keith's magnum opus, The Religion and Philosophy of the Veda and Upanishads, represent the beginning and end points of Indology-with its peculiar emphasis on the Vedic texts-during this period. Müller and Keith are also exemplars of what is perhaps the most curious feature of Indology in the latter half of the nineteenth century, namely, the often begrudging marriage of German and British scholarship. The discomfort that arose from this alliance was sharpened by the subject matter itself, India, into what might be termed the disease (appropriating Müller's term) of Indology. This disease, which combined alternating phases of awe and revulsion toward the Indian tradition, can be seen in the approach Indologists of the last century took to the Vedic texts; by representing the earliest portions of the Vedic tradition as belonging to their own glorified past, they separated it (and further affirmed their appropriation of it) from the later Hindu (beginning with its representation in the Brāhmana-texts) tradition-a tradition they characterized, and abandoned, as nothing more than "twaddle" and "stupid" myths.

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/content/journals/10.1163/156852791x00033
1991-01-01
2015-04-19

Affiliations: 1: Department of Religion Douglass College, Rutgers University New Brunswick, NJ 08903-0270

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