UW News

September 29, 1997

International conference on textual studies to be held Oct. 29-Nov. 1

News and Information

More than 40 scholars from around the world will come to the University of Washington Oct. 29 to Nov. 1 to participate in the Inaugural Conference in Textual Studies.

The conference will include participants from Australia, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, England, France, Israel and Russia. The theme of the conference is “Voice, Text and Hypertext at the Millennium.” Conference topics include: Buddhist manuscripts of the first century, Czech underground literature, sacred Sanskrit texts and modern law, and hypertext and digital culture.

This major conference is the first step in a plan to establish an interdisciplinary graduate program in textual studies at the UW. The program will offer its first two core courses in winter and spring quarters; it has provisional approval from The Graduate School.

The field of textual studies is difficult to describe in a few words. It is probably the oldest scholarly activity in the Western world, dating at least to the time Athenian scholars attempted to arrest the deterioration of the early texts of works by Homer. Today, the field encompasses a number of scholarly interests, including: the study of alphabets and writing systems; the dating, origins and transmission of manuscripts; the history of book culture; the spoken word and literacy; printers and printing practices; textual editing; translation; and electronic publishing and hypertext.

Textual study often involves lively debates. For example, scholars who are editing texts must decide whether to produce an ideal text, a “best text” that reflects the author’s intentions, or to focus on the transmission of a text, thereby encompassing the history of the text’s compilers, its readers, and of the culture to which they belong. The controversies surrounding the Dead Sea Scrolls and the cleaning of the Sistine Chapel involve issues of textual scholarship.

Work on creating the new UW program began in 1995 when Raimonda Modiano, professor of English and comparative literature and Lockwood Professor of Humanities, and Miceal Vaughan, associate professor of English and comparative literature, began discussing the idea of a textual studies program with other UW faculty members. The response, Modiano says, was positive and enthusiastic. “People were excited about the idea that subjects which had been taught in various departments and in a fragmented manner could be combined in a true interdisciplinary program,” she says. Modiano and Vaughan have identified more than 30 faculty members with expertise in textual studies.

The inaugural address at the conference will be given by David Greetham, Distinguished Professor of English and Interdisciplinary Studies at the City University of New York Graduate School, and founder and executive director of the Society for Textual Scholarship. His topic will be, “The Function of [Textual] Criticism at the Present Time.”

Special events at the conference will include a banquet address by UW faculty members Richard Salomon and Collett Cox on “Recovering a Lost Canon: Editing and Interpreting the Newly Discovered Gandharan Buddhist Manuscripts of the First Century.” School of Music faculty members George Bozarth and Carole Terry will present a talk and concert on “Editorial Problems in the Music of Johannes Brahms.”

Other participants in the conference will include Roger Chartier, directeur d’etudes at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris and the leading historian of post-medieval book culture in the world. He has written the only comprehensive account of the national history of the book, L’Histoire de l’edition fran?s. Chartier also will be delivering a Solomon Katz lecture at 8 pm Tuesday, Oct. 28, in Kane Hall 120 on the topic, “The Foucault’s Chiasmus Revisited: Authorship between Science and Literature (XIVth- XVIIIth Centuries).”

Other notable participants include J. Patrick Olivelle, director of the Center for Asian Studies at the University of Texas, who is the author of eleven books and numerous articles on Indian classical religious traditions. Ludo Rocher, the W. Norman Brown Professor of South Asian Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, is one of the world’s most distinguished scholars of Sanskrit, Indology, and classical Indian culture and civilization. Nancy G. Siraisi, Distinguished Professor of History at Hunter College and the Graduate School of the City University of New York, is one of the world’s foremost scholars on the history of medicine and history of science.

The conference’s sponsors include: the UW Center for the Humanities, the College of Arts and Sciences, The Graduate School, the Office of Research, all departments in the Division of the Humanities, the Department of History, the Comparative Religion Program, the Jewish Studies Program, the Program in the History of Science, the Jackson School of International Studies, the Allen Library Endowment, the Center for West European Studies, the President’s Fund, the Hilen Professorship, the Russian, East European and Central Asian Studies Program, the School of Medicine, the Henry Art Gallery, Seattle University, the University of Puget Sound, Seattle Pacific University, and Pacific Lutheran University.

The conference is open to the public. For registration information contact Leroy Searle, director of the Center for the Humanities, Box 353910, uwch@u.washington.edu. Individuals also can register on the website: http://weber.u.washington.edu/~uwch/textual.htm. <!—at end of each paragraph insert