This is a blog about language and literature. I’ve always been fascinated by words, by how words form sentences, and how sentences form poems and stories. The technical term for this fascination is philology—the love of language. Friedrich Nietzsche defined philology as the art of reading slowly—that’s where I got the title for this blog. In the section titled What is Philology? I discuss what I take to be the four major components of philology: historical linguistics, the editing of texts, the interpretation of language in context, and the interpretation of literature with special attention to language. I’m interested in all of these, and I will post blogs on all of them, but my own work lies primarily in the third and fourth areas.
I created this site as an invitation for anyone who has a passion for literature—readers and writers of all sorts. I would like to think of this blog as one part of a conversation among people who share an interest in the way language works and the way it turns into art. Please feel free to enter the conversation by dropping me a note with your reactions to my posts or with your own thoughts. I welcome your comments and suggestions.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Karen L. Hogan, who did all the hard work of designing and mounting this blog. Without her help it wouldn’t have happened.
My Most Recent Blog Posts
At the end of my last post I left E. M. Forster somewhat defensively trying to find a definition of the category “novel”. But novels don’t really fit the kind of classic definition he was looking for. A classic definition of a category has a firm boundary; everything inside the boundary belongs to the category … Continue reading How Many Roads?
In my last post (“Verbish Nouns and Nounish Verbs”) I began to talk about what a noun is and what a verb is, and I started with a couple of definitions: a verb is “a word expressing an action or a state of being”, while nouns are “used to name persons, places, things, animals, qualities, … Continue reading “Girl Twenty, define a horse.”
In my last post I discussed English words that can be used either as nouns or verbs. There are lots—farm, hammer, nail, spoon, dog, silence, light, cost, and so on and so on and so on. (I will call these bivalent words, just to have a term for them.) And that got me to thinking … Continue reading Verbish Nouns and Nounish Verbs
In this post I am pleased to present a guest column, “Trauma and Reading Homer”, by Joel Christensen. Joel is Associate Professor and Chair of Classical Studies at Brandeis University. He is the author/editor of one of my favorite blogs, sententiae antiquae (see the blogroll on the side for a link). He has recently published … Continue reading Guest Column: Trauma and Reading Homer, by Joel Christensen.
The title for this post comes from one of the great works of art of the twentieth century. I mean, of course, Bill Waterson’s Calvin and Hobbes. “I take nouns and adjectives”, Calvin says to Hobbes, “and use them as verbs. Remember when ‘access’ was a thing? Now it’s something you do. It got verbed.” … Continue reading Verbing Weirds Language
Not long ago I was reading Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and I got to Book VII, which begins with a great monologue as Medea debates with herself whether or not she should desert her father and homeland and run off with Jason. As I was reading, I came across a very famous line, (Ov. Met.VII.20-21): “video meliora … Continue reading Video Meliora Proboque, Deteriora Sequor