Till Dembeck

Literaturwissenschaft in Forschung und Lehre

Reading Ornament

Reading Ornament. Towards a Philology of Culture (2013) 

This paper puts the most fundamental philological operation into the center of the theory of culture: the seemingly trivial act of recognizing the shape of a letter in the ‘ornamental’ abundance of the material text. Culture is described as a comprehensive term for all mechanisms, which interrelate social events with their ‘scripts,’ i.e., with their proto-textual foundations. Culture continuously, but variably determines what is actually significant in the potential ornaments of ‘social text.’ The common quest of philology and cultural studies is to re-evaluate this text’s seemingly ornamental details and to uncover their significance. In order to reunite these only seemingly oppositional approaches, literary scholarship must put genuinely philological operations in the center of its methodological repertoire.