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The Forgotten Origins of the Modern Humanities
James Turner

Winner of the 2015 Christian Gauss Award, Phi Beta Kappa Society
Honorable Mention for the 2015 PROSE Award in Language & Linguistics, Association of American Publishers
Shortlisted for the 2015 Christian Gauss Award, Phi Beta Kappa Society
One of The Times Literary Supplement’s Books of the year 2014, chosen by Thom Shippey

Paperback | 2015 | $24.95 | £16.95 | ISBN: 9780691168586
Hardcover | 2014 | $35.00 | ($21.00) / £24.95 | (£14.97) | ISBN: 9780691145648
576 pp. | 6 x 9
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Many today do not recognize the word, but "philology" was for centuries nearly synonymous with humanistic intellectual life, encompassing not only the study of Greek and Roman literature and the Bible but also all other studies of language and literature, as well as history, culture, art, and more. In short, philology was the queen of the human sciences. How did it become little more than an archaic word?

In Philology, the first history of Western humanistic learning as a connected whole ever published in English, James Turner tells the fascinating, forgotten story of how the study of languages and texts led to the modern humanities and the modern university. The humanities today face a crisis of relevance, if not of meaning and purpose. Understanding their common origins—and what they still share—has never been more urgent.

James Turner is the Cavanaugh Professor of Humanities Emeritus at the University of Notre Dame, where he taught in the History Department and the doctoral program in history and philosophy of science.


"[A] book written with passion and verve by an author who cares deeply about his subject."--Peter N. Miller, Times Literary Supplement

"[A] substantial survey of the growth of scholarship. . . . Only a brute would resist his argument, since the volume of evidence he has amassed really does warrant the use of the verb 'amass', and his purpose is manifestly good."--Colin Burrow, London Review of Books

"James Turner's book on 'philology' must be the most wide-ranging work of intellectual history for many years."--Tom Shippey, Wall Street Journal

"[Turner] traces philology's origins and history, from Greek rhetoric to the Renaissance, on through the dawn of the modern humanities in the 19th-century and finally into its 20th-century decline. The story he tells is of a wide-ranging, all-encompassing field of learning that was forced to grow, evolve, and eventually spawn its successors over the centuries. . . . Thorough, occasionally wry, passionate . . . the sort of work that may be heralded as a masterpiece in the field."--Publishers Weekly

"[Turner] undertakes the mother of all thankless tasks: a comprehensive history of 'the queen of the human sciences,' the multiform discipline of philology. It's a stupendous work of scholarship and synergy, and nobody knows better than its author the uphill struggle before it. . . . The end result is the best and liveliest book (indeed, one of the only books of its kind that I know of) about philology ever written."--Steve Donoghue, Open Letters Monthly

"A rich intellectual history of what many American scholars would describe as the long lost art and science of philology."--Peter Sacks, Minding the Campus

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