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Issues in Indian Philology: Traditions, Editions, Translations-Transfers

Wednesday 31 August 2016

All the versions of this article: [English] [français]

5-7 december 2016
International Conference

Paris, Collège de France
11 place Marcelin Berthelot - 75005 Paris





Comité scientifique
Lyne Bansat-Boudon (EPHE)
Silvia D’Intino (CNRS)
Philippe Hoffmann (EPHE)
Charles Malamoud (EPHE)
Jean-Noël Robert (Collège de France)

Lyne Bansat-Boudon (EPHE, Mondes iranien et indien)
Silvia D’Intino (CNRS – ANHIMA)
Jean-Noël Robert (Collège de France, CRCAO)

Institutions co-organisatrices
Collège de France
École Pratique des Hautes Études (EPHE)
Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS)
Centre de recherche sur les civilisations de l’Asie orientale (CRCAO)
Anthropologie et Histoire des Mondes Antiques (ANHIMA)
Mondes iranien et indien (UMR7528-CNRS)

Avec le soutien de
ANR-DFG Perso-Indica


The edition and translation of Indian texts into European languages has been paralleled, throughout the twentieth century, by a substantial debate on the different approaches to texts and their philological issues – a debate still very much alive, and producing new concepts.
Early on, the edition of classics has modelled the analysis and treatment of texts, and structured the conception itself of philological knowledge engaged since the end of nineteenth century in a long season of editions of the corpus of Indian philosophy and literature. The constitution of erudite collections of ancient Indian texts, in India, in Europe, and in the United States (such as the Sacred Books of the East, the Kashmir Series of Texts and Studies, or the Harvard Oriental Series), along with the uninterrupted production of critical editions and annotated translations of Sanskrit texts, attest both the almost unanimous allegiance to this method, and the fragility of an ecdotic model sometimes difficult to apply outside the corpus it was conceived for.
Hence, how can one render the peculiarities of Indian textual traditions and the singular history they underwent through the centuries? How can one approach, for instance, the questions of authorship, and the author’s role within essentially oral traditions, at least at their beginnings? In this respect, one may have recourse to the contemporary notions of “orature” (vs writing) and “oraliture” (vs literature), elaborated to indicate the texts whose support is, synchronically, the moment of their enunciation, or, diachronically, the sequence of their enunciation. From this point on, what is the status of the variant, and what meaning does the search of the original have in a culture where the oral and the written dimensions constantly intertwine, and where the textual transmission traditionally involves orality?
Philological methods differ: on the one hand, the critical edition — an effort toward the restitution of an original text which generally goes together with the reconstitution of a particular style, engaging the author’s « responsibility »; on the other hand, the uncovering of a textual stratigraphy, much like a palimpsest, or the genetic approach; both perspectives, using intra- and intertextual points of view, shed light on the making of the text and its relations with an entire tradition. While the critical edition aims at « purifying » the text, its study as a palimpsest or the genetic approach emphasize the steps and strata of its composition.
Whatever the method chosen, the task is rendered increasingly difficult because of the number and impressive dissemination of Indian manuscripts, at least for a large body of literature. An obstacle counterbalanced, nowadays, by databases, new resources, more and more refined instruments for textual analysis, which modifies the field of a discipline destined to renew itself faced with new challenges.
Based on case studies, the conference will reflect on the questions emerging from the diversity of texts. This implies a thorough examination of the different modes of passage from a language to another, or from one doctrine to another. One of the peculiar tasks of Indian philology is to take into account the plurality of languages: plurality of source-languages, plurality of languages for translation or conservation (Sanskrit, Pâli, Tibetan, Chinese, Persian…), and correlatively, the various forms of rewriting.
The conference will gather Indologists, Buddhologists, and Iranologists. The contribution of philologists working on classics and European text editions will bring a necessary counterpoint to the debate.
Through this wider perspective, we will try to show how Indian philology, far from reducing itself to its technical dimensions (emendatio, stemma codicum, translation…), is transformed upon encountering different objects, shedding light on the entire culture embodied by the texts.