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What Was the Orient of Early Modern Scholars? ‘Oriental Languages’ and the Roots of Academic Orientalism

February 27 @ 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Time: 03:00 pm – 05:00 pm
Location: TBA

Save the date for the next Works in Progress discussion hosted by the Early Modern Science cluster. We will discuss a paper in progress by Daniel Stolzenberg (History).

What Was the Orient of Early Modern Scholars? “Oriental Languages” and the Roots of Academic Orientalism.

No academic field has been subject to more scholarly scrutiny in the last three decades than orientalism, the western study of the east. Yet the discipline’s beginnings remain obscure. It is commonly acknowledged that the origins of modern orientalist scholarship (“academic orientalism”) are to be found in the Renaissance, when European scholars began to study first Hebrew and then other near eastern languages. But, while studies on nineteenth and twentieth-century scholarship began to proliferate after the publication of Edward Said’s Orientalism in 1978, research on earlier centuries lagged behind. More recently the pace has quickened, and we now have a significant body of scholarship devoted to topics such as Arabic studies, Islam and the Ottoman Empire, and biblical antiquarianism as well as Christian Hebraism. But there has not yet been a systematic attempt to survey and define what constituted oriental studies per se in its first, formative centuries. This article is a preliminary effort to address this matter. It examines the emergence of the conceptual category of “oriental languages” between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries in order to answer questions about what “oriental studies” meant to early modern intellectuals, whether it is possible to speak of it as coherent field or discipline in this period, and the relationship between early modern and modern Orientalism. It is also a methodological experiment—a low-tech, improvised exercise in distant reading, based on an analysis of a dataset created using the OCLC WorldCat bibliographic database.

This event is sponsored by Early Modern Science Cluster, Davis Humanities Institute

For more information please contact: Claire Goldstein, cbgoldstein@ucdavis.edu


February 27
3:00 pm - 5:00 pm

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