A telling example of the basic factual errors that plague discussions of world literature: a 2021 essay, by a senior scholar at a major research university, on Adam Olearius's 1654 Gulistān translation as case study for understanding world literature onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.11…
A good premise, but the author mistakes a German translation of Daniel Havart's Dutch translation of an entirely different work by Saʿdī (Būstān) for a later edition of Olearius's 1654 Persianischer Rosenthal, i.e. he misidentifies the very text that's the focus of the essay.
There are also a number of smaller mistakes, as well as the usual misunderstandings: inflated claims of linguistic ability, obliviousness to specific circumstances of mediation, the narrow view of the "global" as constituted by Western European reception/travel
It's hard to get all the details right (& I'm as susceptible to error as anyone), but that this could be written and pass review seems to confirm both a general disregard for the expertise of scholars who work specifically on the "global" dimensions of literature...
and the ease with which even glaring errors can circulate unnoticed in an "interdisciplinary" humanities focused on big theoretical questions.
Of course, these complaints will be familiar from the conversation around God's Shadow, which sadly ended up being more about the tone of AM's reviewers than the problems of scholarship they were diagnosing.

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More from @Paul_Babinski

12 Mar
In the Ottoman Empire, commentaries on Persian works such as the Gulistān of Saʿdī or the Dīvān of Ḥāfiẓ, besides providing a comprehensive guide to canonical works of literature, offered the non-native speaker a course in the Persian language.
Accordingly, orientalists who studied and collected manuscripts in the Ottoman Empire used Ottoman commentaries and translations as a way of learning Persian. There’s a good example of this in Oxford...
where we find a seventeenth-century orientalist annotating across multiple manuscripts as he tried to work out both Saʿdī’s text and the basic structure of the Persian language.
Read 14 tweets
10 Mar
I can’t recommend enough Ormsby’s translation of Goethe’s West-östlicher Divan. The Divan is an extraordinary work of literature that hasn’t been given its due (until now) among anglophone readers. lareviewofbooks.org/article/glorio…
It’s also an example of how translation choices can determine a work’s reception. Earlier ones left out the accompanying “Notes and Essays” & translated into verse, giving the impression that the work was a volume of orientalizing poetry. (1819 edition: digital.staatsbibliothek-berlin.de/werkansicht/?P…)
It’s really something much stranger and more interesting. Goethe began writing under the spell of Hammer’s translation of the Dīvān of Ḥāfiẓ, but the project evolved as Goethe delved into a vast early modern orientalist literature.
Read 7 tweets
3 Mar
The ownership inscription of the overseer of the Hafız Paşa endowments, in a copy of Sām Mīrzā’s taẕkira (Tuḥfa-i Sāmī) from the library of Antoine Galland (BnF, ms Persan 247). ImageImage
The note‘s interesting, because it’s likely that a waqf devoted to the dissemination of Turkish literary commentaries at the Hafız Ahmed Paşa mosque in Istanbul (described by Galland in his journal) played a role in the orientalist reception of Persian literature...
...and because the Tuḥfa-i Sāmī (likely the BnF manuscript specifically) was one of Galland’s sources for the additions to d’Herbelot’s Bibliothèque orientale that he recorded in the margins of his copy of the work, now in Vienna (ÖNB, Altprunk 12.C.9). ImageImage
Read 4 tweets
9 Jan 20
Here the focus is on historians, but I think archive photography will fundamentally change the study of literature. I’ve been thinking a lot about this in my own research...
There are many manuscript sources that cast light on how and why writers write, but they often don’t lend themselves to transcription. For instance, imagine trying to record the revisions to this translation from Persian (Georg Gentius - Rosarium politicum, 1651) in a notebook.
It’s not easy, and, in general, it’s difficult to distinguish relevant from irrelevant detail. Maybe an unnoticed subtlety in ink or word placement is the key to distinguishing between, say, stages of revision.
Read 24 tweets

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