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Mourning Philology

Art and Religion at the Margins of the Ottoman Empire

Marc Nichanian was Professor of Armenian Languages and Culture in the Department of Middle East and Asian Languages and Literatures at Columbia University. He is the author of Writers of Disaster: Armenian Literature in the Twentieth Century (Gomidas Inst

Publication Year: 2014

“Pagan life seduces me a little more with each passing day. If it were possible today, I would change my religion and would joyfully embrace poetic paganism,” wrote the Armenian poet Daniel Varuzhan in 1908. During the seven years that remained in his life, he wrote largely in this “pagan” vein. If it was an artistic endeavour, why then should art be defined in reference to religion? And which religion precisely? Was Varuzhan echoing Schelling’s Philosophy of Art? Mourning Philology draws on Varuzhan and his work to present a history of the national imagination, which is also a history of national philology, as a reaction to the two main philological inventions of the nineteenth century: mythological religion and the native. In its first part, the book thus gives an account of the successive stages of the orientalist philology. The last episode in this story of national emergence took place in 1914 in Constantinople, when the literary journal Mehyan gathered around Varuzhan the great names to come of Armenian literature in the diaspora

Published by: Fordham University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 1-4

Contents

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pp. v-vi

A Note on the Transliteration

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pp. vii-8

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-12

This book was originally written and published in French (MétisPresse, 2007). Part II was translated into English by Jeff Fort. Introduction, Part I, and Epilogue were translated by G.M. Goshgarian. The latter is also responsible for most of the literary translations from Armenian (and, in one case, German) into English that are offered in the...

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Introduction. Art, Religion, and Philology

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pp. 1-12

In winter semester 1802–03, F. W. J. von Schelling gave one of the last courses he was to give at the University of Jena. It was entitled Philosophie der Kunst (Philosophy of Art). There is no mistaking the significance of this choice. For the first time ever, someone holding a chair of philosophy was giving a course on art, thus conferring upon art...

Part One. “The Seal of Silence”

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pp. 13-26

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Chapter 1. Variants and Facets of the Literary Erection

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pp. 15-35

In January 1914, in Constantinople, a monthly review called Mehyan began to appear. The name is printed in Latin letters on the masthead of the review, followed by the words “Revue arménienne de littérature et d’art.” The exact meaning of the Armenian word mehyan is “pagan temple.” Th e review appeared for only seven months in all. Its...

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Chapter 2. Abovean and the Birth of the Native

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pp. 36-65

Khachatur Abovean (1809–1848) is the favorite author of those who produce nationalistic discourse among Armenians. He enjoys extraordinary favor in such discourse, since he is considered to be not only the father of modern literature—meaning, I suppose, literature written in the modern language—but also the herald and architect of...

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Chapter 3. Orientalism and Neo-Archeology

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pp. 66-105

Going from chapter 1 to chapter 2, we have proceeded backwards in time. The school of the review Mehyan, associated with the names Daniel Varuzhan, Hagop Oshagan, and Constant Zarian—the school of the aesthetic principle that dominated the world of Armenian letters in the first half of the twentieth century—made explicit reference...

Part Two. Daniel Varuzhan: The End of Religion

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pp. 107-120

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Chapter 4. The Disaster of the Native

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pp. 109-132

On February 2, 1908, in a letter from Ghent, Belgium, where he was attending university, Daniel Varuzhan used the phrase poetic paganism for the first time, a phrase that clearly indicates the religious turn in his writing. In the years that followed, “paganism” would take on more and more importance in his work; indeed, because of this...

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Chapter 5. The Other Scene of Representation

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pp. 133-148

A few months after writing the poem on the ruins of Ani, when he received news of the terrifying massacres in Cilicia, Varuzhan wrote another poem about a visit to another ruined city. This time it was Adana, where the Armenian quarter had been completely destroyed in April 1909, in two successive waves that took place one week...

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Chapter 6. Erection and Self-Sacrifice

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pp. 149-170

Readers of Varuzhan’s Het’anos Yerger (Pagan Songs), published in 1912, have always been intrigued by its structure. It contains two parts, two very distinct series of poems, the first of which is also called “Pagan Songs” (obviously giving its title to the entire collection); the second part is called “Flowers of Golgotha.” The first part contains...

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Chapter 7. The Mourning of Religion I

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pp. 171-195

At the origin of religion, then, there is art. Art produces the gods in the past through an operation of sacrificial transubstantiation or an erection in celestial marble.1 It works in the element of light. It recognizes itself poetically in religious figures, these figures of gods burnt or sculpted, these figurations of self-sacrifice and of erection, who name...

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Chapter 8. The Mourning of Religion II

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pp. 196-217

We soon discover that the poet is not speaking of the gods of the Armenian pantheon. Varuzhan enumerates at length, one after the other, the names of the dead gods, goddesses, and demigods of Olympus, and with them the heroes and creatures that populate Greek mythology: Zeus, Apollo, Hera, Hermes, Pan, Vanatur (which as we have...

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Epilogue. Nietzsche in Armenian Literature at the Turn of the Twentieth Century

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pp. 219-237

Throughout the present work, we have been discreetly pointing to the racialist thought of the group of writers around Mehyan and thus, in effect, to the fact that racialization and the aesthetic principle go hand-in-hand. In the final chapters of Part II, these pointers became more precise. In the nineteenth century, mythical-poetic power was...

Appendices. Translations

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pp. 239-252

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Appendix A. Excerpts from Nineteenth-Century Works of Philology and Ethnography

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pp. 241-264

As I announced earlier, I bring together here, in the first of these appendices, translations of extracts from books and prefaces that illustrate the archeological and ethnographic moments of the century-long history of the ethnographic nation, which began to take shape in Europe with the philological revolution of the early nineteenth century...

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Appendix B. Essays in Mehyan and Other Writings of Constant Zarian

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pp. 265-299

The review Mehyan appeared in Istanbul from January to July 1914. In all, nine issues containing a total of 112 pages saw the light before publication was suspended with the outbreak of war in Europe. The full title of the review was Mehyan: Armenian Review of Literature and Art (a French translation of the title appeared just under the...

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Appendix C. Daniel Varuzhan: Poems and Prose

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pp. 301-327

The reader will find below a selection from the poetry of Daniel Varuzhan (1884–1915) in English translation. Three volumes of Varuzhan’s verse were published in his lifetime: Sarsur’ner (Shivers; Venice, 1905), Tseghin sirtë (The Heart of the Race; Istanbul, 1909), and Het’anos Yerger (Pagan Songs; Istanbul, 1912). A fourth volume of poetry,...

Notes

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pp. 329-386

Bibliography

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pp. 387-400

Index

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pp. 401-406


E-ISBN-13: 9780823255276
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823255245

Page Count: 384
Publication Year: 2014

Edition: Cloth

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Subject Headings

  • Varuzhan, Daniel, 1884-1915 -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • Religion and literature -- Armenia.
  • Art and literature -- Armenia.
  • Armenian literature -- 20th century -- History and criticism.
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