Critical editions

Vidhyanath K. Rao vidynath at
Wed Jul 5 21:02:10 UTC 1995

I took Professor Wujastik advice and decided to browse through M L West's
little monograph on textual criticism. The examples were beyond me
as I know no Latin or Greek. But one remark there caught my eye
as it seems to jibe with a remark made by Professor Witzel, but
is opposed to a remark of Professor Wujastik

The remark of West I am referring to is on p.~43 amid discussion of
editing `open recessions'. It goes like this:
    The critic will take note of the general appearance of the various
    witnesses first --- that this one is from a humanist copy liable to
    contain much emendation; that here is a major family that preserves
    its identity from the twelfth century into the fifteenth, and so on.

I presume that Professor Witzel was expressing a similar sentiment
when he indicated the need to consult the oral tradition of Vedic
texts (and calling the oral version of .Rksa.mhita a `tape recording'
circa 10th century BCE.

The reference to `strong tradition' needs some elaboration. West does not
indicate what he means by it. Let me state what I think it should mean:
The tradition should be conservative in the sense that it >actively<
resists change; it should be unbroken in the sense that apprenticeship
of the younger person(s) should overlap significantly with the mature
period of the previous generation(s) in the same tradition; the tradition
should be alive at the time of transcription (or manuscript copying).

Now let me turn Professor Wujastik's remark about how we know that manuscripts
of Sankara's work from S.r"ngeri Mu.t (or one of the other major Mu.ts)
are any better than a random manuscript. I am not sure that the
description as a `strong tradition' does not apply here.

There is another thought that crossed my mind. I know that this will be
offensive to some (but no more offensive than off-hand statements to
the effect that major mu.ts are not heirs to a strong tradition). But
this must be said so that the possibility is actively guarded against.

Let us assume that I am just starting on a career and decide to
critically edit Sa"nkara's bhaa.sya on the Gitaa. If the result does
not have any material disagreement with the `vulgate' (by which I mean
the manuscripts of the major mu.t), there would be likely murmurs about
wasted time. This presents a strong temptation to come up with a
surprising conclusion. As there are unlikely to be >two< attempts
at critical editions, the originally surprising conclusion might
become the academic orthodoxy.

This is not meant as flame bait, but I think that these points merit
some discussion.

Nath Rao (natharao+ at		614-366-9341

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