Premodern Anthologies and the Selective Fictions of Tradition-Building (2019-)
A self-conscious and very specific kind of selection, the anthology constitutes a typical premodern pattern of constructing literary history. From late antiquity onwards, there was a growing pressure not only to preserve, but to systematically align and juxtapose literary texts, poems, fragments and exemplary forms of writing through the means of the anthology or florilegium. The temporal implications of anthologising, the ways in which selecting and juxtaposing texts serves the purposes of tradition-building or inversely how the radically new is anchored in a foreshortened and reordered past – all these are aspects the project will investigate. By collecting texts from different moments in time and with different cultural origins, anthologies transgress and re-structure the boundaries of received literary historiography. The premodern anthology will thus be interrogated as a complex means of establishing forms of polychronicity and of transcultural negotiations of temporality: the copious anthologies and biographical dictionaries of the Mamluk age (twelfth to fifteenth century), for instance, constructed a synchronic and a diachronic community of scholars lending a sense of identity to the educated classes in times of political crisis.