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I need your support for native speaker prose

Post by Albrecht »

Hi everyone! I'm non-native English speaker, and I'm looking for someone's help. I'm writing an English essay, may I ask you for a check? How can I "Englished" my prose? Here is the first paragraph:

The status of indigenous or later traditional commentaries and the credit it should be assigned to the restoration, translation and interpretation of the Vedic text – especially the R̥gveda – hold a key position into the nineteenth-century Oriental scholarly debate. In recent times, scholars interested in the history of Indological studies in Germany and Britain have attempted to sum up different positions within such a debate by drawing attention especially to the personalities involved in these dynamics. Current studies on intellectual and social history of science show also the importance of combining macro- and microanalysis by placing the academic careers and the products of their scholarly research within a social and personal background. With such a perspective, leading nineteenth-century scholars in the Indological fields are studied by taking into account their personal trajectories, including family background, scholarly formation and the institution where it took place, as well as their transnational networks established with other scholars in the respective countries and common European contexts. Concerning the social history of Indological studies, and particularly among nineteenth-century France, Germany and Britain, the contributes of P. Rabault-Feuerhahn (2008, 2019) exemplified at best this tendency. Before focusing my attention on the reception of later native commentaries by nineteenth-century Italian Indologists – a theme that has never received attention before – as a preliminary consideration, I will focus my attention on the recent developments in Vedic and more broadly South Asian studies. The aim is to provide a preliminary framework to contextualize and problematize the underlying debate within the Vedic exegesis, especially for what concerns the most ancient hymns collected in the R̥gveda.
To sum up, the recent approach and the ongoing debates in the field of Vedic studies have been improved by dealing with the issues related to the “canonicity” of the Vedas. It concerns, for instance, the process of the Vedic canons’ formations (Witzel 1997), the epistemological issues related to such a “canon” (see e.g, Ferrara 2012) and their status as śṛuti texts, opposed by those of the smr̥ti (see Pollock 2005). These studies and new approaches provided an insightful overview through which we now could eventually look forward to a new consideration of different points related to various aspects of the Vedic religion and the socio-cultural phenomena associated to it. As outcome of the latest methodological and theoretical approach, recent studies have restored the role of the redactors and ancient commentators, focusing on their status of social agents and transmitters (tradentes) who handed over a given content (see Squarcini 2005). By placing the act of transmission (tradere), the transmitter (the native commentator) and the final given content (traditum, i.e., what we indicate as traditional commentary) against the social, political, and religious context of their time, recent studies have shed light to a central figure in the history of Vedic exegesis, and the most controversial Indian commentator in nineteenth-century Indological debate, Sāyaṇa (see d’Intino 2018; Galewicz 2000, 2009). Finally, in questioning what exactly it meant to edit and to read a text in premodern India, Sheldon Pollock (2015) has drawn attention on the status of theorization concerning the textual practices – in other words what we may reconnect to Western philological practices – among South Asian’s textual specialists. Pollock highlights how Indian philological practice manifested itself in the sudden appearance of an amount of commentarial writing on literary and scriptural texts, questioning in which way “philology of India in the past” could be turn “for Indian philology in the future” (19). Studies about what commentators had attempted to achieve philologically in their works, the textual criteria they had established along with the sociocultural reasons that motivated it, clearly represent a turning point for a contemporary philological approach to ancient Indian texts.
Moreover, having summarized the latest outcomes related to the way the Vedas have been handed down along with the authority of the subjects which guaranteed their transmission, I can introduce how they have been received, (re)shaped and (re)stored by the European scholarship. This last phase took place around the beginning of nineteenth century under particular ideological and political circumstances.
It is not necessary to dwell more with broad methodological issues concerning the epistemology and sociology of the tradition legitimation’s process in South Asia. As noted above, much has been written on the dynamics of cultural transmission, and the study of the Vedic texts along with their related religious practices are in a reasonably good position and may gain a lot from the latest approaches concerning the formation of the canon and transmission aforementioned. Despite all, there are undoubtedly difficulties in the interpretation of key words and concepts expressed in the R̥gveda, a text that still causes problems for Vedic scholars. Moreover, even in recent times the status should be assigned to later native commentaries and the trust contemporary scholarship give them has been questioned. In claiming the ‘undeciphered’ status of the R̥gveda, Karen Thomson (2009a) has strongly criticized the failures of the current hermeneutical approach towards the Vedic texts, sustaining that a later commentary does not serve to make the translation any more convincing, standing entirely at odds with the widespread standpoint of contemporary scholarship. The main concern is principally due to the influence of native commentaries on modern scholarship, which “can have faith in the careful oral transmission of the poems, but not necessarily in the way in which they were first interpreted, and then, much later, written down” (4-5). This was a position, then, vehemently defended by the scholar (Thomson 2009a, 2009b, 2010) against the reactions followed by the claim of her retranslation’s quests for “discovering sense where before there was nonsense” (2010: 424). Replies to Thomson’s essay have come in the same volume from Peter-Arnold Mumm (2009); Stefan Zimmer (2009); Asko Parpola (2009). A critical review on Thomson’s statements came also from Rosa Ronzitti (2010), who has pointed out how Thomson’s claim – far from being a reconstruction of nineteenth-century scholarly approach to Vedic texts – could be regarded as a one-sided review (58). Thus, before focusing my attention on the main subject of this article, it should be considered for a moment how discursive strategies against the Indian commentaries were debated among nineteenth-century scholarship, in order to discuss the approach of the Italian scholarship towards native tradition.
The idea that pervaded nineteenth-century Indology, which reflects the general direction of German scholarship, was that native tradition could not supersede the European cultural hegemony based on the achievements gained by Western knowledge over Indians, particularly through comparative Indo-European philology and linguistics. Furthermore, nineteenth-century philology represented a privileged scholarly method of approaching the past or otherwise foreign cultures. The most diligent Indo-European philologists were to be found in German universities, which around the mid-nineteenth century “became the training ground for scholars who became established throughout Europe and America” (McGetchin 2004: 211). Then, the majority of German philologists claimed that their philological skills – achieved through comparative method – mattered more than the direct contact with the native learned people or by integrating the native commentary views.
Views changed after the “begrudging marriage” (Tull 1991: 27) between British and German Indology. The alliance was a necessity for Britain’s interest and colonial presence in India. The result was that the British colonial presence in the country evolved into a different relationship with the native counterparts, consisting from one side in ruling them and, on the other, in engaging their cooperation in the colonial enterprise. Then, it seems that German “strictly textual and erudite approach was a proof that they were solely driven by scholarly interest and that their scholarship was more thoroughgoing than that of the British” (Rabault-Feuerhahn 2019: 100). Following Rabault-Feuerhahn’s definition, what we might call “armchair philologists” represented the champions of this meticulous philological approach: Theodor Benfey (1809-1881), Albrecht Weber (1825-1901), Rudolf Roth (1821-1895) and his collaborator Otto Böhtlingk (1815-1904), Richard Garbe (1857-1927), the American linguist and Sanskritist William D. Whitney (1827-1894), the famous Roth’s pupil and former student in Tübingen and among Max Müller’s harshest critics (see McGetchin 2008). However, the question cannot be oversimplified. In fact, as pointed out by Adluri and Baghcee (2014: 22), “although disdain for traditional scholarship was a commonplace […], there was a variation between individual schools with some Indologists being more open to Indian knowledge”. Albrecht Weber’s edition of the Yajurveda (1852), for instance, included only extracts from Sāyaṇa’s R̥gvedabhāṣya. Others, such as Theodor Goldstücker (1821-1872), Martin Haug (1827-1876), Richard Pischel (1849-1908), Karl Friedrich Geldner (1852-1929), Hermann Oldenberg (1854-1920), Maurice Bloomfield (1855-1928), Ralph T. H. Griffith (1826-1906) and Max Müller’s controversial critical edition of the R̥gveda-saṃhitā (1849-1874), have given credit to Sāyaṇa’s commentary, recognizing its value to Vedic interpretation. In the introduction of their Vedische Studien, for example, Pischel and Geldner claimed their attitude to explain Vedic texts through the Indian tradition, defending its role in the field of Vedic exegesis. Comparative philology, along with linguistics, did not allow the comprehension of the Vedic text without the appreciation of that indigenous tradition through which the Vedas had been transmitted for a thousand year. Contrasts arose also among those increasing number of German scholars who, around the end of the nineteenth century, went to India and finally came in contact with indigenous specialists. Among them, Martin Haug, regularly employed by the cultural institutions of the British Raj, and Richard Garbe, a former student of Rudolf Roth. After their journey in India, the former took the opportunity to balance the superiority of Western philology and field observation, developing close relationships with Hindu and Parsee priests (Rabault-Feuerhahn 2019). Garbe, beside not considering the pandits as equals, “viewed this superiority and the “duties” it implied […] as a natural corollary of Western rule over India” (Bagchi 2003: 321). However, what were the arguments and the strategies used to justify German (and broadly European) Indologists as official purveyors of Indian culture? Firstly, the critiques to the native commentary tradition were linked to the current decay of Indians. The Vedas – the quintessence of the Indo-European past and cultural depository of the ancient forebears of the Germanic race – simply were separated from the whole of Hindu later tradition, that appeared crude and monstrous. As a matter of fact, neither there had been found traces of the Aryan past in contemporary India, nor survived traces of a common Indo-European kinship among its inhabitants. The notion of a direct intellectual line connecting the ancient Aryan brothers in India, along with the common heritage between European and Vedic people were no more than an irredeemably false myth. Despite the best efforts made by Max Müller, in religion and racial composition as well “Aryan origins had been diluted to the point where only miniscule fraction of Hindus could truly be called “Aryan”” (310). That was without exceptions the position claimed and shared by many German Indologists. Relics of the Indo-European childlike contained in the ancient texts clashed with the repulsive customs of contemporary Hindus, a ‘mixed people’ “came not from the Aryans but from ‘the darker side’”, as stated by Garbe after his journey in India (310). If the R̥gveda “carry us back to the primitive Indo-German time” as argued by Albrech Weber, there could not be indeed a direct link with the later Indian commentators. Sāyaṇa was temporally closer to our age than of that common Aryan past depicted in the R̥gveda. Then, it was obvious that the only tool to decipher and interpret the texts was the European scientific rigor of comparative philology, a science developed by the legitimate Aryans heirs and which came to dominate the German academia. Thus, understanding the Vedas “better and more correctly than Sāyaṇa” – as claimed by Roth – “seems to be born of the notion that the European interpreter had open him, through the science of language, a channel to this ancient cultural heritage that had long been shut off to the Hindus” (Tull 1991: 40). Here stands the breaking point between Roth and Müller. The former dismissed Sāyaṇa’s “Hindu” interpretation of the R̥gveda, while the latter fostered the idea that Sāyaṇa’s interpretation remained a satisfactory guide. Over the years, Müller was able to reconstruct his view, as confirmed by his assertions about the process of gradual corruption by hand of the Vedic hymns and the fallibility of native commentators as well (38-39). Müller’s opinion may be summed up in one statement, that “Sāyaṇa in many cases teaches us how the Veda ought not to be, rather than how it ought to be understood” (Max Müller 1891: XXX).

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