Field and river

20th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies (ICES20)
Mekelle University, Ethiopia

"Regional and Global Ethiopia - Interconnections and Identities"
1-5 October, 2018

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Alessandro BAUSI, Universität Hamburg, Germany

If in the last thirty years there have been attempts at a precise methodological reflection on editing Gǝʿǝz texts in printed form, one has to admit that the scholarly control has been minimal and the field has not yet any established common ground for mutual understanding. Well beyond the traditional scope of paper printed editions of translated and original literary Gǝʿǝz texts, the last decades have marked an increasing interest towards documentary texts (feudal deeds as well as minor historiographical texts), which pose questions of their own and require adequate editorial solutions. Against this background, the ‘manuscript cultures’ concept has contributed to a deeper understanding of manuscripts as a decisive factor in shaping transmission and cultural processes, besides and in connection with their role of text carriers: yet, the ‘manuscript cultures’ point of view does not provide any editorial solution ready at hand. The same is true for online, digital, and electronic editions, since every technical option depends upon and implies methodological decisions. In this connection, a selection of case-studies from recent and less recent editions of Gǝʿǝz texts can be used to show the complexity of some of the issues at stake and contribute fruitfully to the more general debate in the panel. Among the most challenging aspects that have recently emerged calling for more consideration is that of the growing evidence for the pronounced ‘depth’ of some textual traditions, for which increasingly more ancient witnesses are attested. This evidence requires to some extent a re-examination of methods and assumptions and at the same time also suggests new working hypotheses.