Document Type



Against a backdrop of philology’s falling on “hard times” in the English-speaking world and critical calls for a return to philology, this article assesses the state of the philologist in fiction. This unlikely protagonist appeared in the 1860s in Europe and has retained a robust presence in fiction, with a crop of new texts appearing across the globe in recent decades. Using critical and historical texts on philology, this article returns to the nineteenth-century origins of the fictional philologist to examine the different kinds of philological reading such fiction demands and critiques. Fictional texts examined in detail include Gustav Freytag’s The Lost Manuscript (Die verlorene Handschrift) and Prosper Mérimée’s short story “Lokis,” along with George Eliot’s Middlemarch. The article identifies common tropes (such as the philological swamp) and embraces a translingual view of philology in interrogating fiction writers’ different approaches to the philologist. Ultimately, the reader is asked to consider whether a more nuanced understanding of philological praxis might emerge through fiction as a counterpoint to critical and theoretical arguments.