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O debate sobre o papel do Brasil no contexto latino-ameri- cano. As associações e enlaces ficam por conta do leitor. Does Egyptology Need a "Theory of Literature"? See the entry "Mummies",. In An Essay on Histori- cal SimuItaneity. Coptic texts, found entry into many apocryphal stories but, on the other side, these motifs never reached the canon of the Gospel. At no other moment since its final disappearance during the times of the Roman Empire, have Ancient Egypt and its texts indeed been as close and, even on a popular leveI, so well explained as during our century within western culture.

If the obsession with looking into Tutankhamen's face and the egyptomania of the s were perhaps the most intense moments of this presence,I the volume of knowledge made available and the intensity of our historical understanding have dramatically increased over the past decades, while the place of Ancient Egypt within educational curricula and publishing programs seems to be as stable as ever.

There is no need to insist that alI of this would not have been possible without the stunningly successful history of "Egyptology" as an academic field of research. In contrast. Occasionally, we can reconstruct an individual reason for such enthusiasm, like Charles Wycliff Goodwin's and François- Joseph Chabas' ambition to prove wrong the interpretation of certain papyri as a testimony for the Israelites' exodus from Egypt.

On the whole, however, it appears to be symptomatic that early Egyptologists, in their large majority, were amateur scholars. During several decades, there was no obvious need nor interest on the States' side to institutionalize Egyptology as an academic discipline.

It is not untypical, in this respect, that, towards the end of the 19th century, the University of Berlin became a center for the systematization mainly consisting in writing grammars and dictionaries of the work produced by the first generation of Egyptologists. Nowhere was the academic ideal of "covering" the full horizon of known cultures and of all the available cultural materiaIs more rigorously pursued, even in the absence of an im- mediate political interest, than in Prussia and, since , in the Germany of the Second Empire.

By , it probably was quite a normal expectation that an ambitious editorial project like the Handbuch der Literaturwissenschaft which in fact was rather a manual of literary history than of literary studies in general would contain a chapter on Ancient Egyptian literature.

This chapter in the Handbuch der Literaturwissenschaft, written by Max Pieper and published under the title "Die aegyptische Literatur", together with a review article by Alfred Herrmann, illustrates an important bifurcation. See e. Vom Geistesleben des J ahrh underts. Lei psi g,. André Jolles' extraordi-. This, I suppose, must be the main reason for the scepti- eism, artieulated by Wolfgang Schenkel, regarding the possi- bility for Egyptologists to wrÍ- te a "History of Egyptian Iite-.

Literary history, in this context, turned into cultural history. It seems that Egyptology responded to both of the new paradigms which carne out of the crisis of literary studies, to literay theory and to the new discourse of cultural history.

But the moments of highest intensity in these responses inverted the order in which the new paradigms had emerged. While the model of cultural history probably. But it is perhaps less important for us to reconstruct the details of similar historical filiations than to emphasize those insights resulting from our brief juxtaposition of the histories of Egyptology and of literary studies including literary theory which directly concern the key problem oftheir epistemologi- cal compatibility.

Without always taking it into account, literary studies have been based, since their beginning, on a highly specific concept of literature, a concept which is unlikely to have any more than rough parallels within Ancient Egyptian culture. Emerging from chronologically close but culturally very different con- texts, it is not surprising that the academic disciplines of Egyptology and of literary studies have developed different political concerns, different intellec- tual paradigms, and different discursive models.

Literary theory, in specific, is an academic subfield whose questions and whose accomplishments depend direct1y on a particular moment in the history of literary studies. There is no guarantee, to say the least, that the results of literary theory can ever be successfully transferred and applied to any disciplinary field outside literary studies. Such very general considerations about possible asymmetries between Egyptology and literary studies become more concrete as soon as one com- pares some of the specific conditions and difficulties under which Egyp- tologists do their work with the practice ofthe historian of western literatures.

One of the most striking contrasts is that between an extreme scarcity of documents available for Ancient Egyptian culture and, on the other hand, an abundance of primary texts with which even the medievalists among literary historians are struggling today.

If Egyptologists must ask the question, for example, whether any equivalent to a literary discourse existed during the Ancient Kingdom, if a specialist counts a total of between twenty or thirty distinguishable traditions for literary texts during the Middle Kingdom, and. Egyptologists are certainly aware of the consequences which this situation has for the status of their discourses - up to the point where such awareness has become a key-component in the intellectual identity of their discipline.

This challenge coming from the discipline's precarious documentary basis is aggravated both by the lack of any meta-commentaries and concepts, within Ancient Egyptian culture, regarding the texts characterized as "literary", and by the fragmentary character of most of the textual sources that we possesso The state of the discipline's archive and the distance that separates us, on different leveIs, from Ancient Egypt confront the Egyptologist with hermeneutic chal- lenges that could hardly be any tougher - and any more elementary.

At the same time and for the same lack of centextualizing knowledge, the highest leveIs of hermeneutic sophistication often remain inaccessible for the Egyp- tologist. As long as it is unclear whether or not a specific textual passage must be read as a metaphor and whether another one is a euphemism for a sexual detail or a phrase without any sexual connotations, as long as the Egyptologist's task is often reduced to "translating what he does not under- stand", concerns like those, for example, of deconstruction or of critique génétique are quite secondary.

Other limits and problems of Egyptology havc to do with the multiple writing systems which Ancient Egyptian culture developed and with the materiality ofthe media which it used.

Given the strictly consonantic charac- ter of these writing systems, there is no hope for us to ever imagine the sound qualities of Ancient Egyptian texts, which of course makes particularly precarious the analysis and even the identification of lyrical texts. On the other hand, one may suppose that the role played by the form of graphemes in the construction of texts, including the constitution of their content, must have been quite different from the reduced importance typically attributed to graphemes within our - logocentric - western culture.

But above all the multiplicity of the writing systems and of the material media belonging to Ancient Egyptian culture makes highly problematic the assumption that Ancient Egyptian literature constituted a unity. We know that, at least statis- tically, certain relationships of preference existed between determinate tex- tual genres and the different writing systems i.

The picture be- comes even more complex - and even more potentially heterogeneous - if one takes into account, as a third leveI of reference, the different materiaIs on which texts in different letters were written - such as walls, papyri, wood.

From a similar perspective,! Finally, at least during the New Kingdom, situations of diglossia introduced the simultaneous existence of historically different layers of language as a further complexifying dimensiono Of course Egyp- tologists thematize all these problems, with special emphasis given, it seems, to the functions and generic restrictions of monumental hieroglyphs.

But two overarching questions - highly interesting questions from the perspective of contemporary literary studies - still remain to be addressed. The first of these questions - the one emphasizing historical difference - is whether a more systematic approach to the phenomenal leveIs of the writing systems and of the material media would not generate new insights into the institutionaliza- tion of and the distinction between different communicative forms, especially between those communicative forms that remain without self-reference in.

Ancient Egyptian culture and must therefore be recuperated inductively. The second question is a self-reflexive question regarding the present state of lhe Egyptological debates.

If we make an association between the western concept of literature, logocentrism, and a lack of attention dedi- cated to what Derrida calls the "exteriority of writing", could we then say that the Egyptologists' fascination with the inevitably homogenizing concept of "literature" necessarily implies the risk of losing out of sight the dimensions of the writing systems and of the media?

To emphasize, as the previous section did, that Egyptogists are con- fronted with difficulties and tasks unknown to literary critics and historians of Iiterature, with tasks also that sometimes seriously Iimit their possibilities of understanding and of historical reconstruction, does of course not mean that Egyptology has nothing to offer to its neighboring disciplines.

The contrary is the case. Whenever Egyptologists, in their analytical practice, have not been relying on the universal validity of certain patterns generalized within western cultures, they have produced insights that are the more impor- tant for the historians and theorists of literature as they are all highly counterintuitive.

In their majority, these insights focus on the pragmatic conditions for lhe production and reception of texts in Ancient Egypt. Of particular interest are the manifold and complementary observations regard- ing the status of writing and of writing competence. Based on the fact, trivial for Egyptologists, that the quantitatively most important source for texts from Ancient Egypt are indeed tombs, the logical consequence that texts not having to do with tombs constitute the exception has made questions about the functions of these "other texts" particularly productive.

These questions drew new attention to the - only vaguely institutionalized - social situation. As soon, however, as we aecept this suggestion, the historie aI reference of "being an Egyptian" is reduced to a smalI elite within that culture, more precisely to "the titled and official classes". If papyri were the most frequent- ly used material medium facilitating this process of socialization, it is ob- vious that the royal inscriptions in monumental hieroglyphs fulfilled different functions.

Above alI, they were meant to impose a specific impact on the beholders and their behavior, and they thus became part of "the state's memorial of elite values". In the context of similar reflections and reconstructions, Egyptologists rely on the concept of "genre", especially on an interpretation of "genre" coming from Protestant theologylO which presents each recurrent textual form as shaped by a specific "Sitz im Leben".

Such attention given to the frame conditions under which texts were produced and used has greatly differentiated the understanding of the relationship between power and reli- gion in Ancient Egypt. The knowledge of certain texts and their content was indeed an essential condition for the pharaoh's power. To read those texts meant to reenact a set of ideological models. Within Egyptian culture, such constant commemoration of certain values constituted a necessary function that was covered by the broad corpus of didactic texts.

For, typically, Egyp- tian gods were not expected to provide cIear-cut distinctions between sins and virtues, and they therefore left a void regarding ethical orientation - which theology in and by itself could not easily filI. A particularly interesting genre, a genre with a very different - but also religious - origin is that of autobio- graphy.

Without any exceptions, its early manifestations were dedicated to what was the central project in every Egyptian's life: the reassurance of a- spiritual and, in a certain sense, also material - survival after one's physical death. This wish, which transcended the mere hope of being remembered by one's posterity, this wish for "real presence" and the allusion to a key-motif ofmedieval theology is deliberate here explains why we find early autobio- graphies as hieroglyphic inscriptions carved into widely visible stelae that were erected in public places.

While such early examples of autobiography always render a highly conventional and highly idealized image ofthe person in question, the genre ended up coming much cIoser to our modern expecta- tions of an individualized and individualizing account. This historical deve- lopment culminates in the fictional narrative about the life of Sinuhe, the perhaps most unusual and according to our modem criteria the most "lite- rary" text within Ancient Egyptian culture.

That such changes on the leveI of genre-typical content went along with a development of the generic functions appears from certain changes, occurring over the centuries, in the mediatic presentation of autobiographical writing. But as c10se as the forms and. Haos Robert. Grundiss der rornanischen Li- teraturen des Mitte1alters.

Hei- delberg, I, A particularly striking case is the concretization of the function of entertainment within the Egyptologists' debates. Often, "entertainment" seems to have responded to the need of calrning the pharaoh's temper - which, at the Egyptian court, meant much more than just pleasing or flattering the ruler. For the pharaoh's temper, perhaps even his melancholy if we may use this word despite its historically very specific meaning , constituted situations of concrete danger for the courtiers and even for the members of the royal family.

Being inter- preted as part of a cosmologícal disorder, the pharaoh's temper was never reduced to just being the symptom of an unp1easant individual disposition. One of the most fascínating aspects within the pragmatics of Ancient Egyptian texts a topíe that hterary historians should more systematically explore regards the question of authorship. While most texts are not related to any name at alI. Egyptologísts are certain that.

Regarding the autobiogra- phies, there is no reason to believe that those in whose name they were written - in the first person - were those who actually composed the texts. If it is characteristic for didactic texts that they present themselves as the work of individuaIs mostly of individuaIs that had lived in a chronologically remote age , we tend to believe that, with a few exceptions, these attributions were invented because they gave the texts that specific aura of dignity which we associate with wisdom.

The sum of such observations regarding the question of authorship suggests that we need to rethink the entire problem for the context of Ancicnt Egyptian culture. This rethinking has indeed already begun. Egyptologists have thus come to postulate that, from the point of view of authorial agency, the pharaoh may have been regarded as the only and universal author of ali texts - not unlike the god of the Christian Middle ages for whom the Latin word "auctor" was reserved.

Others think that the role of authorship may have corresponded, at least for the majority of the texts transmitted, to the owners of monumental tombs. The topic, predominant within the pragmatics of Ancient Egyptian cul- ture, of the intricate and seemingly ubiquitous relationships between those texts which Egyptologists define as "literature" and the different forms of religious practice brings us back to the main question with which this essay is confronted. It is the question now more abviaus in its complexity af whether ane can successfuly apply certain definitians af "literature" and.

Let us discuss one more example. Together, literary and theological texts constitute "the majority of our evidence" for the existence of myths during the Middle Kingdom. This precisely explains the impression that aesthetic functions and functions of magic were often intertwined, and that, although any kind of magic implies strong claims of referentiality, fictional texts could be used in contexts of magic practice. In the case of this interesting discursive con- figuration, too strong an emphasis on the "literariness" of certain texts and, as its consequence, an isolation of these "literary" texts from the rest of the Egyptian corpus could imply the risk of missing - or even of losing - insights into those phenomena of cultural alterity by which the neighboring dis- ciplines of Egyptology and the non-academic readership are so particularly fascinated.

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  • Wolfgang Iser relativa à dupla. But is it too simplistic to go one step further and ask whether, in addition, the concern 01' a small group of specialists not to lose the contact with the ongoing debates in the neighboring disciplines may have played a role in Egyptology's shift to "literariness"? Machado de As- sis. Literatura comparada, literaturas nacionais e o questionamento do cânone. This challenge coming from the discipline's precarious documentary basis is aggravated both by the lack of any meta-commentaries and concepts, within Ancient Egyptian culture, regarding the texts characterized as "literary", and by the fragmentary character of most of the textual sources that we possesso The state of the discipline's archive and the distance that separates us, on different leveIs, from Ancient Egypt confront the Egyptologist with hermeneutic chal- lenges that could hardly be any tougher - and any more elementary.

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