"Closed Circles": Edward L. Keenan's Early Textual Work and the Semiotics of Response

By Ostrowski, Donald | Canadian Slavonic Papers, September-December 2006 | Go to article overview

"Closed Circles": Edward L. Keenan's Early Textual Work and the Semiotics of Response


Ostrowski, Donald, Canadian Slavonic Papers


ABSTRACT:

Historians are at times divided in their views by "closed circles" of arguments based on differently prioritized premises. An instance of this occurs in the responses to the early textual work of Edward L. Keenan and his challenges to the traditional dating, attribution, and textual relations of four Muscovite texts. Preference is frequently given in the responses to arguments in a different register-to semiotic description and content interpretation over internal text-structural analysis-and even within the same register, to an appeal to textological over text-critical principles.

(ProQuest Information and Learning: ... denotes non-USASCII text omitted.)

I. INTRODUCTION

Edward L. Keenan has had, by any measure, a successful career in academia and has received many accolades and awards, yet much of his work is not widely accepted and continues to draw sharp criticism. Keenan himself has referred to his own views as "heresy". Although he used this term specifically in regard to his challenging the traditional dating and attribution of the Kurbskii-Groznyi correspondence, many would extend it to include some of his other views as well.

Although Keenan discusses a broad range of issues in his studies of Muscovy, the present article focuses specifically on the use of textual criticism in his early research, which led to his "heretical" views, and on the scholarly responses to it. As such, this article is not intended to be a full review of all the problems involved with the dating and attribution of these texts but merely intended to highlight certain crucial methodological points involved with textcritical work and the reactions to it.1 In particular, I will focus on the tendency to respond to textual arguments in a different register-namely, by means of content or literary arguments, countering "structural" analysis with "semiotic" description. In the sense I am using it, semiotic description involves the signification or outward meaning of the text and its relationship to the outward meanings of other texts. Structural analysis, in contrast, delves into the internal order of the text and its relationship to the internal order of similar texts.2

Structural analysis is fundamental to semiotic description and content interpretation. Furthermore, structural analysis, on one side, and semiotic description and content interpretation, on the other, are done better when informed by each other. Graphically, the fontological study of a source can be represented as in figure 1.

The structural analysis helps historian to ascertain the testimony of the source. Then the historian works toward the "meaning" of the source, which meaning provides an explanation for how the source came to be the way it is. That explanation, in turn, supplies a means for further structural analysis in an on-going interactive process. That process is short-circuited when the historian bypasses structural analysis and proceeds to give meaning to testimony without regard for provenance, attribution, dating, and so forth of the source.3

Characteristic of this general tendency to respond in a different register to textual arguments is Isabel de Madariaga's recent rejection of Keenan's work: "I am not qualified in linguistic and textual analysis. But as a practicing historian I cannot accept the validity of Keenan's theories on historical grounds."4 She then goes on to affirm the "rules of reading" proposed by Paul Bushkovitch: "The first and principal rule, which is most relevant to my research is: 'A text is what it says it is about. . . ."5 A widespread assumption among scholars in the field, as exemplified by de Madariaga's comment, seems to be that the semiotic, outward testimony is to be preferred to the results of the structural, internal analysis. The "practicing historian" then does not need to deal with the "linguistic and textual analysis," which in any case may be perceived to carry with it a taint of suspicion as though some kind of philological prestidigitation is being perpetrated, especially when that linguistic and textual analysis challenges what "[a] text .

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

"Closed Circles": Edward L. Keenan's Early Textual Work and the Semiotics of Response
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.