#Innovation – #MakePhilologyGreatAgain 

So. This happened over in the Twitterverse.



Hellmouth: The Winchester Psalter, British Library Cotton MS Nero C IV



Godefroy & Complément de Godefroy



Most of the above was known and expected, and I’ve already banged on about the principal (and pre-Romance-vernacular Latin) sense of renewal many times and at length. Renovation, recycling, restoration. Sustainable living dynamic complicated ecostability, as contrasted with constant continuous growth or with destruction and new building for the sake of novelty.

A second sense to highlight: revolution.

A third observation: a shift in senses, in French and English (and German), through the 17th-19th c. with twists towards colonialism, capitalism, and commodification. These are perversions as they are destructive and contrary to the essential, creative, sense of making something new again. Let’s take a closer look at that recent history of the idea. Returning to the original abuse of innovation that first led to this post:

I observe that the word has no necessary associations of goodness, bettering, or improvement. Sometimes the opposite:

The Business NewSpeak perversion has 19th-c. Imperialist seeds, firmly rooted by the time of 1960s high late-industrial capitalism and early stages of post-industrial crisis ‘midst growing awareness (in the bigger world) of larger anthropocene concerns; there’s a sulphurous suggestion of good being in process of being twisted to mean something other than good:

One of the most interesting exemplary usages of our word falls in the middle of the period, from Schumpeter in 1939. It merits close study and several rereadings, bearing in mind its context: ideas of development, in an evolutionary cyclical economics of creative destruction and entrepreneurially-spirited innovation. 

While innovation and enterprise are distinct—with the latter being but one kind of change and some changes being in the set of innovations but others not—and while Schumpeter (as far as I remember from Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy) is not responsible for the conflation of entrepreneurship as innovation: this is when, where, and how the two terms are brought together into close association. For the current perversion of innovation, as used and abused by modern liberal imperialist Europe’s postmodern pseudo-liberal neo-imperialist kleptocratic descendant, we can blame badly-written, historically (and generally) ignorant, poorly-thought-out second-hand bastardisations via business publications and their pseudo-fields and pseudo-world.

This is a crucial moment in the history of the meaning of innovation: when an actual innovator plays with and changes language by using it differently, imaginatively, in a new metaphor to express a new idea. Alas, what happens next is tragic. What they did (and how and why) is misread by less creative, subtle, attentive, good readers; who ignore and wreck figurative sense and intellectual play. I’ve seen a similar moment happen before, in 1883, to Gaston Paris and “courtly love.” That case involved misreading by very intelligent, sensitive, erudite good readers. Misreading can happen to anyone. It’s human. I’ve done it. Everyone with whom I’ve talked about it has done it. It would surprise me if any reader hadn’t done it. And scholars’ errors, accidental or otherwise, can be as harmful as those of political and corporate leaders. Medievalists are working around the clock to heal very real harm done over the last 200 years (that same liberal and neoliberal Imperialist period): the best and most urgent current example is The Public Medievalist’s series, “Race, Racism, and the Middle Ages”.


Moving further back: to another development forking off from those earlier 19th-c. parts of our philological rhizomal organism.

Even before the advent of Darwinian evolutionary biology, innovation is derivative ingenuity, in the form of a wonderful vegetative innovative flourish that’s not for direct immediate purposes of survival, competition, territory, or anything else that has been carried over from the natural world into the unnatural one in macho destructive metaphors of “growth”. Curvy, digressive, beautiful, unproductive, and therefore useless; useless, and therefore pointless and the opposite of all that is good and valuable. Yes, I probably like these two last OED examples because I’m a woman academic in the arts & humanities.

And, finally and most pertinently, this:



Fra Angelico, “Tolle lege with facepalm”


see footnote for context *


The broader context, for future historical purposes, is provided by the following tweet from 24 January 2017; days after the change in power in one country, in the midst of moves in régime type in some other countries (building up in recent years, rate of change increasing over the last couple of years), and in the larger context of 20th-century Polish history.

Reference: https://twitter.com/mycielski/status/824105749823574016

(This is of course but one of many reasons for philology mattering and being meaningful; joining its scholarly partner, philosophy, in The Meaning Of Meaning. See also, amongst other works and work on them: Martianus Capella, The Marriage of Mercury and Philology.)

Jocs florals: Medieval/ist/s in a tower under siege can be guaranteed to resort to ingenious innovations in the name of hope, love, and justice


  • @arichardson_phi
  • @marktmaclean
  • @PublicMedieval
  • @deanbarker
  • @amyjeffs0
  • @NGhoussoub
  • @mycielski
  • @DamienKempf
  • @JohanOosterman

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