This essay examines recent arguments for a return to philology as the basis of humanistic inquiry and liberal-arts education. It considers how philology’s disciplinary heritage is inflected by economic and racial privileges and explores avenues for the liberation of philology from these legacies. The past and present entanglements of philology and elite knowledge are traced through Richard Wright’s initiation into the world of learning, the author’s experience teaching a literature-humanities core curriculum, and theorizations of the discipline from Gramsci to Auerbach to Harold Bloom.

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