Elena Penskaya is Head of the School of Philology at the Faculty of Humanities, National Research University Higher School of Economics (Moskau).
The way the humanities have developed over the 20th century has enabled the shifting of textual interpretation from the periphery to a central consideration of the discipline. This dynamic has raised a number of questions that suggest we consider the role of commentary practices in contemporary discourse.
Several types of commentary are discussed today: commentary proper, or any text that is used as a commentary de facto; theoretical reflections on the rules of commenting; the commentary tradition; and, more broadly, the culture of interpretation, including rabbinical, biblical and postbiblical traditions as well as the culture of debate of medieval Western European universities, etc.
There is also another plane upon which commentary is analyzed as a self-sufficient, crucial link in the dynamics of cultural innovation. In ancient times, commentary as such was often the source and driver of new genres and practices. Is a typological classification of commentaries possible? Is there a history of commenting that exists independently from the history of criticism? How do commentary ‘markers’ in culture evolve? There are no decisive answers to these questions, but we are going to dwell on their contradictory and paradoxical natures in this discussion.