This essay addresses the principal form and practice for linguistic domination, philology, to draw out a sense in which philology discombobulates the stabilizing terms it privileges and sends out at the world. This essay traces several moments in a history of the disorganization of linguistic and social form—in the poetic writing of Paul Celan and the Arabic-language translations of Celan offered by the Iraqi poet Khālid al-Ma‘ālī; in Walter Benjamin’s essayistic writing on language and the law; in the tenth-century Arabic-language philosopher Abū Naṣr al-Fārābī; and in Aristotle’s Metaphysics—to suggest the ways in which philology becomes a practice for linguistic indistinction and indefinition. Because language, as philology, ceases to be subordinated to its ends (history, sense, the subject), it becomes a discordant social form; because it disorders the terms privileged in the modern institutions for reading, it speaks to us of a form of life that is obscured in the privileging of the ends to which language is, repeatedly, constrained to be understood.

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