“Inscription” XXVI (2020)

Errare humanum est. Errors in humanities research, their types and consequences

To err is a part of the human condition. Therefore, instead of viewing mistakes as the part of research that is best kept hidden, we would like to carefully examine them and notice their special value. Errors often have enormous consequences in fields such as translation studies (for example, incorrect readings, omissions or failed Polonisations, prompting harsher judgements of the work and its author), academic editing (printing errors, author’s mistakes, the issue of choosing the best version of the source for publication, conflicting messages in various authentic sources, signalling of conjecture and emendation, etc.) or interpreting of texts of culture (for example, overinterpretation). False leads often appear very tempting and revelatory, which is why it is worth to analyse the most common mechanisms of their origin (and recurrence) and the ways of laboriously rectifying them (meticulous analysis of the source base – ‘return to the sources’). The order of the rules of working with a literary text, formulated already in antiquity, remains unchanged today: beginning with lectio (the correct reading of the text) and emendatio (amending distorted areas of the text, justified correcting of the spotted errors), through enarratio (discussion of the topic, motives and themes, and the way they are expressed – analysis and interpretation), to iudicium, the final part of the work (judgment on the work – appraisal).

Another issue worth noting, however, will be the sole awareness of historic fluidity of the established norms – an academic consideration of situations in which a commonly repeated mistake ultimately becomes the recommended standard. One especially intriguing case seems to be that of the ‘fortunate mistake’: an error caused by adopting premature assumptions, which actually becomes the starting point for new directions of research and extraordinary discoveries.

This edition of Napis would collate texts by researchers from different fields, starting with historians of science, through editors and textologists, literature scholars, translators, to language scholars and editors-in-chief, drawing on examples from their own practice.

Suggested topics:

  • evolution of language norms and publishing practices;
  • formulation of the rules of working with text in the era of printing – the work of the authors on the correctness of their own texts and their testimonies (preserved, for example, in autographs, corrections, correspondence with publishers and fellow writers);
  • well-known errors and their consequences for the reading and reception of works of culture;
  • discovering and amending errors solidified by tradition (examples of scientific investigations).

Entries (title and synopsis) can be submitted until the end of May 2020. Finished articles with a complete set of materials should be sent by 15 September 2020.