South Asia Graduate Students Forum

2011 - 2012

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012
Room 208, Knox Hall

Presentation by Andrew Ollet (MESAAS):

"Language and the Parameters of Literature"


When we speak of "English literature," "Arabic literature," "Sanskrit literature," we're qualifying a signifier that is supposed to be stable across cultures (though the word "literature" itself is a neo-Latin coinage from 17th-century Europe) with linguistic or national unities that have been constructed as sites of difference. We allow language to set the boundaries of, and thus function as a parameter for, "literature." I will critically examine this "parametric" function in the context of the language or languages called Prakrit. What exactly does a term like "Prakrit literature" refer to? Conversely, what does it mean to call Prakrit a "literary language"? It is well known that, within the large and long-lived cultural formation of the "Sanskrit cosmopolis," Sanskrit, Prakrit, and Apabhramsa collectively and exhaustively delimited a domain of textuality in which kavya, "literature strictly speaking," was situated. But this broad formulation doesn't tell us how, for example, these different languages are mapped onto the literary archive (internally differentiated by theme, genre, meter, and so on), or onto the field of literary production (divided into region, social groups, religious communities). In this talk I will focus on how language difference is mapped onto a literary tradition-something that extends through time, is produced through implicit and explicit processes of appropriation and exclusion, and is structured by relations of precedence and influence. The evidence will come from what authors actually say about Prakrit's relation to literary traditions, from their own citation practices (including especially the topos of kaviprasamsa, "praise of poets"), the ways in which they themselves are cited, and the "source" and "target" languages of commentaries and abridgements. I will show how the tools of Social Network Analysis might allow us to analyze and visualize complex relations such as these. From this perspective, as we might have expected, language is neither an exclusive nor an irrelevant parameter; boundaries between languages were semi-permeable. More important and interesting is the exact significance of "semi-": What are the asymmetries between Sanskrit, Prakrit, and Apabhramsa? What can these tell us about their status and audience? And how does language relate to religious affiliation, or other potential parameters of a literary tradition?


The format will be:
30 minutes: presentation;
30 minutes: discussion;
thereafter reception (food and drink provided).

Tuesday, November 15th, 2012
Room 207, Knox Hall

Presentation by Katherine E. Kasdorf (Art History and Archaeology):

"Seeing a City Through its Temples: Halebid and the Hoysala Capital"


Examining the temples of Halebid, Karnataka - formerly Dorasamudra, capital of the Hoysala dynasty between the mid-11th and mid-14th centuries, I argue that the temples of a particular locality should be understood not only as architectural entities with various ritual and political purposes, but also as components of a greater urban setting that has historically encompassed a range of activities,
communities, and forms.  By comparing the temples' architectural and
sculptural forms, their sources of patronage, and their sectarian
affiliations, and by considering the architectural character of
distinct zones and potential routes of access between surviving
features, we can understand much about the urban forms and social
organization of the Hoysala capital.  Furthermore, the alterations
made to Halebid's temples and the reuse of Hoysala-period
architectural materials in temples built after the dynasty's fall
provide insight into the shifting character of the town's
neighborhoods and populations.  Complicating the familiar narrative of
post-Hoysala decline and inactivity, these later constructions attest
to the town's continued vibrancy, even after the period of its highest
status as a political capital.


The format will be:
30 minutes: presentation;
30 minutes: discussion;
thereafter reception (food and drink provided).