Buddhist History in the Vernacular: The Power of the Past in Late Medieval Sri Lanka

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This is a careful study about the power attributed to historical narratives in early medieval Sri Lanka. On the basis of Sinhala histories of the Buddha and his relics this work sheds new light on historiography at work in a vernacular setting. Arguing that historical texts were both ethically and socially constructive, the author demonstrates that narrative representations of the past served the purpose to transform writers, readers, and listeners of history into virtuous persons, and therewith to generate moral communities.
Focusing on the thirteenth-century Sinhala Thupavamsa, this book problematizes modern interpretations of Buddhist histories, compares the production of Pali and Sinhala texts, and examines how historical works were directed towards religious ends.
A significant contribution to scholarship in Buddhist Studies, Comparative Literature, and Historical Criticism.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9789004139107
  • Publisher: Brill Academic Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 4/29/2004
  • Series: Brill's Indological Library Series, #23
  • Pages: 358
  • Product dimensions: 6.56 (w) x 9.66 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephen C. Berkwitz, Ph.D. (1999) in Religious Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara, is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Southwest Missouri State University. He has written chiefly on the cultural history and contemporary expressions of Sri Lankan Buddhism.
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Table of Contents

Ch. 1 History and textuality 1
Ch. 2 Buddhist history now and then 40
Ch. 3 Language and the production of history 81
Ch. 4 Buddhist history as literature 135
Ch. 5 Transforming the writers of history 182
Ch. 6 Fashioning virtuous readers and listeners 231
Ch. 7 Moral communities & vernacular histories 287
App List of palm leaf manuscripts consulted 329
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