Literary Cultures in History: Reconstructions from South Asia

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A grand synthesis of unprecedented scope, Literary Cultures in History is the first comprehensive history of the rich literary traditions of South Asia. Together these traditions are unmatched in their combination of antiquity, continuity, and multicultural complexity, and are a unique resource for understanding the development of language and imagination over time.
In this unparalleled volume, an international team of renowned scholars considers fifteen South Asian literary traditions—including Hindi,
Indian-English, Persian, Sanskrit, Tibetan, and Urdu—in their full historical and cultural variety.

The volume is united by a twofold theoretical aim: to understand South Asia by looking at it through the lens of its literary cultures and to rethink the practice of literary history by incorporating non-Western categories and processes. The questions these seventeen essays ask are accordingly broad, ranging from the character of cosmopolitan and vernacular traditions to the impact of colonialism and independence, indigenous literary and aesthetic theory, and modes of performance. A sophisticated assimilation of perspectives from experts in anthropology, political science, history, literary studies, and religion, the book makes a landmark contribution to historical cultural studies and to literary theory in addition to the new perspectives it offers on what literature has meant in South Asia.

(Available in South Asia from Oxford University Press—

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520228214
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 5/19/2003
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 1105
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 2.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Sheldon Pollock is William B. Ransford Professor of Sanskrit and South Asian Studies at Columbia University. His previous publications include The Ramayana of Valmiki, Volume III: Aranyakanda (1991) and Cosmopolitanism (2002, with Homi Bhabha et al.).

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
List of Contributors
Preface and Acknowledgments
Guide to Pronunciation
1 Sanskrit Literary Culture from the Inside Out 39
2 The Culture and Politics of Persian in Precolonial Hindustan 131
3 The Historical Formation of Indian-English Literature 199
4 Three Moments in the Genealogy of Tamil Literary Culture 271
5 Critical Tensions in the History of Kannada Literary Culture 323
6 Multiple Literary Cultures in Telugu: Court, Temple, and Public 383
7 Genre and Society: The Literary Culture of Premodern Kerala 437
8 The Two Histories of Literary Culture in Bengal 503
9 From Hemacandra to Hind Svaraj: Region and Power in Gujarati Literary Culture 567
10 At the Crossroads of Indic and Iranian Civilizations: Sindhi Literary Culture 612
11 What Is Literature in Pali? 649
12 Works and Persons in Sinhala Literary Culture 689
13 The Indian Literary Identity in Tibet 747
14 A Long History of Urdu Literary Culture, Part 1: Naming and Placing a Literary Culture 805
15 A Long History of Urdu Literary Culture, Part 2: Histories, Performances, and Masters 864
16 The Progress of Hindi, Part 1: The Development of a Transregional Idiom 912
17 The Progress of Hindi, Part 2: Hindi and the Nation 958
Index 1023
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