programme

Premodern Literary Cultures of India

Home/ Premodern Literary Cultures of India
Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation CoreSCC2LA1024

Course Details/ Objectives:

The main thrust of the course is to engage in creative writing through various models available in the pre-modern literary cultures of India. Tracing the historical course of Orality to the Written tradition spread over a vast span of spatio- temporal expansion over centuries, the course will attempt to understand the multiple schemata of creative ‘ writing’

(textual/ oral/ performative) through the evident transitions/ transmutations and ruptures to the manifested essence of inter disciplenarity of Indian literary culture. The course will attempt to map the Indian literary landscape within the intricate relation between the power language (like Sanskrit and Persian ) and the ‘vernacular’ ( pali/ prakrit/ apabramshas/ other Indian language writings at various geo-cultural spheres) within the pre modern / pre-colonial contexts as simultaneously overlapping and dichotomous thereby further exploring the hybridism and chasms, fluidity and the fixed points

As a practiced based core course with equal investment on theoretical engagement in Literary Arts, the course attempts to derive writing inspiration, skill and critical consciousness from the literary models of the pre-modern literary landscape of India. The course seeks to understand how the Role and Agency of the Author functions in the field/ works of literature. It also simultaneously introduces the students to the rich and diverse multilingualism and multiculturalism evident in the complex literary landscape of India to understand it in its interconnectedness and continuity.

To practice creative writing through various literary models available in the literary history of India. It also seeks to critically understand the role and agency of a writer by reading various literary movements, forms, figures and aesthetical/formalistic/ ideational positions from the pre-modern literary culture.

Course outcomes: Course Outcomes: On completion of the course, it is expected that the student will have:

Developed an understanding of the literary landscapes prevailing in the premodern subcontinent.

Developed multicultural awareness and sensitivity to issues and histories of diversity and difference among the cohort.

Developed an appreciation of the different literary forms existing in the premodern period.

Developed the ability to engage in self directed, research oriented projects.

Developed a familiarity with the digital resources available for the study of premodern literatures.

Developed strategies to make connections in their own writing between the premodern and the contemporary.

Overall structure:

Introduction to the concepts of literary culture and the paradigmatic shift from literary arts to literary culture.

Introduction to various strands of pre-modern literary cultures of India from different language traditions and cultural locations to explore and problematize the questions about the formulations of the ‘Indian literature’.

Highlight the multilingualism and plurality of the Indian literary landscape through historical understanding of the interconnectedness of literary movements and developments, and the continuity(s) and discontinuity(s) by examining certain traditions/ movements/ literary figures such as Sanskrit Kavya, Epic Traditions and its multiple versions, Pali Gathas, Bhakti & Sufi traditions.

Revisit the oral / folk / tribal literary realm to critically understand these strands as site for continuity from pre modern to modern with examples from tribal/folk /oral poems of North East &Central India.

Screening of various short videos and short films and reading modern/contemporary texts related to the issues discussed such as ‘Ahailya’, a short video by Sujoy Ghosh or ‘Suparnakha’ by Amit Choudhury as examples of re-appropriation and subversion of pre-modern mythic characters , plot or narratives.

Contents (brief note on each module; indicative reading list with core and supplementary readings)

Unit I

Introduction to the concepts of literary culture and the paradigmatic shift from literary arts to literary culture. Discussions about problems and prospects of writing the literary history in the context of India. Discussions about the questions of Orality and Textuality with specific focus about oral / folk/ tribal traditions of India.

Reading of a few select folk tale and do a writing exercise of adaptation and re-appropriation of folk /tribal oral tradition in contemporary contexts.

Select readings from two texts. (Introductions and some excerpts)

G N Devy , Painted Worlds : An anthology of Tribal literature , Penguin Books India, 2002.

A.K. Ramanujan, Folk Tales from India: A Selection of Oral Tales from Twenty-Two Languages.New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1993.

UNIT II

Introducing various strands of pre-modern literary cultures of India from different language traditions and cultural locations to explore and problematize the questions about the formulations of the ‘Indian literature’ within its vast diverse complex manifestations through various spatio- temporal expansions and progressions. Highlight the multilingualism and plurality of the Indian literary landscape through historical understanding of the interconnectedness of literary movements and developments, and the continuity(s) and discontinuity(s) through certain significant Entry Points as the given below :

The Sanskrit Kavya Tradition. A study into the generic exploration. The study will incorporate multilingual approach by critically looking at the literary expansion of Kavya in different language and forms such as natya, gatha, pada etc.

The Epic Ramayana: A Thematic exploration.

Critical discussion about its status as the ‘Adikavya’ which fathered a number and variety of distinguished literary works. Also focus light on the Classical rendition and the various attempts of vernacularisation by recreating the original text. The multiple Ramayanic manifestations across culture, language, locations. Discussion about the central discourse and its various counter discourse by marginal voices.

Texts:

Bibek Debroy. Valmi Ramayan Vol. 1-3. Delhi: Penguin Classics, 2017.

Kamban. Ramayana. Trans. P.S. Sundaram. New Delhi: Penguin, 2002.

Goswami Tulsidas. The Epic of Ram Vol. 1. Trans. Philip Lutgendorf. Boston: Murty Classical Library of India,Harvard University Press, 2016.

Kavi Madhav Kandali. Asamiya Madhav Kandali Ramayan (Hindi translation). Lucknow: Bhuvan Vani Trust,1979.

Discussion about Chandavati’s Ramayan (Bangla) and Chabin Alun / Mizo-ramlau (A rendition by the Karbi tribe / Mizos of North East India) to Focus on attempts of scripting a counter discourse.

Pali tradition of the Theragathas and the Therigathas. Probing into the ‘Vernacular’ as a literary repository of historical and socio-politico-religious realities. Reading the Therigathas as Women/ feminist text and earliest site for gender discourse in India and cross examination in the contemporary context.

The Indo Persian tradition of Sufi literature. Questions of cross cultural fertilizations and politico- lingual amalgamations. Discussions about the intersection of the Quranic Classical and various Arabic/ Persian/ Indian folk / oral traditions such as Charkha Nama, Chakki Nama etc.. Critical investigation as an interface between the religious and the secular.

The Bhakti movements and the Indian Saint poets. Discussions about various literary modes from different locations, language and culture. Points of commonality and contradictions. Attempts at understanding the ‘UNITY IN DIVERSITY’ dictum by the Nationalist in the modern Indian Nationhood formulations with regard to Bhakti and its historic significance as a site for newer ideals and models.

Engage in a series of creative writing exercise on the basis of these model: Recreation of Mythic characters, Re-appropriation and Subversion of Epic, Biographical account of literary figure as a practice in Characterization etc.

UNIT III. Re visit the first unit to study about the oral / folk / tribal literary culture to critically discuss about these strands as site for continuity from pre modern to modern with folk/tribal/ oral poems of North East India & Central India.

Pedagogy:

Instructional design: Lecture and Class room discussion of the modules with regular practice based creative writing exercises.

Special needs (facilities, requirements in terms of software, studio, lab, clinic, library, classroom/others instructional space; any other – please specify) Class room projector to screen some videos related to the topics of discussions.

Expertise in AUD faculty or outside: AUD faculty.

Linkages with external agencies (e.g., with field-based organizations, hospital; any others)

Assessment structure: Four major assessment situations

Students are expected to participate fully in the activities of the classroom, which will include immersive reading, discussion, and engagement. Assessments will include components for presence and participation, a reading response, a seminar presentation, and a term paper. Students who are repeatedly absent will find themselves in difficulty both in terms of keeping up with the course content and their grade.

  • Presence and participation 20%
  • Response paper 25%
  • Seminar 25%
  • Term paper 30%

READING LIST

Apart from the primary texts mentioned above we shall primarily follow the following texts—

  • Sheldon Pollock. The Language of the Gods in the World of Men. Ranikhet: Permanent Black, 2007.
  • Sheldon Pollock. ‘Ramayana and the Political Imagination in India.’ Journal of Asian Studies, 52.2:261-297.
  • Milind Wakankar, ‘Kabir in the Indo-Islamic Millennium. Original MS of Wakankar, Subalternity and Religion. London: Routledge, 2010
  • Aditya Behl, ‘The Magic Doe: Desire and Narrative in a Hindavi Sufi Romance, circa 1503,’ in India’s Islamic Traditions. Ed. Richard Eaton. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003
  • Vinay Dharwadkar. Kabir: the Weaver’s Songs. New Delhi: Penguin, 2003.
  • Jan Gonda, Visnuism and Sivaism: A Comparison. London: Athlone Press, 1970.
  • John Stratton Hawley, Three Bhakti Voices: Mirabai, Surdas, and Kabir in Their Time and Ours. Delhi: OUP, 2005.
  • Karen Pechilis Prentiss, The Embodiment of Bhakti. New York: OUP, 1999.
  • Nabaneeta Deb Sen. A Woman’s Retelling of the Rama Text. Narrative Strategies Employed in Chandrabati’s Ramayan, in Amiya Dev. Ed. Narrative, A Seminar. Sahitya Akademi. New Delhi. 1994.
  • Indira Goswami. Ramayana from Ganga to Brahmaputra. B.R. Publishers. New Delhi, 1996
  • Malashri Lal . In Search of Sita: Revisiting Mythology. Penguin, 2009.
  • S N Dasgupta. A History of Sanskrit Literature, The Classical Period. Vol 1, University of Calcutta, 1947.
  • P S Sundaram, Kamba Ramayan, Penguin, London, 2002.