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Dr. Martha Selby, Chair 120 INNER CAMPUS DR STOP G9300 WCH 4.134 78712-1251 • 512-471-5811

Spring 2006

ANS 390 • Medieval Literature of Northern India

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
29820 W
3:00 PM-6:00 PM
BIO 301

Course Description

This course will look at representative samples (in English translation) of the rich and rewarding wealth of pre-modern literature in Hindi and related north Indian languages. Much of this literature is, of course, devoted to religious themes, and bhakti texts will be our main focus; but we will also read extracts from other genres, such as the Ardhakathanak of the 17th-century poet Banarasidas (failed merchant and jeweler, devout but occasionally lapsing Jain, close observer of his contemporary world) -- the text has been described as 'the first autobiography in the Indian tradition'. Within the preponderant Vaishnava context we will read works by major figures such as Tulsidas, Surdas, Kabir and Mira Bai, looking at the devotional content of their poetry, its aesthetic qualities, and the religious context from which the poetry arises; and bearing in mind the oral and performative aspect of pre-modern 'literature', we will also listen to some of these texts in recordings. Another focus will be the fascinating prose hagiographies which are so adept at presenting 'the lives of the saints' in an appropriately illuminating manner. In order to achieve a depth of field in our studies we will also look at the Sanskrit antecedents for the Hindi tradition, especially, in the Krishnaite context, the 9th-century Bhagavata Purana and the lushly bucolic 12th-century poem Gitagovinda; and to broaden the scope of our survey we will also look at representative texts from Sikhism and from the Bengali Vaishnava tradition. Students will be expected to read background studies of the literature, and to read English translation of carefully selected sample texts which we shall discuss, analyze and enjoy in class.

Grading Policy

Preparation and participation in class discussion: 25% Short writing assignments (3 at 20% each): 60% Oral report: 15%


Richard Barz, The bhakti sect of Vallabhacarya (Faridabad 1976). Edwin F. Bryant, trans., Krishna: the beautiful legend of God (Srimad Bhagavata Purana Book X) (Harmondsworth 2004). Kenneth E. Bryant, Poems to the child-god: structures and strategies in the poetry of Surdas (Berkeley 1978). A.L. Dallapiccola & B.N. Goswamy (eds.): Krishna the divine lover: myth and legend through Indian art (London 1982). R.P. Goldman, ed. & tr., The Ramayana of Valmiki: an epic of Ancient India. Vol. I. Balakanda (Princeton 1984). J.S. Hawley, Surdas: poet, singer and saint (Delhi 1984). J.S. Hawley & Mark Juergensmeyer, Songs of the saints of India, 2nd edn (Delhi 2005). Linda Hess & Shukdev Singh, trans., The Bijak of Kabir (San Francisco 1983). Sudhir Kakar, 'Erotic fantasy: the secret passion of Radha and Krishna'. Contributions to Indian Sociology (New Series) Vol.19 No.1 (Jan-June 1985) pp. 75-94. Mukund Lath, Half a tale: a study in the interrelationship between autobiography and history (Jaipur 1981). Philip Lutgendorf, The life of a text: performing the Ramcaritmanas of Tulsidas (Berkeley 1991). Barbara Stoler Miller, Love song of the dark lord: Jayadeva's Gitagovinda (New York 1977). Paula Richman (ed.), Many Ramayanas: the diversity of a narrative tradition in South Asia (Berkeley 1991). Karine Schomer & W.H. McLeod (eds), The sants: studies in a devotional tradition of India (Delhi 1987). Rupert Snell 'Raskhan the neophyte: Hindu perspectives on a Muslim Vaishnava', in C. Shackle (ed.), Urdu and Muslim studies in South Asia: studies in honour of Ralph Russell (London 1989), pp. 290-37. Rupert Snell, The Hindi classical tradition: a Braj Bhasha reader (London 1991). Donna M. Wulff, Drama as a mode of religious realization: the Vidagdha-madhava of Rupa Gosvami (Chico, Calif. 1984)


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