ANS 384 • Historical Traditions in India
3:00 PM-6:00 PM
This seminar examines the nature of historical writing and consciousness in premodern India, a society often said to lack a sense of history because it produced little in the way of traditional historical narratives. Rather than evaluating Indian texts by standard measures of historicity, however, in this course we will attempt to understand indigenous conceptions of the past as revealed in a number of different genres including the purana-itihasa tradition, the inscriptional geneaology, historical kavya, vamsavali, and the Indo-Muslim chronicle. The underlying premise is that such material can indeed be fruitfully interpreted from the perspective of social, cultural, and intellectual history, and so one of the objectives of the course will be to explore innovative approaches and methods of analysis. The other goal is to provide a basic familiarity with the range of historical writing and thinking in premodern India. During the first few weeks of the semester, we will collectively read some secondary works on historical traditions and narratives in general as well as excerpts from several indian works in translation (i.e., Mahabharata, Visnu Purana, a Cola inscription, and Harsacarita). In the second half of the semester, we will continue to do some reading together as a group. but members of the class will also engage in individual research on historiographic texts and traditions of their choice. The format of the course will be mostly group discussion, with occasional short lectures by the instructor as well as oral presentations by students.
Weekly readings will be available on reserve at PCL.