Tea: 6:00pm – 6:30pm
Lecture and Discussion: 6:30pm – 8:30pm
|Thu, 23 May||Lecture 1: Oral Traditions in Literature|
VN Rao in conversation with Sudha GopalakrishnanThe Sanskrit alphabet, Varna Samamnaya, is phonetically defined long before a graphic writing is created. This fact, not noted before, has enormous consequence in the mode of existence of a text on Indian languages. For example, one could be a scholar without having to write. Major poets composed their texts orally, and scholars ‘read’ them orally. The lecture explores the consequences and discusses a variety of texts.
|Sat, 25 May||Lecture 2: The Concept of Author in Indian Text Culture|
VN Rao in conversation with Arshia SattarThis lecture is devoted to discuss the concept of author in Indian text culture. Our usual understanding that an author with a definitive biography writes a fixed text which is then read by the reader does not work in India. The idea of fixed text by an author with a personal biography gave rise to the need for critical editions and philological studies. The lecture probes these questions and indicates why they may be problematic issues in Indian literature.
|Mon, 27 May||Lecture 3: History of Literature|
VN Rao in conversation with Arshia SattarThis lecture probes whether literature can have a history at all, unless we invent a personal biography and fixed text. In Indian literary culture, text changed whenever it was read differently, at which point we invented a new author or created a new ‘biography’ to the author. Legends about authors, dismissed as unhistorical are valuable and provide us with the true basis for understanding our literary culture.
|Wed, 29 May||Lecture 4: Land, Pastoralism and Trade: Three Ecological Bases to Study Indian Texts|
VN Rao in conversation with Kesavan VeluthatFrom this point of view, the Ramayana is a landed narrative, and the Mahabharata is a pastoral narrative and stories of the Kathāsaritsagara represent the narratives of a trading culture. This presentation traces how each culture developed values of heroism, virtue and truth suitable to their culture, which their stories represent. From this perspective, there is no such a thing as a national epic, which is a development after the landed culture dominated the other two and the idea of a nation emerged.
|Fri, 31 May||Lecture 5: Court Poetry, Temple Poetry|
VN Rao in conversation with Kesavan VeluthatThe lecture discusses ideas that relate mainly to Telugu literature, but might have application to other languages as well. Court Poetry developed a genre known as Mahakavya in Sanskrit and Mahaprabandha in Telugu. Do other languages, especially Kannada, and Tamil have this genre and if they had, was it eclipsed by more popular genres such as vachanas in Kannada and the modern interest in Sangam literature in Tamil? Temple Poetry focuses on a personal God, with or without an existing major temple, is the listener to whom the poet addresses his/her poems. God being superior to everyone, including the king, the poet is free to reject the power of the king and address his/her God directly. This gives an opportunity for criticising the king and the poets who dedicate their poems to the king. The talk would look at the imagined biography of a temple poet in contrast to a court poet and also the several features of temple poems.
|Sun, 2 Jun||Lecture 6: Cātu – Poetry in Public Spaces|
VN Rao in conversation with Sudha GopalakrishnanAn interesting feature of Telugu, and perhaps of several other languages including Sanskrit, is what are generally called Cātu verses memorised by literate people and quoted in conversations. These verses are in oral circulation until recently when C. P. Brown and several other scholars following him collected them. The lecture discusses the features of the Cātu world, unfortunately lost to modern understanding.
Velcheru Narayana Rao
Arshia Sattar obtained her PhD in South Asian Languages and Civilizations from the University of Chicago in 1990. Her abridged translations of the epic Sanskrit texts, Kathasaritsagara and Valmiki’s Ramayana have both been published by Penguin Books. She has also written books for children and her literary reviews appear regularly in various Indian and international publications.
Kesavan Veluthat is an eminent historian of ancient and early medieval Indian history with focus on South India. He is an expert in epigraphy and languages such as Sanskrit, Tamil and Kannada apart from Malayalam and English. He is currently the Professor of History at the University of Delhi.