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Space, Language, and Genre: For a Multilingual Literary History of Awadh

Friday, February 14, 2014
12:00 AM
1636 SSWB

Co-sponsors: History Department; Eisenberg Institute for Historical Studies; Department of Comparative Literature

Abstract: While literary histories, first written in the colonial-nationalist period, have drawn firm boundaries around languages, scripts, and literary tastes, a multilingual approach to literary history provides a more plausible, layered, and nuanced picture of literary culture in the early modern period. A geographical perspective and a sensitivity to linguistic registers and “traces” of other languages within texts, and to the popularity and circulation of genres and people, are particularly useful for highlighting interrelationships but also literary forms and sensibilities that single-language archives have obscured. In this talk, I start applying this multilingual approach to a region, Awadh (roughly from the 15c to the 18c), that was long at the centre of the North Indian Sultanates and later of the Mughal empire, but also continuously contested between Sufi- and Persian-dominated qasbas and “recalcitrant zamindars” in the countryside. As both got drawn into the networks of Mughal administration, how did linguistic choices and literary tastes evolve?

This program is organized by the Center for South Asian Studies with support from the U-M LSA Theme Semester and co-sponsored by the History Department, the Eisenberg Institute for Historical Studies, and the Department of Comparative Literature.

Francesca Orsini, South Asia Department, University of London