15 May 2015, 09.30 – 17.30
Syndicate Room, St. Antony’s College
There were seven presentations from UK-based and international scholars (session 1, 9.30 am to 12.45 pm and session 2, 13.45 to 15.45) followed by a roundtable discussion (16.00 to 17.30). Audio recordings of the proceedings are available here.
How do we historicise the circumstances around producing literature and what does that add to the study of history as a whole? We can apply Pascale Casanova’s concept of a “literature-world”, which she defines as “a literary universe relatively independent of the everyday world and its political divisions whose boundaries and operational laws are not reducible to those of ordinary political space”. Literary cultures often carry with them a scholarly apparatus of lexicons, critical texts, biographies of practitioners, records of public performances, and so on. The literature-world thus both intersects with material reality as literature is produced by people living in the real world but also presumes rich intertextuality that creates a parallel world of the imagination. Facing this, how do we write intellectual history, particularly intellectual history of the non-West, using literary texts and sources whose main purpose was to aid in the creation of literature? Of what use is the expectation that a literary work be expressive of its geographical and historical origin? Is it fruitful to compare and contrast modern ways of studying language and literature with the pre-modern discursive tools for producing and interpreting literary texts?
In particular, this seminar will consider the relationship of South Asia’s pre-modern cosmopolitan literary traditions (Persian and Sanskrit, though in this symposium our interest is Persian) with vernacular ones, rethinking anachronistic interpretations of an “artificial” and “anti-national” Persian cosmopolitanism to be contrasted with vernacular traditions, which are supposedly natural and connected with the emergent nation.
UK-based students from outside of Oxford should enquire about travel bursaries which may be available for them.
Presented with support from the British Institute of Persian Studies, the Max Müller Fund, the Iran Heritage Foundation, the John Fell Fund, St. Antony’s College Asian Studies Centre, and the Antonian Fund.