from Jaina Citra Kalpadruma, plate 36


week 1

Literary Beginnings

We will find our orientation in South Asian literary traditions by looking at what participants in these traditions themselves understood “literature” to be, including its origins, its defining characteristics, and its parameters.


  • for Tuesday (10/1): Nothing!
  • for Thursday (10/3):
    • Selections from the Rāmāyaṇam of Vālmīki (trans. Robert Goldman), the Investigation of Literature (Kāvyamīmāṁsā) of Rājaśēkhara (trans. Sheldon Pollock), and Light on Resonance (Dhvanyālōkaḥ) of Ānandavardhana (trans. Daniel H. H. Ingalls, Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, and M. V. Patwardhan). [Download from Canvas.]
    • Selections from Nakkīraṉār’s urai on the Iṟaiyaṉār Akapporuḷ (trans. Buck and Paramasivan). [Download from Canvas.]


week 2

Early Tamil Poetry

Selections from the Short Collection (Kuṟuntokai) and Four Hundred Outer Poems (Puṟanāṉūṟu)

We turn to some of the earliest poetry available from South Asia: the poems collected into anthologies and attributed to the Tamil “academy” (caṅkam) of the ancient past.


  • for Tuesday (10/8): The ten poems from the Kuṟuntokai in the selections packet. You will notice that these poems (translated by A. K. Ramanujan, George Hart, and Martha Selby) are followed by a page from Eva Wilden’s critical edition and translation, which contains the Tamil text and a word-by-word gloss. Please feel free to ignore these pages, although we will discuss them in class. Alternatively, feel free to touch on the differences in the translation in your reactions.
  • for Thursday (10/10): The eight poems from the Puṟanāṉūṟu in the selections packet.


week 3

Prakrit Poetry

The Seven Centuries (Sattasaī) by Hāla

We move north, into the Deccan, where we read single-verse poems in Prakrit, collected into an anthology by Hāla.


  • for Tuesday (10/15):
    • selections from Hāla, Seven Centuries (I have selected 47 poems that were translated by Peter Khoroche and Herman Tieken)
  • for Thursday (10/17): We will continue our discussion of Seven Centuries.


week 4

Sanskrit Poetry (Medium)

Stories of the Buddha’s Past Lives (Jātakamālā) by Haribhaṭṭa and The Cloud Messenger (Mēghadūtaḥ) by Kālidāsa

The “medium” in this week’s title means that the Sanskrit poetry we’ll be reading comes in three sizes: small (muktakam or single-verse poems), medium (laghukāvyam or short-form poems), and large (mahākāvyam). This week is devoted to “medium-sized” poetry, including Kālidāsa’s famous Cloud Messenger.


  • for Tuesday (10/22): Haribhaṭṭa’s stories of Rūpyavatī (6, pp. 46–52), the Peacock (12, pp. 80–94), and Kanakavarman (23, pp. 129–142)
  • for Thursday (10/24): Kālidāsa’s Cloud Messenger (entire text; you can skip Nathan’s introduction and commentary)


week 5

Sanskrit Poetry (Small)

Selected poems by Bhartr̥hari, Amaru, Bāṇa, Dharmakīrti, Vidyā, and “Bilhaṇa”

This week will be a “greatest hits” of single-verse poems in Sanskrit, most probably composed in the sixth to eighth centuries CE. In place of Tuesday’s class we will plan a visit to the Art Institute that accords with everyone’s schedules.


  • for Tuesday (10/29): Read the poems that Thibaut d’Hubert has selected to accompany the pieces we’ll be viewing at the Art Institute today.
  • for Thursday (10/31): Read the selections on Canvas. [The packet contains translations of the poets Bāṇa, Dharmakīrti, Bhartr̥hari, Amaru, “Bilhaṇa,” and Vidyā, by Daniel H. H. Ingalls, Barbara Stoler Miller, John Brough, and myself.]


week 6

The Tamil Epic

The Tale of an Anklet (Cilappatikāram) by Ilaṅkō Aṭikaḷ

We will be reading most of the text (excluding the final Book of Vañci) in R. Parthasarathy’s 1993 translation. Please note that Parthasarathy’s introduction and glossary are available as well; his long postscript is also a recommended reading for this week.



week 7

The Stage-Play (Nāṭakam)

Rāma’s Last Act (Uttararāmacaritam) by Bhavabhūti

We will read Bhavabhūti’s play in its entirety. Please consult the slides prior to reading the text. The suggested readings below will also help to contextualize the play.


  • for Tuesday (11/12): Bhavabhūti, Rāma’s Last Act, Acts I, II, and III (Pollock trans. pp. 64–231)
  • for Thursday (11/14): Acts IV, V, VI, and VII (Pollock trans. pp. 233–389)


week 8

Sanskrit and Prakrit Poetry (Large)

Selections from Building the Bridge (Sētubandhaḥ) by Pravarasēna and The Dynasty of Raghu (Raghuvaṁśaḥ) by Kālidāsa

This week we look at a genre called the “great poem” (mahākāvyam), with specimens in both Sanskrit and Prakrit.


  • for Tuesday (11/19): Pravarasēna, Building the Bridge, chapter 11 (a scanned copy is also available on Canvas)
  • for Thursday (11/21): Kālidāsa, The Dynasty of Raghu, cantos 5–8 (Haksar trans. pp. 75–145)


week 9

The Sanskrit Novel

What Ten Young Men Did (Daśakumāracaritam) by Daṇḍin

Note that the notes and glossary of Isabelle Onians’ translation are also available.

Note also that the second session will take place in week 10, after the break.