Department of Asian Studies
Department of Asian Studies

Seminar Series: Archana Venkatesan on "Fluid Text and Open Boundaries: On Poetry, Experience and Experiments in Translation"

Thu, March 8, 2018 | Meyerson Conference Room (WCH 4.118), UT Austin Campus

3:30 PM - 5:00 PM

Seminar Series: Archana Venkatesan on

Archana Venkatesan, University of California-Davis, will speak on "Fluid Text and Open Boundaries: On Poetry, Experience and Experiments in Translation" as part of the Spring South Asia Seminar Series.

The Tamil poems of the twelve āḻvār are embedded within a well-established commentarial tradition in Sanskrit, Tamil and Manipravala that traces itself to at least the twelfth century. To read these poems and to translate them is to reckon with this legacy. In the case of J.S.M.Hooper, who offered the first English translation of all twelve poets in his Hymns of the Alvar (1929), this debt expressed itself in heavy annotations and an explicit expression of reliance on the commentaries as a way to make sense of the world of the āḻvār. For A.K.Ramanujan, the commentaries were but a useful aid to be rejected or utilized depending on how it served his own finely honed aesthetic sensibility. Unlike either Hooper or Ramanujan, the Śrīvaiṣṇavas do not approach commentary as simply a way to make sense of esoteric, theologically demanding poems. Rather, commentary is a path of enjoyment and its goal is relish (anubhava). The purpose of a commentary is not simply to elucidate meaning, but through its practice, to induce in its audience the āḻvār-poet’s enjoyment (anubhava) of god. Framed as anubhava, Śrīvaiṣṇava- commentary is not only located in a written (printed) text, but lives and is refreshed through oral discourse, performance, and gesture. In such commentarial practices, the poem has no fixity and instead becomes a fluid, malleable thing of permeable boundaries, shaped into a conduit for the undammed emotion of anubhava. In this paper, I approach translation itself as anubhava, to explore the implications of working within the religo-aesthetic imperatives of the commentarial traditions of the Śrīvaiṣṇava saṁpradāyas. Guided by Śrīvaiṣṇava commentarial and performative practices, I offer an āḻvār poem three ways: the first anubhava takes as its departure point liturgical recitation, the second anubhava ritual performance, and the final anubhava oral discourse.

The seminar series theme is "Musth: Somatic States in South Asia," convened by Martha Ann Selby, Department of Asian Studies. A light reception will precede the event at 3pm.

This talk is FREE! and open to the public.

Sponsored by: South Asia Institute

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