The focus of the conference is the intersection between the religion of Vaishnavism on the one hand and the conventions of fine literature and aesthetic theory in Sanskrit and South Asian vernaculars on the other. While there has been a growing scholarly production concerning this intersection, mostly focused on the tradition following the Bengali cultural hero Chaitanya, the purpose of the conference is to map the broader contours of the field in terms of the “Religion and Literature” approach.
Some of the questions that participants in the conference will consider include:
1- What religious commitments did poets and dramatists of a Vaishnava background bring to fine literature, which was in provenance not religious but aimed at producing aesthetic experience?
2- How was a balance achieved between doctrinal content and literary form in Vaishnava literary productions?
3- What does it mean for fine literature to be “Vaishnava” – how does an author negotiate between religious commitments and literary conventions?
4- How did the theory of aesthetic experience (rasa-śāstra) change at the hand of authors with commitments to Vaishnava doctrine?
5- How are such changes reflected in their literary works?
6- Relatedly, how did Vaishnava authors change genres of Sanskrit literature, and how was Vaishnava doctrine influenced by the conventions of Sanskrit poetry and rasa theory?
7- How does Vaishnava fine literature look in Sanskrit? How does it look in a vernacular?
8- How much were the adaptations of Sanskrit classics such as the Rāmāyaṇa, Mahābhārata, and the Bhāgavata Purāṇa in vernacular languages determined by the conventions of fine literature in the respective languages, and how much by religious commitments? That is, in what sense can they be read as literary rather than doctrinal productions?
Organizer: Aleksandar Uskokov, Yale University
Sponsored by the South Asian Studies Council, The Institute for Vaishnava Studies & Seminary, and Yale Institute of Sacred Music.