Knowledge, Perception, Language:
Tamil Literature and the Connected Histories of South Asia
Jennifer Clare, San Francisco, CA
Over its 2000-year history, Tamil literary and intellectual culture has always been deeply connected to other South Asian linguistic and literary traditions. Despite this long history of shared ideas and cultural practices, modern scholarship on both Tamil and South Asia has largely treated Tamil literature as distinct from, or marginal to, South Asian cultural history. This talk challenges that vision of the field, arguing instead that because of its deep engagement with multiple literary and intellectual traditions, Tamil offers a uniquely productive site for thinking about connected histories in South Asia. Specifically, by looking at a selection of poems that engage classical Tamil conventions to explore new ideas about perception and figurative language familiar to many South Asian traditions, the talk suggests a history of connections based on a shared concern across South Asia with the nature of knowledge and the role of language and literature in that process. Thinking in terms of this shared intellectual history, which has no one point of origin, compels us to rethink the connected histories of Tamil and South Asia, and enriches our understanding of the field more generally.
This lecture is open to all interested members of the Harvard community.