Theses Doctoral

Sacred Sounds and Sacred Books: A History of Writing in Hindi

Williams, Tyler Walker

This dissertation combines methods from literary history, book history and religious history in order to map formerly unknown regions of Hindi literary culture in early modern North India. By sketching the broad contours of the manuscript archive and also looking closely at the material aspects and histories of individual text artifacts including notebooks, anthologies, and scriptures, it reveals connections and distinctions between audiences, genres, and canons that could not otherwise be seen. As the vernacular language of Hindi gradually came to displace the cosmopolitan language of Sanskrit as the medium of literary, scholastic and religious discourse over the fourteenth through seventeenth centuries, new configurations of oral performance practices and written manuscripts came into being; these practices and manuscripts in turn helped to consolidate new networks, and eventually bring new publics into being. For the religious communities associated with bhakti in particular, the process of vernacularization opened up opportunities for innovation concerning genre and style: by adopting certain literary techniques and particular inscriptional practices, these groups were able to deploy their writings as literature, scholarship, scripture, or a combination of all three. The distinctions that traditions like the Sikhs, the Dadu Panth, and the Niranjani Sampraday made between these different discourses and genres are reflected in the manuscripts that they created, and in the performance modes of which those manuscripts were a part. In the process of creating physical scriptures, they also transformed themselves into a different type of textual community.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies
Thesis Advisors
Busch, Allison
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 15, 2014