Skip to content Skip to navigation

The Workshop on Literature & Theory in India- Professor Shonaleeka Kaul

May 28, 2019 - 4:30pm to 5:30pm
Rm 216, Bldg 260

Free and Open to Stanford Affiliates Only. 

Prof. Shonaleeka Kaul (Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi) is a Sanskrit literary historian and author of The Making of Early Kashmir. 

Please join the Workshop on Literature & Theory in India for our last event of the year, generously co-sponsored by the Center for South Asia and the Workshop on Poetics.

Prof. Shonaleeka Kaul, Associate Professor at the Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India, will be addressing us on "The Ethics & Aesthetics of Time: Sanskrit Kāvya & the Writing of History in 12th Century Kashmir" on Tuesday, May 28 at 4 pm. This is the day after Memorial Day, and refreshments will be provided.

Prof. Kaul is the author of The Making of Early Kashmir (OUP, 2018) and was the Dinakar Singh Distinguished Lecturer in South Asian Studies in the Department of History, Yale University in 2007-08. She is making a very long journey to join us for this workshop, and it would be wonderful to have you around.


On the Ethics and Aesthetics of Time: Sanskrit Kāvya and the Writing of History in 12thcentury Kashmir

Shonaleeka Kaul


Kāvyais literature as art -- highly aesthetic poetry and prose, composed chiefly in

Sanskrit, marked by the use of figurative language and essentialized emotion. Few modern scholars have suspected such creative and aesthetic literature from early India to possess any impulse for capturing human history, and certainly not in any form consistent with modern notions of the discipline. In this talk I argue that Sanskrit poetics (alaṁkāraśāstra) and its theories of representation may have conceived of kāvyaas in fact the ideal vehicle for writing history. And, taking seriously kāvya’s traditional narrative modes -- rhetoric, myth, memory, and didactics -- may yield an alternative, more cohesive notion of historicality.


This notion drew on alaṁkāraśāstra’sinvestment in the epistemic authority of the poet (kavi) and, in a constructivist vein, in history itself as a poetic production (nirmāṇa). Further, taking up an iconic example from 12thcentury Kashmir, Kalhaṇa’s Rājataraṅgiṇī,I demonstrate how a deeply ethical position underwrote the literary-historical vision of Sanskrit poetry. An inner textual frame -- the Rājataraṅgiṇī’s meaningful representation of what constitutes ‘true’ knowledge of time and human action -- generated an ethico-political discursivity where the salience of kāvyaas an epistemological project may lie.A critical idealism and call to action (dharma, karma) -- which were intertextually derived from other, pan-Indic traditions -- became the principles for organizing the past and indeed for generating a transcendent temporality in early Kashmir.

Event Sponsor: 
Center for South Asia
Contact Email:
Contact Phone: