What is the course about?
This course has two primary aims: first, to offer a general overview of the historical trajectory of Sanskrit literature; second, to introduce a few masterpieces of classical Sanskrit poetry (kavya) in English translation, paying attention not only to their original contexts of production, but also to the history of their reception in the West and in India.
What will we cover?
The first session will be dedicated to a general introduction to Sanskrit classical poetry, while each of the following three sessions will focus on a specific literary genre or theme. Special attention will be paid to texts that have been often translated, retranslated and ‘mis-translated’ (or rather, ‘re-imagined’) into English over the last two centuries: in fact, although the course does not presuppose any knowledge of Sanskrit, the tutor will occasionally draw attentions to the diction of the Sanskrit original and compare it with the various English renderings that are available to the contemporary reader.
What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...
- Show some familiarity with the masterpieces of classical Sanskrit poetry;
- Develop an aesthetic appreciation for classical Sanskrit poetry;
- Sharpen your sensitivity to the differences in various English translations of classical Sanskrit poetry;
- Show an understanding of the contexts of production and reception of classical Sanskrit poetry;
- Show some familiarity with the historical trajectory of Sanskrit literature;
- Show an understanding of the significance of classical Sanskrit poetry against the backdrop of the literary cultures of South Asia as well as of World Poetry.
What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?
This course is open to everyone; since the four sessions will be delivered in English, you will need to be able to understand and engage with oral instructions, written texts and group discussions in this language.
How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?
Each session will include a traditional lecture-style presentation given by the tutor and some class discussion, during which students will be able to ask questions, comment on the topic(s) of the lesson and suggest further issues to discuss during the following session(s).
At the end of each session, the tutor will present a brief list of readings related to the main subject of the following session; the students are strongly encouraged to prepare at least some of the suggested readings, so as to make the most of the frontal lectures and class discussions.
Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?
There are no additional costs or texts to buy: the tutor will provide both printouts and PDFs of the suggested readings.
When I've finished, what course can I do next?
If you are interested in embarking on the study of the Sanskrit language, City Lit offers Sanskrit courses for absolute beginners (i.e. “Sanskrit level 1: module 1” and “Sanskrit: an introduction for absolute beginners at the British Museum”).