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Rewriting Religion and Rescuing Genre

Date & Time:
September 21, 2017 | 3:30 pm

The Calgary Institute for the Humanities presents a talk by Beth Rohlman, Rewriting Religion and Rescuing Genre: The Evolution of Texts, Gods and Peoples in the Sanskrit Purāṇas (Puranas)

Thursday 21 September 2017 | 3.30PM | Bio Science 561

The Sanskrit Purāṇas—roughly “myth” or “history”—have confounded scholars of Indian literature for millennia. The language used to describe Purāṇas in academic literature and, indeed, in the Sanskrit Purāṇas themselves, seems more appropriate to a poorly behaved child than a work of literature: Purāṇas are ungainly. They are disorganized and untidy. They fail to follow their own rules. They repeat themselves ad nauseam. The Purāṇas would simply be better if they could only attain the refined language and sophisticated content of the great and celebrated genres of Sanskrit literature. 

But what would happen if we reimagined the Purāṇas’ many flaws as features? I argue that the Purāṇas are a genre that uniquely values compositional process over form or content. And once the genre is reclaimed, a new understanding of the evolving nature of religious identity in pre-modern India becomes possible. 


Elizabeth Rohlman is Associate Professor in the Department of Classics and Religion. She is the recipient of a SSHRC Insight Grant for her current research project Textural processes: narrative design, communal identity, and authorship in the intertextual dialectics of the Sanskrit Purānas. 

The lectures are free and open to the public. A reception will follow and all are welcome. 


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