Past Events

“Bichitra and Beyond”

Lecture by Sukanta Chaudhuri
Bichitra, the Rabindranath Tagore online variorum and the world’s largest integrated literary database, posed some major challenges in its creation. Apart from the general conceptualizing of the site, its makers had to carry out a major exercise in file management, largely designed as they went along. An indic font like Bengali, the language of most of Tagore’s writings, carried its own set of issues. A number of new programs had to be devised: for transcription, for the hyperconcordance, above all for an ambitious three-tier collation program. All this was in addition to the sheer size of the task: processing some 140,000 pages of primary material, over 47,500 pages of it in manuscript.

At the same time, Bichitra raises new problems and possibilities that call for more exploration. How can this vast corpus be analysed? What new insights might such analysis offer into the nature of texts?

This presentation will offer a guided tour of the Bichitra site, and suggest some exciting new investigations for which it may serve as the launching-ground.
Sukanta Chaudhuri is Professor Emeritus, Jadavpur University, Kolkata, India, and Founder-Director of Jadavpur’s School of Cultural Texts and Records, the home of the Bichitra project. His principal fields of study are the English and European Renaissance and textual studies. He is the author of, among other titles, Infirm Glory: Shakespeare and the Renaissance Image of Man (Clarendon Press, 1981), Renaissance Pastoral and Its English Developments (Clarendon Press, 1989) and The Metaphysics of Text (CUP, 2010). He has edited Pastoral Poetry of the English Renaissance, 2 vols. (Manchester, 2016) and is preparing A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the Third Arden Shakespeare. He has translated widely from Bengali into English and from English and Italian into Bengali, and is General Editor of the Oxford Tagore Translations.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016 - 12:00pm
Foster 103

South Asia Seminar: “Putting the Buddha to Work: Śākyamuni in the Service of Tibetan Monastic Identity”

Lecture given by Andrew Quintman.

This talk explores how images and texts related to Śākyamuni Buddha served as a broad organizing principal (a “Buddha program”) for Phuntsokling Monastery in western Tibet, seat of the seventeenth-century polymath Tāranātha (1575-1634). It suggests that the monastery’s central icon—a Śākyamuni statue of miraculous origin—not only acted as a locus of spiritual power. It also served Tāranātha in the promotion of his monastery, first as the literal center of the institution’s Buddha program, and second as a source of elevated prestige for Phuntsokling and its patrons during a time of political tension between the rulers of western Tibet and the ascendant Dalai Lama in Lhasa.

Thursday, March 31, 2016 - 4:30pm
Foster Hall 103

“On the Building of Islamic Societies from Below Since 1800”

Lecture by Francis Robinson, Mellon Islamic Studies Visiting Professor in the Dept. of South Asian Languages & Civilizations and in the Division of the Humanities and the College

Tuesday, March 8, 2016 - 4:30pm
Swift Hall, 3rd Floor Lecture Room


Lecture by Francis Robinson, Mellon Islamic Studies Visiting Professor in the Dept. of South Asian Languages & Civilizations and in the Division of the Humanities and the College.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016 (All day)

South Asia Graduate Student Conference: Dying in South Asia

We invite papers on issues related to the idea of death, which we define in its very broadest sense. Taking death literally, we can speak of the processes and events attendant to the gradual extinction of living creatures but also of languages, texts, memories, species or even traditions. Metaphorically, death can help us to think through distinct South Asian histories of violence, impasse and loss. Yet this can also enable accompanying conversations on the possibility of recovery, resurrection and redemption. We seek to explore phenomena that resist death and the sense of an ending, including practices of ritual, memory, nostalgia and revivalism.

Thursday, March 3, 2016 (All day) to Friday, March 4, 2016 (All day)

“From Morality to Psychology: Emotion Concepts in Urdu, 1870-1920”

Talk by Margrit Pernau.

This paper will look at the change in the concepts these men used to write about emotions in Urdu between 1870 and 1920. It argues that while emotions at the beginning of the period were still thought of as premised upon notions of equilibrium and balance, which accorded a crucial role to the will and to rationality, fifty years later concepts celebrated the elementary power of emotions and their capacity to overwhelm the individual. This can be read as an indicator and at the same time as a factor of a profound emotionalization of private as well as public life.

Friday, February 26, 2016 - 12:00pm
Foster Hall 103

17TH Annual Webster Memorial Lecture: “Jantar Mantar—The Astronomical Observatories of Jai Singh”

Between 1727 and 1734 Maharajah Jai Singh II of Jaipur constructed five astronomical observatories in west central India. The observatories, or “Jantar Mantars,” present us with a unique opportunity to experience the relationships between astronomy, astrology, mathematics, architecture, design, politics, religion, and art. Join the Adler Planetarium and lecturer Barry Perlus—an associate professor and associate dean at Cornell University’s College of Architecture, Art, and Planning—for a fascinating look at these historic sites. Sponsored by the Archaeological Institute of America.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016 - 6:15pm
Adler Planetarium

"The Evidence of the Title Page"

The curators of Envisioning South Asia: Texts, Scholarship, Legacies cordially invite you to a workshop with: Professor Abhijit Gupta (Department of English, Jadavpur University, Kolkata and Director, Jadavpur University Press)
This workshop will examine early nineteenth century title pages as repositories of information about South Asian bibliographic and print-house practices, especially with respect to proprietorship, the rise of authorship, colophons, branding, epigraphs, traces of the manuscript book, distribution and the ecology of print-house labour. We will examine a number of representative title pages to see how such information may be gleaned. Participants may also bring to the workshop title pages of their own choosing, or from the collections of the Regenstein Library. Turning to a book without a title page, the second part of the workshop will focus on the rare copy of John Borthwick Gilchrist’s A Grammar of the Hindoostanee Language (Calcutta 1796) on display in the exhibition. As text and artefact, this exciting find raises many questions for the book historian, which we will collectively seek to answer.

Participation in this workshop is by registration only. To register please email Prof. Ulrike Stark at by February 15, 2016.

Friday, February 19, 2016 - 1:00pm
Special Collections, Rosenthal Seminar Room, Regenstein Library