Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Personal tools

Navigation

The Modernity of Sanskrit

2008
Author:

Simona Sawhney

The Modernity of Sanskrit

A convincing argument for the modern significance of Sanskrit literature

Today we witness, Simona Sawhney contends, the near-total appropriation of Sanskrit literature by Hindu nationalism. The Modernity of Sanskrit challenges this appropriation by exploring the complex work of Rabindranath Tagore, M. K. Gandhi, and Mohan Rakesh. Sawhney proposes that Indian nationalist writings about classic Sanskrit became a charged site for postcolonial reflections on politics and art in India.

Three predictions come to mind upon reading The Modernity of Sanskrit. First, it will blow the current field of Sanskrit studies apart. Second, it will wake up practitioners of various literary studies disciplines—particularly the one that is conventionally and comfortably called Comparative Literature—to the existence of literature written in the Sanskrit language and a genetically linked literature, that written in Hindi. Third, it will show just how salient, sensible, and stimulating scholarly discourse on South Asia can be.

Clinton B. Seely, University of Chicago

Sanskrit texts have usually been discussed either within the frames of anthropology and religious studies or with a veneration that has substituted for analysis. Going beyond such approaches, Simona Sawhney argues that only a literary approach that resists the closure of interpretation can reveal the fragility, ambivalence, and tension that mark the canonical texts.

Today we witness, Sawhney contends, the near-total appropriation of Sanskrit literature by Hindu nationalism. The Modernity of Sanskrit challenges this appropriation by exploring the complex work of Rabindranath Tagore, M. K. Gandhi, and Mohan Rakesh. Sawhney proposes that Indian nationalist writings about classic Sanskrit became a charged site for postcolonial reflections on politics and art in India.

Sawhney claims that although new readings of Sanskrit literature played a decisive role in the intellectual conception of modernity in India, the space for such readings has steadily shrunk in contemporary times, leading to a stark diminishment of both the political and the literary lives of the texts.

The Modernity of Sanskrit

Simona Sawhney is associate professor of South Asian literature and literary theory at the University of Minnesota.

The Modernity of Sanskrit

Three predictions come to mind upon reading The Modernity of Sanskrit. First, it will blow the current field of Sanskrit studies apart. Second, it will wake up practitioners of various literary studies disciplines—particularly the one that is conventionally and comfortably called Comparative Literature—to the existence of literature written in the Sanskrit language and a genetically linked literature, that written in Hindi. Third, it will show just how salient, sensible, and stimulating scholarly discourse on South Asia can be.

Clinton B. Seely, University of Chicago

The Modernity of Sanskrit is a brilliant and beautiful study of canonical works in the Sanskrit tradition. The prose is consistently engaging, moving, and convincing, and Sawhney’s close readings are a delight.

Henry Schwartz, Georgetown University

This book is like a whiff of fresh air to those who are familiar with writings on Sanskrit classics and aesthetics, primarily for its lucid treatment of the subject.

Consciousness, Literature and the Arts

Sawhney’s approach to Sanskrit and its literature is ground-breaking.

Journal of American Studies

Sawhney’s work is extremely welcome and timely. Her astute application of the tools of critical theory and cultural studies will ensure continued attention to Sanskrit literature.

Asian Studies Review

The Modernity of Sanskrit offers some rewarding elucidations of specific aspects of individual Sanskrit texts and traditions, and Sawhney’s attempt to articulate the ‘modernity of Sanskrit’ in itself is novel and laudable.

Contemporary South Asia