Eighteenth Century Urdu poetry: Hakala talk at Library of Congress

Allen W Thrasher athr at LOC.GOV
Fri Sep 26 21:47:14 UTC 2008

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‘A Banquet of Words’
Insights from a Poet’s Notebook into the Literary Culture of
18th-century Delhi
Walter Hakala
Florence Tan Moeson Fellow
Department of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
12 to 1 p.m.
Thursday October 2, 2008
Library of Congress
Asian Division
Conference Room
101 Independence Ave., S.W., Washington, DC
Capitol South Metro stop

The recent acquisition by the Library of Congress of a significant
Pakistani collection of manuscripts provides an exciting new archive for
the study of late Mughal South Asia. Among the manuscripts in the
collection is a small and incomplete notebook containing verses by
thirteen near-contemporary poets of the 18th century, including Shah
Mubarak 'Abru', Shakir ‘Naji’, the infamous 18th-century kingmaker,
'Imad al-Mulk ‘Nizam', and his wife, the accomplished poet Gunna
Begum. This notebook therefore tells us much about the particular social
milieu in which a new literary language-what came to be called
Urdu-coalesced and circulated in Delhi during the 18th century. The
poetry of this time is characterized by its free borrowings from local
Indic idioms and a fluidity in orthography and rhyme, underlining the
still experimental state of Urdu as a literary language. That this
manuscript  survives to the present day is all the more significant
because poets of the following generations were so dismissive of these
early efforts, critical of what they considered an over-reliance on word
play and punning, known imham-go. This manuscript, thus, fills a gap in
our understanding of how Urdu in the 18th century emerged from the
shadows of a cosmopolitan Persian literary culture to become the
celebrated language of the Mughal capital. 

Sponsored by the Asian Division Friends Society of the Library of
Questions? Contact Nuzhat Khatoon (nkha at loc.gov) at (202) 707-2194 or
Allen Thrasher (athr at loc.gov) at (202) 707-3732.

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