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1160 Camino de Cruz Blanca, Santa Fe, NM 87505

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"Landscape as Affective Space in Old Tamil Poetry" 8th Annual Rohrbach Memorial Lecturer

Dean's Lecture & Concert Series

A Lecture by Martha Ann Selby, University of Texas at Austin

Friday, April 29, 2022

7:00 p.m., Great Hall


In this lecture, I will examine two different methods of reading Old Tamil poetry, composed in the early centuries of the Common Era (often designated as caṅkam poetry, that of the “academy”). I will pay particular attention to the ways in which we as readers should feel our ways through the poems, both from within the world of classical literary convention, and from the standpoint of uri, the “emotional content” of any given poem. I consider the concept of tiṇai, often translated as “landscape,” and how the reliance on landscape conventions alone to read these poems can result in overdetermined and sometimes even dissonant readings. I suggest that by regarding tiṇai through the lens of affect theory, we arrive at better readings more true to their emotional content, and in the end, readings that render Tamil landscapes as interpretively less bounded affective spaces. I will also consider ways in which Tamil poetry can help us better come to terms with affect theory, as well as with art-historical ideas about "landscape" in general.


Martha Ann Selby is Professor of South Asian Studies in the Department of Asian Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. She was Chair of the department from 2011-2019. A recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and most recently, Fulbright and the American Institute of Indian Studies, Selby is the author of several books, including Tamil Love Poetry: The Five Hundred Short Poems of the Aiṅkurunūru (Columbia, 2011), which was awarded the A. K. Ramanujan Translation Prize in March, 2014. Her translation of the short fiction of Tamil author Dilip Kumar, Cat in the Agrahāram and Other Stories, appeared in March 2020 from Northwestern University Press. She is currently preparing a full translation of the Old Tamil anthology Kuruntokai for the Murty Classical Library of India, Harvard University Press.

Event Details

  • Ann-Marie McKelvey
  • Deborah Winslow
  • John Carpenter
  • Savi Pai

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