[INDOLOGY] Sources on Relationship btw Oral/Literary Traditions

Joydeep jbagchee at gmail.com
Mon Nov 6 16:21:08 UTC 2017

Dear Mark,

your student mentions “the subsequent privileging of textual sources by the
colonial West and the Academy,” but my impression is that, at least for the
Mahābhārata and the Rāmāyaṇa, it was the other way around. There was a
privileging of oral sources or, rather, what scholars took to be their
“‘oral’ “sources” (since there is no evidence they existed except for what
scholars reductively extrapolated from their written versions). She may
want to read this paper on how scholars, using circular and unscientific
arguments, posited hypothetical oral versions of these texts:

She will also find resources in *The Nay Science*, chapters 1–2 to answer
her entirely valid question, “Who is excluded and/or included by the
privileging of one kind of knowledge over the other?” As this has been a
frequent source of misunderstanding (Jan Houben got our views wrong when he
wrote, “except for Adluri and Bagchee most specialists agree this [oral
transmission] played an important role in the early transmission of the
Indian epics”), the point is not that an oral tradition does not exist, but
that scholars have failed to make a case that oral versions conforming to
their prejudices about the texts and the tradition actually existed—a point
we also clarify in the Brockington paper (see n. 8).


Dr. Joydeep Bagchee
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
Academia.edu Homepage <https://fu-berlin.academia.edu/JoydeepBagchee>

The Nay Science
Argument and Design
Reading the Fifth Veda <http://www.brill.com/reading-fifth-veda>
When the Goddess Was a Woman <http://www.brill.com/when-goddess-was-woman>
Transcultural Encounters between Germany and India
German Indology on OBO Hinduism
What, then, is Philosophy?
Philosophy is the supremely precious.

Plotinus, Enneads I.III.5

On 2 November 2017 at 22:21, Mark McLaughlin via INDOLOGY <
indology at list.indology.info> wrote:

> Dear Indology mind-hive,
> I have an undergraduate student who is interested in writing a paper on
> questions of oral and literary traditions. I would like to solicit your
> opinions on potential sources for her. Please see her message below for a
> more detailed delineation of her questioning.
> Many thanks in advance!
> Mark
> Professor McLaughlin,
> I read through a little more of the Pollock book last night to get a
> better feel for some questions. I think generally this is what I'm
> thinking:
> What is the difference and relationship between the oral and literary
> tradition? How has that relationship evolved with the emergence of written
> texts, vernacularization, and the subsequent privileging of textual sources
> by the colonial West and the Academy? Who is excluded and/or included by
> the privileging of one kind of knowledge over the other? For scholars, what
> kind of nuanced understanding of literacy should be sought or acknowledged
> given that "to be literate" can mean different things in different
> cultures?
> Let me know if this sounds like what I was talking about the other day!
> Best,
> Emma
> --
> Mark McLaughlin
> *Visiting Assistant Professor of South Asian Religions*
> *Department of Religious StudiesCollege of William and MaryWilliamsburg,
> VA*
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