South Asia

Organized Panel Session

2 - The Poet in the World

Saturday, July 7
2:40 PM - 4:10 PM
Location: Casuarina, Lower Ground Floor

This paper focuses on the discourse of the loka-kavi, or people’s poet, in South Asia. By tracing its genealogy to the gradual disappearance of bardic poets from burgeoning city spaces in the mid-nineteenth century western India, I draw on the multiple ways in which one can comprehend the word “loka”—translatable as “people,” “folk,” or even “world.” In writing about the Marathi-language loka-kavi Parsharam (1754-1844), I examine historical scholarship on Parsharam and other bardic poets, and also analyze poems that are markedly unique in their capacity to register the worldly concerns of the poet’s audiences at the onset of the colonial enterprise. Some of the poems I read, can be translated as “The Old Laws are Absolutely Broken” (referring to colonialism); “Look what’s happening on the Sea-Island of Bombay” (referring to the emerging metropolis); and “A Big Doubt Comes in this Age.” I focus on such topical poetry to recover the aesthetics of worldliness that has piqued the interest of vernacular scholarship, prompting an appropriation of global (romantic) discourse of the “people” and the “folk” to describe these poets. The scholarship was instrumental in creating a canon of “loka-kavis,” and this paper describes, outlines, and interrogates the lineaments of such discourses—whether practice-oriented, ontological, or otherwise—in order to bring them into a dialogue with similar notions of worldliness in comparative literary studies today.

Kedar Kulkarni

Flame University, India

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