Transgressive Śaivite Practices in Early Works of Sanskrit and Prakrit Poetry. A cognitive literary study.


Christian Ferstl

  • Supervision: Karin Preisendanz

The present study is focused on literary representations of fictional śaiva ascetics in six different works of Sanskrit and Prakrit kāvya literature. The literary compositions are early examples of different literary genres, written by authors of different religious affiliation in the 1st or 2nd to 10th centuries. The selected passages are analysed in due consideration of the identifiable literary techniques applied by the poets and in the light of the extant prescriptive and normative works of the supposedly depicted religious traditions.
Apart from a general aesthetic appreciation of the historical works of literature, the study is guided by two major questions: Wherein lies the artistic achievement of the selected works and passages? And: are works of literary fiction in a position to convey knowledge, and if so, what kind of knowledge? In order to pursue these questions the passages are interpreted in their respective literary, historical and cultural contexts. For this so called close reading a wide range of relevant literature was taken into consideration, such as parallel texts in Sanskrit and Prakrit, historical commentaries and normative literature in Sanskrit, and recent secondary literature in Hindi and several European languages. Quotations from the original text passages are translated into German throughout, conveying elements not only of content but also of form as faithful as possible.

Gain of knowledge is thereby aimed at in three different areas of research: (1) content matter such as the represented religious traditions, social forms of interaction and other points of cultural history; (2) the literary works under focus, their linguistic features as well as their transmission histories; and (3) the literary techniques by which the analysed works of fiction contribute to conveying knowledge. This last point draws on elements of the recent theory of aesthetic or literary cognitivism.

On the whole, the study provides an investigation on Indian cultural and intellectual history by means of historical literary works of fiction, and at the same time offers new interpretations of passages of literary fiction on the basis of historical research with a constant focus on the epistemic value of the literary fictions.