The South Asian Movement of Simultaneous Narration
Beginning in the sixth century C.E. and continuing for more than a thousand years, an extraordinary poetic practice was the trademark of a major literary movement in South Asia. Authors invented a special language to depict both the apparent and hidden sides of disguised or dual characters, and then used it to narrate India's major epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, simultaneously.
Originally produced in Sanskrit, these dual narratives eventually worked their way into regional languages, especially Telugu and Tamil, and other artistic media, such as sculpture. Scholars have long dismissed simultaneous narration as a mere curiosity, if not a sign of cultural decline in medieval India. Yet Yigal Bronner's Extreme Poetry effectively negates this position, proving that, far from being a meaningless pastime, this intricate, "bitextual" technique both transcended and reinvented Sanskrit literary expression.
The poems of simultaneous narration teased and estranged existing convention and showcased the interrelations between the tradition's foundational texts. By focusing on these achievements and their reverberations through time, Bronner rewrites the history of Sanskrit literature and its aesthetic goals. He also expands on contemporary theories of intertextuality, which have been largely confined to Western texts and practices.
"Yigal Bronner's book fills a great lacuna in the study of South Asian literature and literary theory." — Journal of Hindu Studies
"There can be no doubt that this is an original and outstanding contribution to the field of Sanskrit literary scholarship. Extreme Poetry is at the highest level of Indological literary scholarship, and it is evident that Yigal Bronner is deeply enamored with his subject. One of his chief contributions is to ask us to look once again at the seriousness of the aesthetic and emotive purposes with which this phenomenon has been skillfully and effectively deployed by some of the most highly regarded poets and playwrights of the Indian tradition. Bronner's text will serve as a much needed corrective to the dismissive stance taken by critics toward an interesting and even astonishing literary technique. This book shows it to be far more than mere verbal fireworks." — R. P. Goldman, University of California at Berkeley
"There is nothing else available in Indian studies or in literary studies that is at all like this book. Extreme Poetry opens up a new field, and new possibilities in existing fields. It treats a phenomenon in Sanskrit-simultaneous narration-which everyone reading Indian literature has encountered but which no one has been able to make much sense of in intellectual terms. Specialists, students, and lovers of Indian literature will find this book a revelation and a pleasure to read, from the first page to the last. It is destined to become something of a classic." — C. Minkowski, University of Oxford
Figures and Tables
A Note on Sanskrit Transliteration
2. Experimenting with Slesa in Subandhu's Prose Lab
3. The Disguise of Language: Slesa Enters the Plot
4. Aiming at Two Targets: The Early Attempts
5. Bringing the Ganges to the Ocean: Kaviraja and the Apex of Bitextuality
6. Slesa as Reading Practice
7. Theories of Slesa in Sanskrit Poetics
8. Toward a Theory of Slesa
Appendix 1: Bitextual and Multitextual Works in Sanskrit
Appendix 2: Bitextual and Multitextual Works in Telugu