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Yigal Bronner
Extreme Poetry
The South Asian Movement of
Simultaneous Narration

Series: South Asia Across the Disciplines

Beginning in the sixth century CE 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 Ramāyāṇa and the Mahābhārata, 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 is an assistant professor in the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago. He is a Sanskritist trained at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and at the University of Chicago. He researches Sanskrit poetics and South Asian intellectual history.

Hardback / 376pp / ISBN 81-7824-299-0 / Rs 750 / South Asia rights only / Copublished with Columbia University Press / July 2010

Praise for Extreme Poetry

“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

“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


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