Religion and the Literary in Tibet

A five-year seminar of the American Academy of Religion

This seminar seeks to shift focus from literature conceived of as an inert container to literature as an active process that is itself conceptually rich. We will collectively engage in new research on the forms, structures, and styles of Tibetan literature and their effects on religious discourse and practice. In so doing we will bring into high relief the very question of how the category of “literature” is heuristically productive for the future of the study of Tibetan religion. We will address this central question from two directions: from the perspective of contemporary discussions of what constitutes literature, and also from that of traditional Tibetan theoretical work, which itself has explored how some kinds of writing may be distinguished from others in terms of their style, level of self-consciousness, and intentional impact on the religious life of the reader.

Co-organized with Kurtis Schaeffer (University of Virginia)

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