The Mirror of Poetry (Kavyadarsa) by Dandin (c. 700, Kanchipuram) is one of the most influential treatises ever produced in South Asia. This essay on poetic language was translated and adapted into a variety of languages in the south (Kannada, Sinhala, Pali, and Tamil), traveled to Southeast Asia (it survived in Burma, and there is reason to believe that it played a role in literary production in Old Javanese), was translated into Tibetan (where it became a foundational text, repeatedly commented on), and may even have exercised influence on the formation of Recent Style poetry in China. The work also attracted a large following within the Sanskrit tradition, where it inspired thinkers as late as King Bhoja of Dhar (r. 1011–1055) and Appayya Diksita (1520–1592). Even in the valley of Kashmir, which later fashioned itself as the hub of Sanskrit literary theory and snubbed texts from the south, the Mirror was widely read. Indeed, “Measured by the crudest quantitative standards—miles travelled, size of readership, kinds of language traditions influenced, numbers of translations and adaptations and borrowings—Dandin’s . . . [work] can safely be adjudged the most important work on literary theory and practice in Asian history, and, in world history, a close second to Aristotle’s Poetics: (Pollock 1995:637).
Yet shockingly, the unparalleled success of Dandin’s treatise has never been studied, and the most basic questions about the “Dandin phenomenon” have never been asked. What made the Mirror such a popular text in the first place? Why and under what circumstances was it incorporated by so many literary cultures? What happened to it when it was transmitted, translated, and reworked in different localities? What, for example, was the relationship between Dandin’s Sanskrit kit of ornamental tools and the examples elicited from vernacular literatures? This is only a sample of questions we hope to address.
The preconference will, for the first time, bring experts working on Dandin’s text and place in the Sanskrit tradition together with scholars familiar with his presence and impact in a variety of literary cultures, including Kannada, Sinhala, Pali, Tamil, and Tibetan. Obviously, we will not be able to answer all our questions in one sitting, nor is this the purpose. Rather, we hope that this day of collective brainstorming will initiate a longitudinal collaborative project that will eventually lead to a better understanding of Dandin and his impact on the world.
Location: Parlor Room 611, The Madison Concourse Hotel
Yigal Bronner (Hebrew University)
Jennifer Clare (Colorado College)
Whitney Cox (SOAS)
Thibaut d’Hubert (University of Chicago)
Dragomir Dimitrov (University of Marburg)
Jonathan Gold (Princeton University)
Charles Hallisey (Harvard University)
Tom Hunter (University of British Columbia)
Lawrence McCrea (Cornell University)
Anne Monius (Harvard University)
David Shulman (Hebrew University)
R.V.S. Sundaram (University of Pennsylvania)