Joseph W. Elder Keynote Lecture

Each year, the conference chair invites a distinguished scholar or expert on topics related to South Asia to attend the Annual Conference on South Asia and deliver the Keynote Lecture on Friday night.

Previous Joseph W. Elder Keynote Lecturers here.

David Shulman
on the theme of Artistry

Friday, October 18
6:45 pm – 7:45 pm
Wisconsin Ballroom

“How to Wake Up in Sanskrit (or Tamil or Telugu)”

A tantalizing and remarkably rich poetic genre in Sanskrit and other South Asian languages is the suprabhatam “wake-up-call”. Usually it is sung at dawn, or sometimes a bit earlier, by bards, courtiers, or priests in order to wake up a royal personage or a deity. These wake-up-calls, rarely studied in their own right, reveal a characteristic set of themes and modes such as detailed naturalistic observation, attempts to blackmail the addressee to get out of bed, mostly melancholy erotic notes, grammar exercises, riddles meant to get the listener’s mind into gear, and probing explorations of various mental states (sleep, half-sleep, insomnia, piercing insight) and of the crucial mental faculty of attentiveness. The lecture will offer a taste of these poems in Sanskrit, Tamil, and Telugu– in lieu of an evening lullaby.

David Shulman is Professor Emeritus at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem. He was trained in Tamil by John Marr at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London (1972-1976). He has authored twenty-some books, several of them in close and fruitful collaboration with Velcheru Narayana Rao, Yigal Bronner, Don Handelman, and S. Ramakrishnan. A specialist in the languages, literatures, and cultural history of south India, he is now heading a European Research Council five-year grant on “The New Ecology of Expressive Modes in Early-Modern South India” (NEEM).