Change of Paradigms and Mechanical (Re)discoveries: Manuscript and Print Cultures across Asia

Making Order in the Vaults of Memory: Tamil Satellite Stanzas on the Transmission of Texts


Abstract


The Tamil intellectual universe, like so many others, underwent a profound change in the course of the 19th century, the period when print, although not unknown before, became available for the first time on a large scale, which allowed the publication and dissemination of a variety of text corpora from the Tamil poetic and religious traditions. This process has been described in recent years, for its material and political impact, from a number of sides, be it manuscript studies, print studies and literary or general social history. An understudied aspect seems to be the sources of continuity in this transformation, and an important part of these is a type of free-floating stanza, most often a four-liner in the Veṇpā metre, transmitted in the paratextual margins of texts, orally handed down from teacher to student and figuring large in prefaces and introductions to the early prints. It is these little verses of mostly indeterminable date and origin which helped to shape the form today’s corpora and canonic works are printed in. They have to be understood, on the one hand, as a way precarious knowledge was preserved in periods of instability and perishable media, and on the other hand as specimens of a literary genre by itself. Moreover, there are reasons to believe that they were deemed important enough to supply them in cases where transmission failed.

Keywords

Tamil; Caṅkam literature; oral literature; manuscript studies; printing history

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.13135/1825-263X/2265

References


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