Deven M. Patel

Andrew W. Mellon Penn Faculty Fellow in the Humanities

20102011 Forum on Virtuality

Deven M. Patel

Assistant Professor, South Asia Studies

Dream, Error, and Self-ing: Virtuality and “Flashy Poetry” in Sanskrit

I propose to identify and theoretically explore virtuality in a specific sub-genre of Sanskrit poetry known as the citrabandha (“picture-poetry” or “flashy poetry”). The citrabandha follows a “poetics of restraint” (much like Oulipo) whereby particular arrangements of sounds lend themselves to pictorial presentations and syllables of a verse are configured to represent physical items. Through various “special effects,” such as palindromes and bi-textual sonic and semantic patterns, virtual world upon virtual world unfolds over “real” phenomena and “natural” expression. My presentation will treat our theme around several remarkable examples from the literature that construct vivid dreamscapes, explore the nature of erroneous perception, and disturb notions of stable identity. A preliminary theory of virtuality emerges which includes, among other things, the compression and expansion of spatial and temporal dimensions, the production of loci for defiance to (or reinforcement of) normative patterns, the prominence of form in relationship with theme, and the requirement of mediation and initiation for understanding and appreciation.