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Life in a Dead Language

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Modern Sanskrit as an Ultraminor Literature

image of Journal of World Literature

Literature written in Sanskrit after the onset of British colonialism is sorely neglected. Modern Sanskrit, as it is often called, suffers from the bad image of being written in a dead language. Many of its writers would disagree with that image, but they would know that they are disagreeing. That defensiveness has come to shape their writing, a fact which I argue arises in response to the status of their work as an ultraminor literature, a status which was born with the formation of the “world literature” field and its elevation/absorption of classical Sanskrit at the expense of the latter’s perceived potential for contemporaneity.

Affiliations: 1: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


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