Crazy in Love: The Story of Laila and Majnun in Early Modern South Asia
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CitationHasson, Michal. 2018. Crazy in Love: The Story of Laila and Majnun in Early Modern South Asia. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThis study explores the emergence and flourishing of several vernacular literary cultures in South Asia between the early seventeenth and late nineteenth centuries through one of the most popular love stories told across the Middle East, Persia, Anatolia, Central Asia, and South Asia: the story of Laila and Majnun. In South Asia, we find numerous versions of this love tale in all the major South Asian languages and in various genres and formats. Through an exploration of Dakani, Brajbhasha, and Urdu versions of the story in their historical and literary contexts, I examine what made the story of these star-crossed lovers from Arabia so productive for South Asian poets of diverse backgrounds, the meanings that were ascribed to the narrative by these authors, and what these interpretations can tell us about literary cultures in early modern and modern South Asia. I argue that the story as a whole, and the figure of Majnun in particular, with its manifold, seemingly-contradictory aspects, enabled Indian poets to draw on the prestigious Persian and Sanskrit classical traditions, on the one hand, while carving a space for themselves in a new vernacular literary culture on the other. This study also shows that the mystical interpretation of this story as expressing the desire and longing of the human soul for the divine was used creatively by Indian writers to contemplate devotional and mystical love. Authors were thus able to reproduce this semi-historical story from seventh-century Arabia as a local, intimate, and, at times, personal tale of love, madness, and spiritual knowledge. Focusing in particular on Dakani and Brajbhasha production in the seventeenth century and on late-eighteenth-century Urdu literary production, this study examines similarities and differences among vernacular literary cultures and in their interactions with Persian literary models, thereby demonstrating the vitality and variation within Persianate culture in South Asia.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:41121211
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