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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Poetics of place in early Tamil literature

  • Author(s): Muthukumar, Vangal N.
  • Advisor(s): Hart, George L
  • et al.

In this dissertation, I discuss some representations of place in early ( ca. 100 CE - 300 CE) Tamil poetry collectively called cankam literature. While previous research has emphasized the importance of place as landscape imagery in these poems, it has seldom gone beyond treating landscape / place as symbolic of human emotionality. I argue that this approach does not address the variety in the representation of place seen in this literature. To address this theoretical deficiency, I study place in cankam poetry as having definite ontological value and something which is immediately cognized by the senses of human perception. Drawing from a range of texts, I will argue that in these poems, the experience of place emerges in a dialogic between the human self and place - a dialogic which brings together sensory experience, perception, memory, and various socio-cultural patterns; place, in these poems, is not as much an objective geographical entity as it is the process of perception itself.

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