Arzu Center Website
About the Talk:
The internet offers new forms of access to Urdu poetry, both to texts and to their informed connoisseurship. Poems appear in print, as digital images and as searchable text, as well as in performance, as audio and as video. A number of websites, based in India, Pakistan, and the United States, also aim to provide the tools to make the texts accessible, potentially democratizing the sukhan-shinasi, or knowledge of poetry, often deemed to be the authentic province of the Urdu-knowing elite. In presenting poetic knowledge, these websites invoke multiple forms of mediation, attempting to manage affect through extratextual forms, including music, images, and video. Through computational analysis as well as close readings, this paper will attempt a media archaeology of Urdu poetry on the internet, focusing especially on capturing extratextual dimensions that advance a middlebrow aesthetic that is neither broadly popular nor elite. It will consider also what challenges the multiple scripts of Urdu—Nastaliq, Devanagari, and Roman—offer for large-scale cultural analytics as well as cultural heritage preservation.
About the Speaker:
A. Sean Pue is associate professor of Hindi Language and South Asian Literature and Culture at Michigan State University. He holds a Ph.D. in Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures and Comparative Literature and Society from Columbia University. His first book is I Too Have Some Dreams: N M Rashed and Modernism in Urdu Poetry (University of California Press, 2014). He has served as the Director of the Digital Humanities program at Michigan State University and recently received an Andrew W. Mellon New Directions Fellowship that allowed him to study linguistics and computer/data science for his next project on poetic sound in Hindi/Urdu poetry.