Bodies of Song: Kabir Oral Traditions and Performative Worlds in North India

Paperback | September 10, 2015

byLinda Hess

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Kabir was a great iconoclastic-mystic poet of fifteenth-century North India; his poems were composed orally, written down by others in manuscripts and books, and transmitted through song. Scholars and translators usually attend to written collections, but these present only a partial pictureof the Kabir who has remained vibrantly alive through the centuries mostly in oral forms. Entering the worlds of singers and listeners in rural Madhya Pradesh, Bodies of Song combines ethnographic and textual study in exploring how oral transmission and performance shape the content andinterpretation of vernacular poetry in North India. The book investigates textual scholars' study of oral-performative traditions in a milieu where texts move simultaneously via oral, written, audio/video-recorded, and electronic pathways.As texts and performances are always socially embedded, Linda Hess brings readers into the lives of those who sing, hear, celebrate, revere, and dispute about Kabir. Bodies of Song is rich in stories of individuals and families, villages and towns, religious and secular organizations, castes andcommunities. Dialogue between religious/spiritual Kabir and social/political Kabir is a continuous theme throughout the book: ambiguously located between Hindu and Muslim cultures, Kabir rejected religious identities, pretentions, and hypocrisies. But even while satirizing the religious, he composedstunning poetry of religious experience and psychological insight. A weaver by trade, Kabir also criticized caste and other inequalities and today serves as an icon for Dalits and all who strive to remove caste prejudice and oppression.

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Kabir was a great iconoclastic-mystic poet of fifteenth-century North India; his poems were composed orally, written down by others in manuscripts and books, and transmitted through song. Scholars and translators usually attend to written collections, but these present only a partial pictureof the Kabir who has remained vibrantly alive...

Linda Hess is a Senior Lecturer of Religious Studies at Stanford University.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:488 pages, 9.25 × 6.12 × 0.68 inPublished:September 10, 2015Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199374171

ISBN - 13:9780199374175

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Table of Contents

TransliterationAcknowledgementsPreface1. "You Must Meet Prahladji!"2. Oral Tradition in the Twenty-first Century: Observing Texts3. "True Words of Kabir": Adventures in Authenticity4. In the Jeweler's Bazaar: Malwa's Kabir5. Oral Tradition in the Twenty-first Century: Exploring Theory6. A Scorching Fire, A Cool Pool7. Fighting over Kabir's Dead Body8. Political/Spiritual KabirReferencesIndex