Rebecca Whittington | Tug-of-Ear: The Play of Dialect in Modern Bengali and Tamil Literature

Lecture | September 24 | 5-7 p.m. | Stephens Hall, 10 (ISAS Conf. Room)

 Rebecca Whittington

 Lawrence Cohen, Professor in Anthropology and South and Southeast Asian Studies and the co-director of the Medical Anthropology Program

 Institute for South Asia Studies, Department of South & Southeast Asian Studies, Sarah Kailath Chair of India Studies, The Subir & Malini Chowdhury Center for Bangladesh Studies

Join us for a talk by Dr. Rebecca Whittington on an understudied aspect of modern South Asian literature: the representation of dialect and colloquial language. This talk is based on Dr. Whittington's doctoral dissertation.

Dr. Whittington's doctoral dissertation was the recipient of the Sardar Patel award for 2019. Conferred by the Center for India and South Asia at UCLA, this award honors the best doctoral dissertation on any aspect of modern India - social sciences, humanities, education and fine arts - in any U.S. University or academic institution awarding the Ph.D. and comes with a cash prize of $10,000.

Talk Abstract
Literary representation in modern South Asian literature of dialect and colloquial language is often seen as a simple technique to lend the narrative authenticity. Dr. Whittington's research asks whether dialect, as a bearer of the speaker’s lifeworld, offers something irreplaceable in a literary text. She suggests that the seeming untranslatability of dialect into standard language raises questions about the power, aesthetics, and ethics of the representation of speech forms. The interplay of standard and non-standard forms heightens the reader’s awareness of the materiality of language.

About the Speaker
Dr. Whittington earned her PhD candidate from the Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. She holds an MA and BA in South and Southeast Asian Studies from UC Berkeley. She has worked as a graduate student instructor in the Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies, as a research assistant translating Tamil, Bengali, and Hindi materials for several faculty and student researchers at UC Berkeley, and as a private instructor of Hindi and Urdu. Her publications include Time Will Write a Song for You, an anthology of contemporary Sri Lankan Tamil writing that she translated and co-edited; and “Patni (Wife),” a translation of a Hindi poem by Gopal Prasad, excerpted in Zan Boag’s “Alienated from the pleasures of work” in New Philosopher. In addition to Tamil, Bengali, and Hindi-Urdu, she has a working knowledge of Persian, Arabic, Spanish, Italian, and Icelandic. Her interests include comparative literature, literary translation, literary modernisms, and South Asian studies.

Event made possible with the support of the Sarah Kailath Chair of India Studies

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Please note that parking is not always easily available in Berkeley. Take public transportation if possible or arrive early to secure your spot.

The event is FREE and OPEN to the public., 510-642-3608