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Oral and Literary Continuities in Modern Tibetan Literature

The Inescapable Nation

Lama Jabb

This is the first book-length study to appear in English on the literary, cultural and political roots of modern Tibetan literature. While existing scholarship on modern Tibetan writing takes the 1980s as its point of “birth” and presents this period as marking a “rupture” with traditional forms of literature, this book goes beyond such an interpretation by foregrounding instead the persistence of Tibet’s artistic past and oral traditions in the literary creativity of the present. While acknowledging the innovative features of modern Tibetan literary creation, it draws attention to the hitherto neglected aspects of continuity within the new. This study explores the endurance of genres, styles, concepts, techniques, symbolisms, and idioms derived from Tibet’s rich and diverse oral art forms and textual traditions. It reveals how Tibetan kāvya poetics, the mgur genre, life-writing, the Gesar epic and other modes of oral and literary compositions are referenced and adapted in novel ways within modern Tibetan poetry and fiction. It also brings to prominence the complex and fertile interplay between orality and the Tibetan literary text. Embracing a multidisciplinary approach drawing on theoretical insights in western literary theory and criticism, political studies, sociology, and anthropology, this research shows that, alongside literary and oral continuities, the Tibetan nation proves to be an inevitable attribute of modern Tibetan literature. « less more »
Lexington Books
Pages: 288Size: 6 3/8 x 9 1/4
978-1-4985-0333-4 • Hardback • June 2015 • $95.00 • (£65.00)
978-1-4985-0334-1 • eBook • June 2015 • $94.99 • (£65.00)
Lama Jabb is junior research fellow in Tibetan and Himalayan studies at Wolfson College, Oxford University.
Chapter 1: The Persistence of the Past in Modern Tibetan Literature
Chapter 2: Singing the Nation: Modern Tibetan Music and National Identity
Chapter 3: The Tibetan Tradition of Social Criticism and Modern Tibetan Literature
Chapter 4: Narration of Cultural Traumas in Modern Tibetan Poetry and Fiction
Chapter 5: The Third Generation of Tibetan Poets and the Inescapable Nation
Chapter 6: How Novel Is Contemporary Tibetan Erotic Poetry?
Chapter 7: Conclusion: Whirlpools of Continuity and Creativity
The journey that this work takes one on is extremely rewarding. This is an absorbing and illuminating read. It is composed in a style that should appeal both to the academic community and a wider audience. For anyone with a specific interest in modern Tibetan literature this is essential reading. Equally, it can be recommended to anyone wishing to learn about contemporary Tibetan culture, and even the traditional literary heritage of Tibet.
The International Journal Of Asian Studies

A stunning and singular accomplishment. Lama Jabbs uncompromising, thoughtful, and erudite study of modern Tibetan literature is unparalleled. Much is new here: rethinking the nation, challenging ideas of when the contemporary period of literature starts, as well a trove of translations from the original Tibetan sure to delight the reader as much as educate them. This is a book of intellectual commitment and scholarly joy cultivated over a lifetimefrom a childhood in a nomad family in Tibet to a scholars career at Oxford. This is an important book, destined to be a landmark work in the field.
Carole McGranahan, University of Colorado, Boulder

A distinguishing quality of Dr. Lama Jabb’s book is to combine three seemingly distinct materials in an in-depth comparative analysis and shed light upon their intricate connections. It brings together classical Tibetan literature (deemed the finest Tibetan literature by many), modern Tibetan literature (deemed the ‘purest’ Tibetan literature by many) and quotidian oral compositions untouched by either of these categories. It is illuminating, meticulously researched, well-informed, beautifully written, and establishes a new benchmark for the study of contemporary Tibetan culture in general and of modern Tibetan literature in particular.
Hortsang Jigme, Tibetan Poet and Historian

To convey the range and depth of the New Literature phenomenon to an Anglophone readership certainly requires a familiarity with the whole corpus, but much more besides: it demands a mastery of a wide spectrum of Tibetan genres, a sound grasp of Western literary theories, and a commensurate sensitivity to the English language. Lama Jabb has all these, and this remarkable book will open a new world as much to specialists of Tibetan civilization as it will to anyone who is interested in modern literature.
Charles Ramble, University of Oxford