Tellings and Texts: Music, Literature and Performance in North India - cover image


Francesca Orsini; Katherine Butler Schofield; Copyright of individual chapters is maintained by the chapters’ authors.

Published On





  • English

Print Length

566 pages (xx + 546)


Paperback156 x 29 x 234 mm(6.14" x 1.15" x 9.21")
Hardback156 x 32 x 234 mm(6.14" x 1.25" x 9.21")


Paperback1729g (60.99oz)
Hardback2129g (75.10oz)



OCLC Number





  • DS
  • HBTB
  • 1FM


  • LIT008020
  • PER019000
  • SOC002010


  • GR72.3


  • North India
  • Pakistan
  • storytelling
  • oral performances
  • texts
  • improvisation
  • social identity
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Tellings and Texts

Music, Literature and Performance in North India

Examining materials from early modern and contemporary North India and Pakistan, Tellings and Texts brings together seventeen first-rate papers on the relations between written and oral texts, their performance, and the musical traditions these performances have entailed. The contributions from some of the best scholars in the field cover a wide range of literary genres and social and cultural contexts across the region.
The texts and practices are contextualized in relation to the broader social and political background in which they emerged, showing how religious affiliations, caste dynamics and political concerns played a role in shaping social identities as well as aesthetic sensibilities. By doing so this book sheds light into theoretical issues of more general significance, such as textual versus oral norms; the features of oral performance and improvisation; the role of the text in performance; the aesthetics and social dimension of performance; the significance of space in performance history and important considerations on repertoires of story-telling.
Tellings and Texts is essential reading for anyone with an interest in South Asian culture and, more generally, in the theory and practice of oral literature, performance and story-telling.


A good deal of the work on literature in the North Indian vernaculars over the last decades has been, perhaps out of necessity, somewhat narrowly philological. This volume, however, marks a new stage of collective development in the field. Any scholar interested in current directions in South Asian humanities should find the papers exciting. Tellings and Texts, however, is much more than the sum of its parts. Indeed, it is hard to express how well put-together this volume is. Much too often edited books even on a fairly well-defined topic consist of separate chapters that appear mostly independent of one another, with section divisions that seem somewhat forced and not particularly coherent. This volume, by contrast, really does read as a well-executed whole, with the papers referencing one another generously and a progression from one nicely conceived section to the next.

Daniel Gold

Professor of South-Asian Religions, Cornell University


1. The Example in Dadupanthi Homiletics

(pp. 31–60)
  • Monika Horstmann

2. Making it Vernacular in Agra: The Practice of Translation by Seventeenth-Century Jains

(pp. 61–106)
  • John E. Cort

3. World Enough and Time: Religious Strategy and Historical Imagination in an Indian Sufi Tale

(pp. 107–136)
  • Muzaffar Alam

4. Hearing Mo‘jizat in South Asian Shi‘ism

(pp. 137–166)
  • Amy Bard

5. Note to Self: What Marathi Kirtankars’ Notebooks Suggest about Literacy, Performance, and the Travelling Performer in Pre-Colonial Maharashtra

(pp. 169–184)
  • Christian Lee Novetzke

6. A Handbook for Storytellers: The Ṭirāz al-akhbār and the Qissa Genre

(pp. 185–207)
  • Pasha M. Khan

7. Did Surdas Perform the Bhāgavata-purāṇa?

(pp. 209–230)
  • John Stratton Hawley

8. Text, Orality, and Performance in Newar Devotional Music1

(pp. 231–246)
  • Richard Widdess

9. Listening for the Context: Tuning in to the Reception of Riti Poetry1

(pp. 249–282)
  • Allison Busch

10. Reading the Acts and Lives of Performers in Mughal Persian Texts

(pp. 283–302)
  • Sunil Sharma

11. Persian Poets on the Streets: The Lore of Indo-Persian Poetic Circles in Late Mughal India

(pp. 303–326)
  • Stefano Pellò

12. Texts and Tellings: Kathas in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries

(pp. 327–358)
  • Francesca Orsini

13. A Curious King, a Psychic Leper, and the Workings of Karma: Bajid’s Entertaining Narratives

(pp. 359–382)
  • Imre Bangha

14. Raga in the Early Sixteenth Century

(pp. 385–406)
  • Allyn Miner

15. Learning to Taste the Emotions: The Mughal Rasika

(pp. 407–422)
  • Katherine Butler Schofield

16. Patterns of Composition in the Seventeenth-Century Bengali Literature of Arakan

(pp. 423–444)
  • Thibaut d’Hubert

17. The Musical Lives of Texts: Rhythms and Communal Relationships among the Nizamis and Some of Their Neighbours in South and West Asia

(pp. 445–484)
  • Richard K. Wolf


(pp. 1–28)
  • Francesca Orsini
  • Katherine Butler Schofield


Francesca Orsini

Professor of Hindi and South Asian Literature at School of Oriental and African Studies

Katherine Butler Schofield