Róbert Gáfrik

Panel 2F: Transcodifications in/of the Ancient World/1
Session 2 – July 1, 15:30 – 17:00

Transcoding the Upanishads. The Interpretation of Ancient Texts Between Orality and Literacy

The Upanishads are one of the most well-known Indian texts. They build the foundation of many Indian philosophical and religious systems. Since the 19th century, they have also become an inspiration for several European philosophers and writers. In addition to the depth of philosophical thoughts, their language is interesting and preserves something of its beauty, ambiguity and mysteriousness even in translation into modern European languages. Vedic texts, of which the Upanishads are a part, are connected with a peculiar system of oral transmission. The paper will explore the transition to written transmission (both chirographical and typographical) and its consequence for their interpretation. The historical-critical method which was developed by German scholars in the 19th century represents another important landmark in the understanding of these ancient texts. The paper will discuss the various interpretations of the Upanishads as they get transcoded in different media and how they have been appraised as literary texts in modern times. 


Róbert Gáfrik is senior researcher and deputy director at the Institute of World Literature, Slovak Academy of Sciences. His research interests include: theory of comparative literary studies, comparative poetics and East–West cultural encounters. His most recent books are Postcolonial Europe? Essays on Post-Communist Literatures and Cultures, co-edited with Dobrota Pucherová  (2015), Kultur im Transfer. Komparatistik in der Slowakei, co-edited with with Sandra Vlasta and Stephan-Immanuel Teichgräber (2016), and Zobrazovanie Indie v slovenskej literatúre (“Imagining India in Slovak literature”, 2018). His current research project focuses on the principal Upanishads and their translation into Slovak.