Building a Global Bookshelf: Asian Classics for the Nineteenth-Century, General Reader

Date/Time: Thu 29 Mar / 2:30 pm - 4:00 pm

Location: Room N502, 5th Floor, Building 11

School of Languages, Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics (LLCL) and Monash Asia Institute (MAI)


Building a Global Bookshelf: Asian Classics for the Nineteenth-Century, General Reader

‘It has been my endeavour in this book,’ announced the Anglo-German writer Helen Zimmern in the preface to her 1883 edition of the Shahnameh, ‘to popularize the tales told by the Persian poet Firdusi [sic] in his immortal epic.’ She freely confessed to almost no knowledge of Persian, explaining that she had derived most of her text from a recent French edition, but justified her work on the basis of its rendering the medieval poem accessible to the Victorian general reader. This was a very different notion of ‘the public’ than that entertained by Joseph Champion—a colleague of William Jones—and James Atkinson when they had produced the first English versions of the Persian epic three generations beforehand. My current project hangs on Zimmern’s word ‘popularize’. It explores the production of popular or ‘people’s editions’ of classical literature from Asia, and seeks to explain how—in the course of the nineteenth century—texts that were hitherto the preserve mainly of scholars and imperial administrators were distributed to typical drawing-room shelves in Britain, America, Australia and the wider empire.

Dr Alex Bubb is a Senior Lecturer in English at Roehampton University in London. He works on nineteenth-century literature in Britain, Ireland and India and aims to view late Victorian culture from a global perspective. In 2016 he published Meeting Without Knowing It: Kipling and Yeats at the Fin de Siècle (Oxford University Press), a comparative study of the two poets and their interlinked networks in 1890s London. He has also published articles on aspects of modern Indian history, including Irishmen in the colonial armies, and early railway contractors in Bombay. He is currently a Marie Curie visiting fellow in the Long Room Hub at Trinity College, where he is doing his best to write his second monograph on popular translations of classic literature from Asia, and the consumption of these editions by the English ‘general reader’.

Thursday 29th March

2:30pm – 4:00pm

N502, Level 5
Menzies Building
20 Chancellors Walk
Clayton Campus

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