MAI and LLCL Joint Seminar

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Date(s) - 29/03/2018
2:30 pm - 4:00 pm

N5.02, 5th Floor, Menzies Building, Monash Clayton campus


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

Presenter:  Dr Alexander Bubb, Roehampton University



‘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’.

RSVP: Dr Chris Murray

T:  9905 4897