There is a vast body of imaginal literature in Bengali that introduces fictional Sufi saints into the complex mythological world of Hindu gods and goddesses. Dating to the sixteenth century, the stories—pīr katha—are still widely read and performed today. The events that play out rival the fabulations of the Arabian Nights, which has led them to be dismissed as simplistic folktales, yet the work of these stories is profound: they provide fascinating insight into how Islam habituated itself into the cultural life of the Bangla-speaking world. In Witness to Marvels, Tony K. Stewart unearths the dazzling tales of Sufi saints to signal a bold new perspective on the subtle ways Islam assumed its distinctive form in Bengal.
“The tales that are the subject of Tony K. Stewart’s book depict a Bengal that is miraculously hybrid, innocent of the estrangements of the modern era. This is essential reading for everyone interested in precolonial South Asia.” AMITAV GHOSH, author of The Great Derangement
“This is a work of great erudition; the sophisticated analysis is testament to Stewart’s deep engagement with Bengal’s religious, cultural, and literary histories.” FARINA MIR, University of Michigan
“While inspiring readers to acquire fresh methodological and analytical tools for studying religion and region, history, and aesthetics, this triumph of a book also causes us to pause and marvel at the art of translation. This is nothing less than a standard-setter in the studies of South Asia, Islam, and literature.” SYED AKBAR HYDER, University of Texas at Austin
TONY K. STEWART is Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Chair in Humanities at Vanderbilt University and a specialist in the religions and literatures of early modern Bengal. His works include The Final Word: The Caitanya Caritamrta and the Grammar of Religious Tradition and Fabulous Females and Peerless Pīrs: Tales of Mad Adventure in Old Bengal.
Islamic Humanities, 2
Stewart, T. 2019. Witness to Marvels: Sufism and Literary Imagination. California: University of California Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1525/luminos.76
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