The Language of the Sūtras explores the narrative strategies of Buddhist sūtras, as well as ways of reading them that reveal their transformative dimensions. By attending to the language of the sūtras and how they are told, the essays gathered in this volume open new fields of study for individual sūtras, while developing more general approaches to reading these texts for a scholarly audience.
Edited by Natalie Gummer, whose own work on the performative and ritual enactment of sūtra texts informs many of the contributions to this volume, The Language of the Sūtras honors the enduring legacy of Luis Gómez as teacher and interpreter of Buddhist texts. Essays by renowned scholars and former students of Gómez follow his example of close reading. In addition to a characteristically original essay by Gummer herself, the volume contains contributions from Eviatar Shulman, Richard Nance, Bruno Galasek-Hul, David Fiordalis, Xi He, Shenghai Li, and Alan Cole, along with a preface by Charles Hallisey. Published Fall 2021. ISBN: 978-1-7322209-0-4.
This superb collection of essays, packed with fresh insights and innovative perspectives, should prove an indispensable guide for anyone interested in what Buddhist texts are, how they work, and how we might go about reading them. It represents a welcome and significant contribution to our understanding of Buddhist literature and the world of human possibilities that literature reflects and seeks to shape.
Paul Harrison, George Edwin Burnell Professor of Religious Studies and Co-Director of the Ho Center for Buddhist Studies, Stanford University
This fine collection advances practices of reading that can help us grasp the extraordinary powers of language. Reading Buddhist sūtras together, the authors demonstrate that contemporary literary theory would do well to consider Buddhist conceptions of language and texts.
Maria Heim, George Lyman Crosby 1896 & Stanley Warfield Crosby Professor in Religion, Amherst College
This excellent collection of essays takes up the question of how to understand and interpret the “imaginal worlds” created by the language of the Buddhist sūtras, and the transformative power they wield on their readers, both historical and contemporary. Every chapter is long and substantive, taking its time to linger over particular texts, passages, and phrases through a wide array of lenses—narratology, syntax, reader response, oral performance theory, and considerations of narrative time, affective experience, citation practices, and more. This is indeed a fitting tribute to the memory of Luis Gómez, one of the giants in the discipline of Buddhist Studies (and an organizer of the conference from which these essays originate). His lifelong commitment to reading the language of Buddhist sūtras with a mind of sensitivity, insight, and openness sings from every page.
Reiko Ohnuma, Robert 1932 and Barbara Black Professor of Religion, Dartmouth College
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