Saturday, March 10, 2012

Lecture (5): On How to Read Ghalib

Today's video lecture is by the indomitable Frances Pritchett courtesy of the excellent Hindi-Urdu Flagship program at University of Texas at Austin on "How to Read Ghalib". Despite my high school education being in Pakistan, my abilities in Urdu literature remain remedial at best--just the other day I noticed while reading a Persian translation into Urdu I was looking up every word in the introduction, which baffled me until I realized that the translator had pretty much replaced Persian verbs with Urdu and left all the nouns in, but still--and so having the pleasure of viewing (much preferable to reading!) an expert in Urdu literature actually explain how to develop appreciation skills was a delight.

As a side note, I have only recently discovered the Hindi-Urdu flagship program and they have excellent lectures that they have recorded, which I might post in the coming weeks. There is a wonderful one by Mehr Afshan Farooqi about the development of Urdu and the role of prose works such as Quran commentaries, and an excellent one by Rupert Snell (with his delightfully scholastic and enviable British accent when he speaks English) on Hindi autobiography. For those interested in Hindi, do check out the podcasts on Hindi Thesaurus available on iTunes.

But back to Frances Pritchett. Urdu-philes will be familiar with her enormous contribution to making Urdu literature accessible (not just physically through her website but more uniquely by her commentaries on the diwans of Ghalib and Mir Taqi Mir). She has generously posted her materials here.

Frances Pritchett: How to Read Ghalib from Hindi Urdu Flagship on Vimeo.


  1. I asked Fran about this today over brunch. Without being particularly self-conscious about seeing herself in moving pictures, she sees the video as very much secondary to the lecture itself, in its original context.

    She shrugs at the idea that there is an "image" (in whatever sense of the word you like) of her in circulation. It leaves her bemused. As far as she's concerned, she's just having the time of her life studying the world's greatest Urdu poet inside-out.

    Eventually someone will have to put up a Wikipedia page on her, however she may protest.

    1. I just realized there is a reply function to this (clearly a newbie at this). I have just replied to comments as another comment.

  2. I suppose it must be kind of peculiar to suddenly find yourself reproduced for simply doing what you enjoy. I remember when I met her at Columbia I introduced myself and said I had gone to her website so many times; she didn't seem one bit interested in milking it for fame, as so many other scholars do. She said instead, if I remember correctly, that she was glad I found it useful.

    Somebody will have to make a Wikipedia page about her and likely she herself is due for a festschrift soon, though if those are given at retirement, there are many years to go before that hopefully.