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Anna Schultz: the Afterlives of Publishing: Christian Texts for Indian Jewish Song

About the Workshop

This workshop explores from a multidisciplinary standpoint how oral literature stands alongside and engages with texts in literate societies. While the study of oral literature has transformed many disciplines in the last century, the label of “true” orality was originally granted only to pre-literate traditions. We bring together a variety of perspectives as to how different disciplines have bridged the perceived gap between verbal art and artistic text. To that end, the workshop builds an ongoing conversation on
topics such as the transmission and textualization of folk literature, the interplay between spoken word and written text, and the sociology of reading and performance. 

Our aim is to broaden participants’ perspectives of oral literature in a literate society by encouraging a methodological dialogue across disciplines. Each session features an invited speaker who gives a short introduction to a pre-circulated paper followed by a respondent who will open the discussion. We warmly invite anyone who is interested in questions surrounding orality and literacy to join us for food and fellowship.

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Anna Schultz: the Afterlives of Publishing: Christian Texts for Indian Jewish Song


Abstract: When Bene Israel women perform Marathi Jewish songs, they sing from handwritten notebooks of song texts learned from mothers, aunts, and friends. These songs were transmitted orally and transcribed from memories of Jewish performance, but many have origins that are neither oral nor Jewish. Central to the repertories of Bene Israel women today are Psalms in Marathi meters, composed by Christian missionaries and published in the early nineteenth century. I will consider how Hindu devotional song practice colored these Christian texts, and how they have been re-oralized and re-textualized by Bene Israel women to bolster their Jewish knowledge, generate new forms of sociability, and articulate Bene Israel identities in changing contexts of nationalism and migration.