Ph.D. University of Chicago (History of Religions), 2011
B.A. Dartmouth College (Religion), 1995
355B Dwinelle Hall, Fall 2014: Tu 12-2pm and by appointment
Blake Wentworth concentrates on Tamil literature, with particular attention given to its constitutive role in the premodern cultural and religious histories of South Asia. He also explores the position of Sanskrit in these developments, in expressions both of confluence and of contestation. While his prime scholarly interest lies in the literary works of premodernity, he is also an keen enthusiast of contemporary Tamil writing and film, and has recently authored a translation of Sundara Ramasamy's classic Oru Puḷiyamarattiṉ Katai for Penguin India under the title Tamarind History.
Currrently, he is at work on a book that studies the genre of ulā, one of the most popular poetic models of the Tamil literary genre. The ulā, which depicts the procession of male gods and heroes from the vantage point of women who become overwhelmed with desire as they watch the hero pass by in parade, stands as perhaps the most forceful articulation of the ancient Indian trope that laminates political power onto gendered sexuality. Why, for the ulā's poetic narrative, must political power be beautiful?
Other projects include a translation of the first volume of the Rāmāyaṇa of Kampaṉ for the Murty Classical Library of India, to include a substantial monograph on this core text of the Tamil literary tradition. Wentworth also serves as the general editor for the translation of the entire text, to be published in seven volumes.
Currently he is at work on two articles: a study of the place of the Kerala ruler Cēramāṉ Perumāḷ in the canon of Tamil Saiva saints, and an investigation of Muttoḷḷāyiram, a text often called the prototype of ulā that lies in the penumbra of the classical caṅkam corpus.