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Reading: The Phenomenology of Time in Classical Tamil Poetry


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The Phenomenology of Time in Classical Tamil Poetry


Gardner Harris

Hampden-Sydney College, US
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This essay explores the ways in which the human experience of time is articulated in the akam or love genre of caṅkam or classical Tamil poetry (ca. 100 BCE-450 CE). In particular, it focuses on the use of images from five landscapes (tiṇai) of the Tamil countryside to convey the impact emotion has on the phenomenological experience of time. I argue that the images used in the poems of this highly conventionalized genre express an experience of time that is either protracted, compressed, or somewhere in between depending on the emotional wellbeing of the heroine. The translations and discussion of six poems posit the notion that akam poetry is as much about the experience of time as it is about the experience of emotion, as they are not entirely distinct.   


How to Cite: Harris, G., 2018. The Phenomenology of Time in Classical Tamil Poetry. Asian Literature and Translation, 5(1), pp.104–126. DOI:
Published on 28 Oct 2018.
Peer Reviewed


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