Skeins of the Imagination: Lyric Lifeforms and Virtual Reality Environments in the Poetry and Literary Criticism of Miraji (1912-1949)

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Hartman, Meghan, Religious Studies - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Nair, Shankar, AS - Religious Studies (RELI), University of Virginia
Andruss, Jessica, AS-Religious Studies (RELI), University of Virginia
Nemec, John, AS-Religious Studies (RELI), University of Virginia
Patel, Geeta, AS-Middle East and South Asia Language & Cultures (MESA), University of Virginia

This dissertation, Skeins of the Imagination: Lyric Lifeforms and Virtual Reality Environments in the Poetry and Literary Criticism of Mīrājī (1912-1949), unfurls the sinuous connections between South Asian religions and literatures. More specifically, this study takes as both locus and interlocutor, Mīrājī, the twentieth century genderbending Urdu modernist poet-philosopher. The fields of inquiry include Urdu lyric poetry and criticism, theories of imagination, and the various South Asian religious traditions (Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist) furnishing Mīrājī’s oeuvre. This study examines a multi-genre spectrum of Mīrājī’s oeuvre never before translated into English.
Ultimately, I argue that we should approach Mīrājī’s lyric poetry and criticism as virtual environments. Certain questions animating my research included: how does one experience a world completely and fully? What allows for immersion? What does it mean to enter a world and experience it? Do creative processes allow for immersion and absorption? Where does immersion take place? And I wagered a hypothesis: that talking about virtual environments, lyric poetry, and criticism in concert with each other will help answer some of these questions, and yield some broader theoretical insights –1) how virtual environments are vital to practices of personhood; 2) how reading and writing can be an experiential and experimental method to (trans)form oneself by redirecting attention, building habits, and new appetites of perceiving anew – specifically through shifts; 3) how making oneself requires making a world. In doing so, I claim we can only talk of virtual reality environments by taking recourse to imagination - and experiential depth in these imaginative states is achieved through immersion, absorption, and recognition of temporality.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Lyric, Urdu , Nazm, Imagination, South Asia, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Genealogy, Virtual Reality Environment, Asceticism , Subjectivity, Dreams
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