Andrew Ollett

Andrew Ollett
Associate Professor, Director of Graduate Studies
Foster 207
Ph.D., Columbia University, 2016
Teaching at UChicago since 2019
Research Interests: Poetics, history of literature, intellectual history, philosophy of language, and philology.


I study the literary and intellectual traditions of South Asia, including works composed in Sanskrit, Prakrit, Apabhramsha, and Kannada, mostly falling within the first millennium of the common era. My research has focused on the “question of language”: the availability and choice of certain languages for certain purposes, and the role of language in cultural production and change. 

Currently I am working with Sarah Pierce Taylor on an edition and translation The Way of the Poet-King (Kavirājamārgaṁ), a manual for composing literature in Kannada, one of the regional languages of south India. It was written in the 870s and hence is the oldest Kannada text to survive, apart from inscriptions. This project has been supported by an NEH “Scholarly Editions and Translations” grant. I am preparing an edition and translation of another work of poetics, this one in Prakrit, called the Mirror of Ornaments (Alaṅkāradappaṇaṁ). My edition and translation of Līlāvaī, a romance in Prakrit verse composed around 800, will appear in the Murty Classical Library of India. I am working on a monograph on the principle of context-sensitivity in Indian theories of language, which will situate the work of premodern thinkers such as Kumārila Bhaṭṭa and Śālikanātha Miśra in contemporary debates within linguistics, especially semantics and pragmatics. Another longer-term project addresses the impact of manuscript technology on the ideas and practices of different communities in early historic South Asia.


  • Language of the Snakes: Prakrit, Sanskrit, and the Language Order of Premodern India. Oakland: University of California Press, 2017. Open access and available for free from the publisher.
  • “Duty and Sacrifice: A Logical Analysis of the Mīmāṃsā Theory of Vedic Injunctions.” [With Elisa Freschi and Matteo Pascucci.] History and Philosophy of Logic 40 [4]: 323–354, 2019. Open access and available for free from the publisher.
  • “The Prakrit Mirror of Ornaments and Bhāmaha’s Ornament of Literature.” In Jayandra Soni and Hampa Nagarajaiah (eds.), Cāruśrī: Essays in Honor of Bhaṭṭāraka Cārukīrti, 163–174. Bangalore: Sapna Book House, 2019.
  • “Making it Nice: Kāvya in the Second Century.” Journal of Indian Philosophy 47 [2]: 269–287, 2019.
  • Sātavāhana and Nāgārjuna: Religion and the Sātavāhana State.” Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 41: 421–472, 201
  • “Explaining Prakrit Poetry in the 18th Century: Vrajarāja Dīkṣita’s Commentary on Hāla’s Seven Centuries.” Bulletin de l’école française d’extrême-orient 103: 11–41, 2018.
  • “Pālitta and the History of Prakrit Literature.” In Peter Flügel and Nalini Balbir (eds.), Jain Studies: Select Papers at Bangkok and Kyoto. Delhi: DK Publishers Distributors, 2018.
  • “High-Density Expressions in The Way of the Poet-King.” Rivista degli Studi Orientali N.S. 90: 93–105, 2017.


  • Classical Literature of South Asia, 0-1000 CE
  • South Asian Theatre: The First Thousand Years
  • Readings in Sanskrit Literature
  • Readings in Prakrit Literature
Subject Area: Sanskrit