Thibaut d'Hubert

Thibaut d'Hubert
Associate Professor, Director of Undergraduate Studies
Foster Hall 211
Office Hours: Thursdays 3:00 – 5:00 PM
773.702.1333
Ph.D., École Pratique des Hautes Études

Biography

Thibaut d’Hubert works on Middle Bengali poetry and Indo-Persian literature. His primary domain of research is the history of literary practices in eastern India and, more generally, the study of poetics in multilingual contexts. His approach brings together textual criticism, literary hermeneutics, the study of traditional modes of philology, and the performance of poetry in religious and secular settings. His work on Bengali poetry in Arakan led him to explore the making of vernacular traditions within the Persianate world and the transfer of knowledge between South and Southeast Asia; two themes that are still central to his current projects. 

Thibaut d’Hubert’s research focuses on Middle Bengali poetry and the literary history of Bengal. He studied Bengali and Persian at the Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales (INALCO, Paris), from which he obtained his M.A. He was also trained in Sanskrit at the department of Indian Studies, Paris 3 Sorbonne Nouvelle. He completed his Ph.D. (2010) and Habilitation à diriger des recherches (2018) at the fourth section (Historical and Philological Sciences) of the École Pratique des Hautes Études (EPHE) in Paris. His dissertation analyzed the poetics of the works of Ālāol (fl. 1651-71), a prolific author who translated poetry from Hindavi (/Avadhi) and Persian into Bengali. Thibaut is an associate researcher of the UMR 7528 Mondes iranien et indien (Paris) and he was a fellow of the Zukunftsphilologie program (Berlin) during the academic year 2013-14. He is also the co-organizer of annual retreats devoted to the study of Middle Bengali language and literature (voices.uchicago.edu/middlebengali/) and he is co-editor of CUP’s Library of Bengali Literature (https://cup.columbia.edu/library-of-bengali-literature). 

His interests include Indic and Perso-Arabic poetics, Middle Bengali philology, scribal practices, traditional South Asian hermeneutics, literary multilingualism, and the history of translation. His monograph In the Shade of the Golden Palace: Ālāol and Middle Bengali Poetics in Arakan explores the oeuvre of the prolific Bengali poet and translator Ālāol (fl. 1651-71), who rendered five narrative poems and one versified treatise from medieval Hindi and Persian into Bengali. The book maps the genres, structures, and themes of Alaol’s works, paying special attention to the poet’s own discourse on poetics and his literary genealogy. The monograph operates on three levels: as a unique vade mecum for readers of Middle Bengali poetry, a detailed study of the cultural history of the frontier region of Arakan, and a contribution to the poetics of South Asian literatures.  

With Alexandre Papas (CNRS/CETOBAC, Paris), he organized a multidisciplinary project on the reception of the works of the Persian polymath of Herat, ʿAbd al-Raḥmān Jāmī (1414-1492). The outcome of this project is a collective volume titled Jāmī in Regional Contexts: The Reception of ʿAbd al-Raḥmān Jāmī’s Works in the Islamicate World, C. 9th/15th-14th/20th (Leiden: Brill, 2019). This volume is the first attempt to discuss the wide reception of the works of Jāmī in the domains of poetry, grammar, hagiography, and technical mystic literature in various regions of the Islamicate world. In addition to important updates on Jāmī’s presence in Ottoman, Safavid, and Mughal Persianate intellectual traditions, and on the study of his poems and treatises by scholars of Sanskrit and Arabic, the volume offers discussions on the role of this towering figure and his works in the creation of vernacular traditions in local contexts.  

D’Hubert is currently working on a book project about Persian and Middle Bengali Islamic creation stories, and the spread of Persian, Arabic, and vernacular literacy in eastern Bengal. The book is titled Meaningful Rituals: Persian, Arabic and Bengali in the Nūrnāma Tradition of Eastern Bengal (Delhi: Primus Books, forthcoming).  

His next project will look at the diffusion of Persian literacy in Bengal’s society during the late Mughal period and the formation of the literary idiom called Dobhāṣī (also known as Musalmani Bengali) in the mid-eighteenth century in western Bengal. A related project, which Thibaut undertook within the framework of the online encyclopedia Perso-Indica and of the Zukunftsphilologie program, is titled “The Celtic Fringe and Early Orientalism in Bengal, ca. 1770–1790: Editing and analyzing the Indo-Persian texts of the Staatsbibliothek’s John Murray Collection.” It examines one of the largest private collections of Persian texts that had been brought back to Europe from Bengal in the final decade of the eighteenth century. 

Affiliated Departments and Centers

Center for Middle Eastern Studies

Work with Students

D’Hubert supervises students interested in premodern and early colonial South Asian literature and poetics. While his own training is in textual studies and literary history, he has a strong interest in musicology and the performance of texts. He works with students trained in Bengali, but also Sanskrit, Persian, and Hindavi (Braj, Avadhi, Dakani). He offers introductory classes to premodern South Asian literature every year, as well as reading courses in Middle Bengali and Indo-Persian literature throughout the academic year.     

He is also happy to guide BA theses on South Asia, and to work with Masters students. 

Courses

  • A Poem in Every House: An Introduction to Premodern South Asian Literatures 1 (Sanskrit and Dravidian) and 2 (Perso-Arabic and northern vernaculars) (SALC) 
  • Advanced Bengali (SALC) 
  • Persian Philology and Poetry in South Asia (SALC) 
  • Poetry and the Human – Form, Formation, Transformation (Humanities Core) 
  • Andalusian Rubies: Knowledge, Languages, and Belles-Lettres in al-Andalus (Middle Eastern Civilization in Spain, CEA Study Abroad Granada) 

Field Specialties

Bengali language and literature, poetics, history of translation, Indo-Persian culture, Sufism, cultural interactions between South and Southeast Asia.

Publications

In the Shade of the Golden Palace: Ālāol and Middle Bengali Poetics in Arakan. South Asia Research Series. New York: Oxford University Press, 2018.  

Meaningful Rituals: Persian, Arabic and Bengali in the Nūrnāma Tradition of Eastern Bengal. Delhi: Primus Books (forthcoming). 

with Alexandre Papas, eds. Jāmī in Regional Contexts: The Reception of ʿAbd al-Raḥmān Jāmī’s Works in the Islamicate World, ca. 9th/15th-14th/20th. Handbook of Oriental Studies. Section 1 The Near and Middle East. Leiden: Brill, 2019. 
https://brill-com.proxy.uchicago.edu/view/title/39351?format=HC  

“Literary History of Bengal, 8th to 19th century.” In the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Asian History. Ed. David Ludden. New York: Oxford University Press, 2018. http://asianhistory.oxfordre.com/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780190277727.001.0001/acrefore-9780190277727-e-39?rskey=zOm0lk&result=1 

Subject Area: Bengali