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.
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 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/).
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 Ālāol’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 reflection on vernacular poetics and multilingualism in South Asian literature.
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.
His book titled Meaningful Rituals: Persian, Arabic and Bengali in the Nūrnāma Tradition of Eastern Bengal (Delhi: Primus Books, 2022).explores a corpus of narrative texts that relate the creation of the world by God through his prophet Muḥammad in his pre-eternal form as a luminous entity. In addition to introductory chapters on Muslim literacy in eastern Bengal and the treatment of light in scholastic and non-scholastic Muslim literature, the book contains the text and annotated translations of several Persian and Bengali versions—including one edited from a manuscript written in Arabic script—of the Nūrnāma written between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries. The close study of this tradition in eastern Bengal demonstrates the rural literati’s engagement with Persian and Arabic languages and literacy. Beyond the domain of Bengali language and literature, the book opens a new chapter of Indo-Persian studies by shedding light on the didactic and ritual uses of Persian texts in rural Bengal.
D’Hubert is currently working on the first critical edition of Ālāol’s epic romance Saẏphulmuluk Badiujjāmāl. This long narrative poem (almost 5,00 couplets) is a Middle Bengali adaptation of widespread anonymous Persian story (dāstān). The critical edition of this text was established in collaboration with Dr. Saymon Zakaria (Bangla Academy, Dhaka) and the translation will be published in the Murty Classical Library of India series. This project is supported by a “Scholarly Editions and Translations” grant of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).
His next projects include an annotated translation of Persian ghazals by Akbar’s poet laureate (malik al-shuʿarā) Fayḍī (1547-1595), a new edition and translation of sung poems by the celebrated Brajabuli poet from Bengal Govindadās (late 16th-early 17th AD), and a monograph on the poetics of vernacular courtly and devotional lyrics in eastern South Asia between the fourteenth and the nineteenth century.
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, 2022. [ Publisher website]
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. [ Publisher website]
“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. [Publisher website]
Bengali language and literature, poetics, history of translation, Indo-Persian culture, Sufism, cultural interactions between South and Southeast Asia.
- Middle Bengali Retreat in Transylvania
- Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society
- Mondes Iranien et Indien
- A Worldwide Literature: Jāmī (1414-1492) in the Dār al-Islām and Beyond
- American Institute of Bangladesh Studies
- Lunchtime lyrics at U of C
Past Bangla related events at U of C
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.
- 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)