Velcheru Narayana Rao (or VNR, as he is known) is the preeminent scholar of Telugu studies in the American academy. His works, composed singly and with a stable of collaborators, now form the small library of monographs and translations that practically constitutes the field's literature. What's more, in over thirty years he has produced a crop of insightful essays that bring the substantial body of Telugu traditions to bear on the broad questions of South Asian and literary studies. Among them are the fifteen pieces collected in Text and Tradition in South India.

Covering over 900 years of South Indian literary traditions, the essays’ stand-out themes include “concepts of author, text, and the historicity of text cultures,” as well as “orality and literacy” and “the quiet impact of colonial modernity on Indian text practices” (p. 11). This broad thematic and chronological compass is cut by VNR's attentiveness to the...

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