Heinrich Uhle's critical edition of Śivadāsa's Vetālapañcaviṃśatikā as adaptation
Panel:Adaptations of South Asian Narratives Across Time and Space
The goal of publishing a critical edition is to present a reconstructed text that is as close as possible to an assumed original text, often called the urtext. Although this does by no means imply that a critical edition claims to be an original text, when serving as basis for translation or further studies critical editions are often received and treated as if they were the ‘originals’. In doing so, it is not acknowledged that critical editions would not exist without the existence of other texts, namely the manuscripts upon which they rely. Critical editions must be regarded as transpositions of preexisting texts – they are adaptations and not ‘original’ works.
In this paper I want to examine to what extent critical editions of Indian story literature are the result of multiple adaptive processes, using the example of Heinrich Uhle’s critical edition of the Vetālapañcaviṃśatikā of Śivadāsa. By considering the critical edition and manuscripts not only as narrative texts, but also as material objects, the paper focuses on intertextual, cultural and medium-specific aspects. What are the effects when manuscript texts are turned into books? How does the assumption of an urtext correspond to the historical reality of the manuscripts? How does the story of Śivadāsa’s Vetālapañcaviṃśatikā as represented in Uhle’s edition change in the light of new known manuscripts? Only by fully understanding the ways in which critical editions of Indian story literature are not originals, but adaptations, we can find a way of critically dealing with editions such as Uhle’s when using them in academic contexts.