SOAS University of London

South Asia Section, School of Languages, Cultures & Linguistics

Maddalena Italia

BA in Classics (Milan), MA in Classics (Milan), MA in Languages and Cultures of South Asia (SOAS, University of London)
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Maddalena Italia
Ms Maddalena Italia
Email address:
Thesis title:
The Erotic Untranslatable: The Modern Reception of Sanskrit Love Poetry in the West and in India
Year of Study:
Internal Supervisors


I started working on my doctoral thesis in September 2013, after completing an MA (with Distinction) in Languages and Cultures of South Asia at SOAS. Before moving to SOAS, I earned a BA and an MA in Classics (both cum laude) from Milan State University. My first MA dissertation focused on the Sanskrit figure of speech śleṣa (“Śleṣa, or 'double meaning': traces of stylistic continuity from the Ṛgveda to Sanskrit kāvya literature”). My SOAS Master's dissertation (“Non-verbal communication in Sanskrit kāvya literature: an emic perspective”) dealt with the theoretical frameworks through which literary body language is analysed in Sanskrit systematic thought on drama and literature (nāṭya- and alaṅkāraśāstra).

During the academic years 2014-15 and 2015-16, I taught Sanskrit Language (level 1) to graduate and undergraduate students; from October 2015 to January 2016, I also taught Directed Readings in Sanskrit. Between January and April 2016, I supervised a BA student in the drafting of an Extended Essay in Sanskrit Literature.

PhD Research

My doctoral research aims to offer new insights and a better understanding of the history of the modern reception of Sanskrit erotic poetry. In my PhD thesis (“The erotic untranslatable: the modern reception of Sanskrit love poetry in the West and in India”), I analyse and compare commentaries, translations, re-translations, and rewritings of Sanskrit erotic poetry produced by Western and Indian translators, poets, and philologists.

What follows is a list of the translations, re-translations, trans-creations, and commentaries I mainly focus on:
1) A. L. Apudy (i.e. Antoine-Léonard de Chézy) [& Amaru], 1831. Anthologie érotique d'Amarou: texte sanscrit, traduction, notes et gloses. Paris: Dondey-Dupré père et fils.
2) Peter von Bohlen [& Bhartṛhari; & Bilhaṇa], 1833. Bhartriharis sententiae et carmen quod Chauri nomine circumfertur eroticum. Berlin: Dümmler.
3) Hippolyte Fauche [& Bhartṛhari; & Bilhaṇa], 1852. Bhartrihari et Tchaaura, ou la Pantchaçika du second et les Sentences érotiques, morales et ascétiques du premier, expliquées du sanscrit en français, pour la première fois. Paris: A. Frank.
4) Sir Edwin Arnold [& Bilhaṇa], 1896.The Chaurapanchâsika: An Indian Love-lament. London: K. Paul, Trench, Trübner & co.
5) Giuseppe de Lorenzo [& Bilhaṇa], 1925. Il canto del ladro d'amore (Caurisuratapancasika): traduzione dal sanscrito, con introduzione e note. Napoli: Ricciardi.
6) Edward Powys Mathers [& Bilhaṇa], 1919. Black Marigolds. Oxford: Blackwell.
7) Edward Powys Mathers [& Amaru], 1928. Amores of Amaru, in Eastern Love, vol. 5. London: John Rodker for Subscribers.
8) Franz Toussaint [& Amaru], 1927. L'Amour fardé, traduit du sanscrit. Paris: Flammarion.
9) Mahavir Prasad Dwivedi [& Bhartṛhari], 1890. Snehamālā (Braj Bhāṣā transcreation of the Śṛṅgāraśataka).
10) Gopinath Purohit [& Bhartṛhari], 1896. The Nîtiśataka, Śringâraśataka, and Vairâgyaśataka of Bhartrihari, edited with Hindi and English translations, copious critical and explanatory notes, parallel thoughts from numerous authors. Bombay: Khemraj Shrikrishnadas.


  • Italia, M. (2011). Book review of “Yigal Bronner, Extreme Poetry: The South Asian Movement of Simultaneous Narration”. Pandanus ’11: Nature in Literature, Art, Myth and Ritual 5 (1): 152-6.


  • “Translation immoral? Sanskrit erotic poetry ‘for subscribers only’”. Paper presented within the roundtable “Translation Impossible: The Ethics, Politics and Pragmatics of Radical Literary Translation”, chaired by Matthew Pritchard and Carola Lorea and held at the Tenth International Convention of Asia Scholars (ICAS 10), Chiang Mai, 20th-23rd July 2017.
  • “Translating Sanskrit erotic poetry 'for the delight of the general lover of the Muse': Edwin Arnold’s Indian Love Lament (Caurapañcāśikā)”. Paper presented within the roundtable “Present Absence: World Literature and Book Circulation in the Nineteenth Century” organised by Prof Francesca Orsini and held at the 2017 MLA Convention, Philadelphia, 5th-8th January 2017.
  • “Against the Sanskrit Canon? Classicism, Anti-Classicism and the Erotic in Colonial North India”. Paper presented at the 7th Coffee Break Conference, Leiden, 8th-10th September 2016. (At this conference, I organised and chaired the panel “Bridging Stylistic and Moral Distances: The Translation and Reception of Pre-Modern, Non-Western Erotic Literature”.)
  • “The many lives of a Sanskrit love poem”. Paper presented at the conference Reading the World: Challenging the Dynamics of Canon Formations hosted by the Institute of English Studies (Senate House), London, 3rd December 2015.
  • “When words say what words can’t (or mustn’t) say: non-verbal communication in Sanskrit kāvya and aesthetic theories”. Paper presented at the Seventh International Indological Graduate Research Symposium (IIGRS 7) held at the University of Leiden, 15th-17th October 2015.
  • “Latinizing (and Grecizing) Sanskrit Erotic Poetry: Nineteenth-Century Philology and the Continuum Śṛṅgāra-Eros-Amor”. Paper presented at the conference Erotic Literature: Adaptation and Translation in Europe and Asia organized by the CRASSH (Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities), Cambridge, 29th-30th June 2015.
  • “Śṛṅgāra, Amor, Eros: Nineteenth Century Latin Translations of Sanskrit Erotic Poetry”. Paper presented at the Sixth International Indological Graduate Research Symposium (IIGRS 6) held at the University of Hamburg, 6th-8th October 2014.