Theravada Literature After “Roads Taken and Not Taken”: Reflections on Recent Textual Studies

Trent Walker


This article sketches the study of Theravada Buddhist literature over the past twenty-five years. Drawing on Charles Hallisey’s influential essay, “Roads Taken and Not Taken in the Study of Theravāda Buddhism,” I survey the ways in which scholars have heeded his calls to study texts beyond the canon, to attend to issues of translation, and to examine the local production of meaning. I show how these calls correspond to three recent trends: increased emphasis on non-canonical Pali and vernacular texts; a renewed interest in multilingual texts and the cultures of translation that shaped them; and new models for charting intellectual histories of Theravada Buddhist societies beyond local confines.


Theravada Buddhism; Pali; vernacular literature; multilingualism; intellectual history

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