Spring 2011 South Asia Seminar Series
Thu, April 28, 2011 | Meyerson Conference Room, WCH 4.118
3:30 PM - 5:00 PM
"An Ocean in a Tea-spoon? On Anthologizing Indian Literature"
About the Series
At the end of the twentieth century, debates about South Asian literature still circulated around two main themes: the problematic "authenticity" of globally marketed Anglophone writing and the putative "provinciality" of writing in the bhasha (or vernacular) languages. But in the last decade, there have been a number of new trends which add new textures to this simplified problematic: the rise of an Anglophone reading public specific to the subcontinent with its own popularly recognized figures, the marketing of bhasha styles in popular western cultural forms, the growing popularity of south Asian writing from outside of India (especially Pakistan and Bangladesh), new opportunities for collaboration between artists in various languages in the subcontinent, the growth of vernacular literary traditions in electronic media, and the new global crisis in publishing which has also contracted certain reading publics. This seminar series will explore the changing social contexts in south Asia and the world that affected reading publics and their relationship to new trends in South Asian writing in many languages. Regular seminars occur on Thursdays at 3:30 pm, preceded by a reception at 3:00 pm, in the Meyerson Conference Room (WCH 4.118).
About the Speaker
Glamoured by modernist British Literature while a student in a high-colonial university in a small town in north India in the innocent 1960s, I felt fortunate to get a scholarship to go to the UK and to write my doctoral thesis there on Virginia Woolf. But the experience cured me, and I returned to India with the belated epiphany that English literature was not, and never could be, my literature. This was some years before Said’s Orientalism, so the first door I knocked on was that of Comparative Literature -- followed by Translation Studies, Postcolonial Studies and a critical reading of British Writing on India. When my turn came to serve as the Head of the Department of English at the University of Delhi (1997-2000), I made it my one-point agenda to catalyse a radical reform of the syllabus through which we chopped off much British dead wood in order to make room for (a) literature in English not only from the UK and the USA but from all around the globe, and (b) literature in English translation not only from Europe but also from other parts of the world, especially India. As a result, I can now spend a whole semester teaching a 1st century AD Sanskrit play, a 4th century Tamil epic, a Hindi poet from the 15th century and an Urdu poet from the 19th, not to mention a couple of trenchantly postcolonial Hindi novels. In alternating semesters I still teach Shakespeare, just to keep my hand in, while in an M. Phil. class in translation, my students and I actually soil our hands with several Indian languages as we work together on translating them into English. This is a bed of roses of liberated postcolonial pedagogy and research that I myself helped to make, and it is gratifying to lie in it.
Areas of interest/research
Postcolonial Literature and Theory, Translation Studies, Indian Literature,
Comparative Literature and World Literature, Shakespeare
Lectured to the M. A. classes on Shakespeare, Alexander Pope, Jane Austen, Byron, W. M. Thackeray, George Eliot, Mark Twain, Virginia Woolf, V. S. Naipaul, Derek Walcott, J. M. Coetzee and on a range of Indian authors in English translation from Bhasa and Ilango Adigal to Ghalib and Tagore.
M. Phil. (Graduate) Courses taught:
-- Virginia Woolf and Her Contemporaries
-- Comparative Literature: Method and Practice
-- Literary Translation: History, Theory and Practice
-- Commonwealth Literature: Postcolonial Perspectives
-- British Writing on India
-- Indian Literature in English Translation
Honours, awards, appointments
Visiting Professor at the University of Chicago (1999), the University of London (2002-03), and at several universities and research institutes in Spain, Italy, Greece, Ireland, Australia and China.
Chairperson (2005- ), Indian Association for Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies. (Previously Secretary and Vice-Chair, 1993-2005.)
Vice-President (2007- ), Comparative Literature Association of India.
Member of the Executive Board, Stockholm Collegium of World Literary History. One of six co-ordinators of a projected History of World Literature in 4 volumes.
Member of the Editorial Advisory Board of Postcolonial Text, Target: International Journal of Translation Studies, Atlantis, Orbis Litterarum and Transnational Literature, among others.
Nominated member of the General Council (2008-13), and also of the English Advisory Board, of the Sahitya Akademi (the National Academy of Letters).
(Author) Colonial Transactions: English Literature and India. Calcutta: Papyrus 1993; new ed., Manchester & New York: Manchester University Press, 1995.
(Co-ed., with three others). The Nation across the World: Postcolonial Literary Representations. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2007; New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.
(Co-ed., with Richard Allen), Literature and Nation: Britain and India 1800-1990. Open University, U.K./London: Routledge, 2000.
(Co-ed., with Susan Bassnett) Post-colonial Translation: Theory and Practice. London: Routledge, 1999.
(Co-ed., with Meenakshi Mukherjee) Interrogating Post-colonialism: Theory, Text and Context. Shimla: Indian Institute of Advanced Study, 1996, reprinted 2000, 2006.
(Transl.) Premchand: His Life and Times by Amrit Rai, translated from the Hindi into English. New Delhi: People’s Publishing House, 1982; reprinted New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1991.
“Hindi and the Nation,” in Literary Cultures in History: Reconstructions from South Asia, ed. Sheldon Pollock. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003; rpt. Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2004.