Tuesday, October 22, 2019

South Asian Modernism: in Blog Posts

I recently chaired a panel at the Modernist Studies Association (MSA) on South Asian Modernisms, with three wonderful scholars whose work was new to me, Jennifer Dubrow of the University of Washington (check out her book on Urdu print culture!), Preetha Mani of Rutgers (AMESALL), and a graduate student from U-Chicago, Supurna Dasgupta.

Our panel dealt with multi-lingual South Asian modernisms, from Saadat Hasan Manto (Urdu) to Krishan Chander (Hindi) to Jayakanthan (Tamil) to Bishnu Dey (Bengali). We had a small but very engaged audience on the last morning of the conference.

In gearing up for chairing the panel I started reviewing some of my many blog posts over the years related to South Asian Modernism. I realized I had done quite a number of them -- plus two academic articles... Between 2010 and 2012 or so I was, in truth, working on a book on Modernism in South Asia -- though I petered out and never quite got it together (I wrote something else instead).

Judging from the lack of awareness about the contours of South Asian modernism in the mainstream of the MSA (outside of Mulk Raj Anand, who is pretty well-known), it seems like a synthetic, internally comparative account of South Asian modernism might be helpful to have. At a minimum, I would hope that such a book should have: 1) an account of the Bengal Renaissance as a jumping-off point [not a modernism proper]; 2) the advent of the Progressive Writers Association; 3) Hindi modernism post-independence (Nayi Kavita, Nayi Kahani); 4) Urdu modernism post-independence (Jadeed Afsana; Manto); 5) Tamil and Kannada modernisms; 6) the Anglophone scene (from Anand to the Calcutta Writers Workshop); and 7) an account of South Asian writers from the 1920s-60s who worked and wrote abroad (Mulk Raj Anand, Nirmal Verma, G.V. Desani, Sajjad Zaheer, Ahmed Ali, among many others).

Owing to my language limitations I am not at all sure that I am the one to write such a book. Though who knows?

Still, in case it's helpful, below is a collection of blog posts I wrote dealing with South Asian modernism, mostly between 2006 and 2012.


Review: A Night in London by Sajjad Zaheer (2012; Urdu modernism in translation; South Asian writers abroad)

Revisiting Ahmed Ali: Twilight in Delhi (2011; Anglophone; South Asian writers abroad)

Gordon Roadarmel and Modern Hindi Fiction (2010; Nayi Kahani; Hindi short stories)

Revisiting the Calcutta Writers Workshop (2010; P. Lal; Anglophone)

Another Look at P. Lal (2010; Anglophone; influence of Anglo-American modernism on Anglophone modernism in India)

Modern Hindi Poetry (2010; on the Naya Kavita movement; a review of sorts of Lucy Rosenstein's collection)

Why I Don't Like Mulk Raj Anand's "Untouchable"... (on representing caste in Indian fiction)

Mulk Raj Anand on the Language Debate (2010; on the status of the English language in Indian literature in the 1930s)

Saadat Hasan Manto's "Letters to Uncle Sam" (2006; early post on Manto; Urdu fiction)

Ismat Chughtai's Short Stories (2006; early post on Chughtai)


Academic articles: 

Progressivism and Modernism in South Asian Fiction: 1930-1970 (Literature Compass)

More than 'Priestly Mumbo-Jumbo': Religion and Authorship in All About H. Hatterr (Journal of Postcolonial Writing)


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