My research centres on South Asian literature in the period immediately preceding and following India's Independence in 1947. Working primarily with sources in Hindi and Marathi, I focus on the ways in which writers and intellectuals working in South Asian languages articulated ideas of the international and the planetary while innovating within the intellectual and aesthetic frameworks of their literary cultures. The mid-twentieth century combines rapid political, social, and cultural change with a shift in the perceived relation of the self to the world, prompted in part by changes in technology and scientific knowledge. It thus provides an ideal ground to examine how writers and intellectuals responded by creating new literary forms and aesthetic philosophies.
While at IIAS, my project, “The Cold War Poetics of Muktibodh: a Study of Hindi Internationalism, 1943-1964,” is based on my doctoral dissertation. My project focuses primarily on the work of Hindi writer Gajanan Madhav Muktibodh (1917-1964). My work argues that Muktibodh's writings are a crucial means for understanding post-Independence modernity in the Hindi-speaking world. Without taking into account the ways in which his work was able to bring into poetic life a range of issues—not least a new imagination of the world in the wake of Indian independence—our understanding of modern South Asian literature would be radically incomplete. Through a series of contextualized close readings, and an understanding of his Marxian-Romantic aesthetics and the centrality within it of the critical imagination, I contend that Muktibodh's works, and especially his fantastic, allegorical long poems, expressed the anxieties of the post-Independence middle class. In this way, an understanding of Muktibodh's writings affords a window into a period during which South Asian thinkers transitioned from the struggle for independence to the question of how they might speak on an international stage.
In my manuscript, I will expand on my readings of Muktibodh's works to produce a larger analysis of Hindi literature in the post-Independence era. Through taking into greater account the influence of the literature of the 1920s and 1930s on post-Independence writers, as well as the historiography of the critical and aesthetic debates between the pragativad (progressive) and prayogvad (experimental) schools of Hindi literature, I will explore the literary history of Hindi as an exemplary literature of the twentieth century. I will also situate my project in a fuller account of the cultural and literary history of the Cold War, and will thus show how South Asian literary cultures make up a crucial part of the literary history of the twentieth century.
- Modern South Asian Literature
Country of origin
Period of stay at IIAS
The Cold War Poetics of Muktibodh: a Study of Hindi Internationalism, 1943-1964