The symposium's premise is the central role of cities in creating discourse that highlights the ways in which intellectuals think of significant issues in political, literary, and cultural history. In South Asia, the hegemonic influences of the written word is apparent even in times before printing technologies revolutionized communication. Cities formed the locus and nexus of political and intellectual power in which a 'lettered' culture dominated social life. The presenters in this workshop interrogate the space of the literary, imaginary, and cultural in the ambience of three important north Indian cities.
Alok Rai’s focus is on Allahabad in the decade after 1947. The city was the battle ground between two competing groups – the Progressives and the ‘experimentalists’ over the forms and meanings of modernity. Rai’s paper proposes to recapture both the significance of the city and the written word in those times and recover some of those issues of its vanished literary culture.
The twin cities of Lahore and Amritsar were severed by the seismic Partition of India. In present times, Lahore continues to flourish as a premier city in Pakistan while Amritsar in India has dwindled into a provincial town. Rajender Kaur’s paper examines the nostalgic space occupied by Lahore in contemporary India as well as the symbiotic relationship between Lahore and Amritsar as recreated in Manju Kapur’s 1999 novel Difficult Daughters.
Rashmi Dube Bhatnagar's paper examines city narration as a technique in pre modern texts that gave a specific city, Jaunpur, a theology, a tradition, a grammar of symbols that located it in the minds of readers in a manner that immortalized it as a genre – nagar varnan that evolved through a plethora of literary traditions.
Mehr Farooqi's paper highlights the complexities of Indian literary culture as manifest in the literary city of Allahabad in the 1940’s. In a colonial city the power of English was manifest, but nationalism’s discourse was building on the voice of the vernacular. Allahabad then was a ground where composite culture flourished in an amalgam of tradition and modernity.
Hanadi Al-Samman focuses on Beirut. In an attempt to resurrect pre-modern national histories and cultural memories of peaceful co-existence, Hoda Barakat’s The Tiller of Waters (1998) unearths the buried city of ancient Beirut through the protagonist’s exploration of the city’s underground tunnels and the history of fabric. By resurrecting the buried memories, the interchangeability of fabric, fabrication, and the claims of nationalism, this anti-hero resurrects multiple histories of the buried city of Civil War torn Beirut, thereby reconstituting an all-inclusive national history that, just like fabric, acknowledges the vertical and horizontal threads of national narrative. His search for the peace-loving voice of pre-war Beirut articulates a desire to retrieve layers of lost cultural memory that predates war trauma and authoritarian regimes intent on erasing traces of difference, and on dominating the national scene.
We are pleased to welcome a leading litterateur from India, Alok Rai. Professor Rai has a distinguished career, starting with a Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford University, where he was a student of the influential literary critic Raymond Williams. Professor Rai has taught at Allahabad University, Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, and most recently at Delhi University, where he has offered courses on Victorian and modern English literature. As the grandson of the renowned short story writer, Premchand, he is naturally involved with the world of Hindi literature. Recent publications have focused on the role of language and culture in Indian politics, such as, the ground-breaking book Hindi Nationalism (2001) and “The Persistence of Hindustani” (Annual of Urdu Studies, 2005). Professor Rai was scholar-in-residence at the University of Pennsylvania in Spring 2007. To view his Delhi University page, follow this link.
Photos from the Event
Pictures from the symposium courtesy of Richard Cohen and Philip McEldowney, U.Va.
Department of Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages and Cultures
550 Cabell Hall, P.O. Box 400781
Charlottesville, VA 22904-4781
Phone: (434) 243-8076 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Fax: (434) 243-1528
Department website maintained by rcc8k