Inter-area/Border Crossing

Organized Panel Session

4 - Beyond Social Realism: Lu Xun and Premchand in the Colonial Literary World

Saturday, July 7
2:40 PM - 4:10 PM
Location: Jacaranda II, First Floor

An emphasis on historical connection tends to govern current China-India comparative study. In contrast, this paper probes the viability of comparison in the face of disjunction and a lack of historical intersection. I explore whether the absence of historically-documented exchange can generate productive forms of comparison.


This paper focuses on the Chinese writer Lu Xun, who famously expressed a life-long disdain for Indian literature as complicit in India’s colonization. It should be noted that except for Tagore, Lu Xun likely did not have access to the works of Indian writers of his time. Given Lu Xun’s contempt for modern Indian literature on one hand, and the lack of historical evidence linking him with Indian writers on the other, does Lu Xun have a place in China-India comparative study?


I pursue this line of inquiry by studying Lu Xun’s writings alongside those of Premchand, his contemporary in the Hindi literary sphere. While the two writers have generated a wealth of scholarship on their shared thematics and social realist practice, they continue to be studied in rigidly national, and therefore separate, categories. Breaking with this trend, I bring Lu Xun and Premchand together not through historical connection or nationally-defined parameters, but through the dissonance both experienced with the colonial world, they inhabited. Tracing a radical aesthetic network forged by intermediary interlocutors, I reveal the two writers’ normative vision for staging the anticolonial protest. In this way, I extend a resolutely transnational and literary lens in order to read Lu Xun and Premchand anew.

Adhira Mangalagiri

Queen Mary University of London, British Virgin Islands

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