South Asia

Organized Panel Session

1 - Progressive Literature between Commitment and Form: The Criticism of Gajanan Madhav Muktibodh

Thursday, March 22
7:30 PM - 9:30 PM
Location: Jefferson, Mezzanine Level

The history of Hindi literature has tended to view the post-Independence period as one of schism into two opposed camps, commonly described as Progressive and Experimental, in the context of the incipient cold war. However, this model, which emphasizes discontinuity and growing opposition, can obscure the ways in which writers navigated and thought through the relations between political commitment and aesthetic practice. It also flattens the diverse conceptions of the international formed by writers, who were part of a wide array of global networks. Attention to writings on aesthetics can illuminate the diverse range of artistic responses to social and political change, and point towards a new model for understanding internationalism among South-Asian language writers. 


The writings of Gajanan Madhav Muktibodh (1917–1964) offer a way to reassess the history of progressive literature in Hindi and perceive new connections between formal changes in literature and the aesthetic and political models articulated to explain them. Muktibodh's writings on literature and his political activity were always intertwined; his criticism and poetry remain a seminal moment in post-Independence Hindi literature for articulating a synthesis between a committed politics and a poetics of the romantic, personal lyric. In this paper, I will show how his writings form a crucial intervention in our understanding of the literary history of Hindi and the transition from pre-Independence progressive literature to the modernism and cold-war internationalism of the 1950s.

Gregory Goulding

University of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania

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