Modernism and its Four Phases

Literature in South Asia

Authored by: Vinay Dharwadker

The Modernist World

Print publication date:  June  2015
Online publication date:  June  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415845038
eBook ISBN: 9781315778334
Adobe ISBN: 9781317696162


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When South Asia is identified as a literary region in the post-colonial period, it is equated, in effect, with the ensemble of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, even though its geopolitical definition also includes Bhutan and the Maldives. The region coincides broadly with what British colonial discourse designated as the Indian subcontinent during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Its natural boundaries have set it apart as a self-enclosed natural environment since prehistoric times, and have rendered it a unique, circumscribed cultural zone since about 1500 bce, separating it from, say, the cultural zones of China (formed earlier) and Islam (fashioned much later). The subcontinent’s basic geo-cultural features, together with its social, political, and economic history, have shaped its literature for more than two and a half millennia, and contextual factors such as language, literacy, colonialism, social change, and industrialization remain dominant in the modern period. On this canvas, South Asian modernism presents us with two principal analytical challenges: we cannot assume that its specific history will fit into a pre-existing chronological model based on modernisms elsewhere, and we cannot expect its narrative to be both linear and homogenous for the region as a whole.

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