A CONVERSATION ON INDIAN WRITING IN ENGLISH: Nilanshu Agarwal, Ludmila Volna, Christopher Rollason

Now online, on my Yatra site at.



is: Unearthing of Indian Writing in English: Conversation with Christopher Rollason and Ludmila Volná. The conversation is between myself and my fellow India scholar Ludmila and Dr Nilanshu Agarwal of Feroze Gandhi College, Rae Bareli.  The conversation roams over multiple issues of Indian Writing in English – the writing itself, criticism, translation and more.




NKA: What are the problems of Indian English criticism? What do you think are the major issues before Indian critics? Are these critics following the ancient Indian tradition of Rasa, Dhwani and Alamkara? Or are they playing ‘the sedulous ape’ to the western critical tools? Are there certain attempts to evolve an individual perspective, different from the ancient Indian aesthetics and western critical theory? There is an onslaught of theory from the West. Are the Indian critics able to maintain a separate identity? Who are the major contemporary Indian English critics who have evolved a new and innovative approach in their critical works?

LV: Indian critics should follow their own way – which does not mean an absolute rejection of Western criticism. I feel, nevertheless, that they should also try to set the critical approaches relevant for Indian writing on Western critical circles and be sceptical towards any post-colonial theory which is subject to simplifications or distortions with regard to the specific features of Indian culture and literature. Indian critics should certainly not allow any kind of theoretical colonization. Theories like dhwani-rasa have not yet found their way into broader critical circles. On the other hand, IWE has already its own well-established tradition of Indian critics, starting with Srinivasa Iyengar, Prema Nandakumar, or C.D. Narasimhaiah, and going on with names like Harish Trivedi, Vrinda Nabar, Meenakshi Mukherjee, Subhendu Mund, GJV Prasad, Nilufer Bharucha and many others, all of whose approach can be classified as a singular contribution to Indian English criticism.

CR: There are very significant names in Indian criticism – Harish Trivedi, GJV Prasad, Meenakshi Mukherjee, Gayatri Spivak – but, alas, how well are any of them known in the West outside the ambit of postcolonial studies, or perhaps tranalation studies? This said, surely Indian critics wishing to make their mark internationally would do best to master both Indian and Western points of view? Still missing is the Indian critic who will bring rasa theory to the outside world’s attention as an alternative to Aristotelian perspectives.


NOTE ADDED 6 May 2009:

This interview has been published as:"Unearthing of Indian Writing in English: A Conversation", in The Quest: A Journal of Indian Literature and Culture (Ranchi, India), Vol. 22, No 2, December 2008, pp. 53-63 (see blog entry for 21 December 2008); CONFLUENCE: SOUTH ASIAN PERSPECTIVES (London), April 2009, pp. 14-15 (see blog entry for 6 May 2009);  in: Impressions (on-line journal, Meerut, India), 2, 2008, http://impressions.50webs.org/4_intrvw.htm; and in: Muse India (on-line journal), 23, January-February 2009, www.museindia.com


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