Beyond the Two Shores: Indian Magazines and World Literature between Decolonisation and the Cold War

Beyond the Two Shores: Indian Magazines and World Literature between Decolonisation and the Cold War
26 November 2020, 3.00pm - 4.30pm

Part of the Convocation Seminars in World Literature and Translation

Co-convened with LINKS (London Intercollegiate Network for Comparative Studies)

Speaker: Francesca Orsini (SOAS)

We sometimes forget that for many readers in many parts of the world, exposure to world literature largely took place on the pages of magazines, through translations, reviews, snippets of information or survey articles – with the short story as the main unit of literary exchange. One part of my enquiry in this talk – and of a series of webinars on The Magazine and World Literature I am co-running with Patricia Novillo-Corvalan – concerns the production and experience of world literature through the magazine, how magazines differ from other platforms for world literature (the book series, the anthology, the course), and what analytical vocabulary they require.

More specifically, this talk explores how Indian magazines of the 1950s to 1970s “did” world literature, and how this relates to the geopolitics of the Cold War, but also to decolonisation and Third Worldism. If competing efforts on both sides of the Cold War to promote literatures from one’s sphere of influence led to a large number of literary translations that magazines could pick from (leading scholars to hail a new “global simultaneity of literary time”, Holt, Rubin), many in India were wary of the two blocs. As a result, Hindi mainstream magazines articulated their own vision of literary Third Worldism and became sites of “spectacular internationalism”.

This was also the golden period of magazine publishing in Hindi, with several story magazines that invested much effort not just in showcasing new Hindi literary talent but also in translating writing from other Indian languages and from foreign literatures, what I call here “literary activism”. What “significant geographies” of world literature did this translation effort produce? Did literary choices simply follow ideological and geopolitical affiliations? And how is the experience of world literature that magazines produce different from the more systematic but abstracted ambition of the book series or the university course?

Francesca Orsini is Professor of Hindi and South Asian Literature at SOAS, University of London, and a Fellow of the British Academy. She is currently completing an ERC research project on “Multilingual locals and significant geographies: for a new approach to world literature”, from the perspective of three literary regions: North India, the Maghreb, and the Horn of Africa. As part of the project, she is co-editing a book entitled The Form of Ideology and the Ideology of Form: Third World Print Cultures and Internationalisms between Decolonization and the Cold War, with Neelam Srivastava and Laetitia Zecchini.

This free event will be held online, at 15:00 GMT. Please note that you will need to register in advance to receive the online event joining link.

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Cathy Collins
020 7862 8738