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Title: Literature, language and print in Bengal, c.1780-1905
Author: Ghosh, A.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 1997
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The thesis studies the shaping of ideas and identities in colonial Bengal in the context of the formation of standardised vernacular print-cultures. Bengali language and literature in the nineteenth century had provided an arena for rivalries and contestation across a broad social spectrum. Upper bhadralok literati, petty bourgeois groups and even plebeian elements saw Bengali literature and language as important fields for cultural context and were able actively to influence the formation of contemporary norms and tastes. At the centre of this process lay the efforts of upper bhadralok literati to create a new literary prose Bengali and to distinguish it from what they condemned as loose colloquial forms, alleged to be polluted by Perso-arabic words, rustic expressions, and an abundant sexuality. The new Bengali became the hallmark defining the urban educated upper middle classes, and an essential tool for establishing their power over less privileged groups. However, commercial print-cultures centred at Battala in Calcutta, and shared by a range of other urban groups, disseminated literary preferences that ran counter to these efforts to define boundaries of 'polite' and 'vulgar'. The study thus also calls into question our present understanding of a homogeneous, western educated Bengali middle class or bhadralok. Literate petty urban groups emerge in this study as vital constituents of the Bengali middle class sensibility, opening up further dimensions of the group's colonial experience. The bhadralok that emerge from this study were neither simply a conservative literati defending a traditional brahmanical social order, nor were they resignedly withdrawn into an essentialised spiritual 'inner' domain, supposedly untouched by the colonial world. Significant sections also participated in robust and earthy forms of popular literature and performance which irreverently mocked at such anxiety and puritanism, and vehemently attacked the pretensions of social superiors.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available