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Title: Unlikely readers : negotiating the book in colonial South Asia, c.1857-1914
Author: Mukhopadhyay, Priyasha
ISNI:       0000 0004 6062 2338
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2015
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This thesis constructs a history of reading for South Asia (1857-1914) through an examination of the eccentric relationships that marginal colonial agents and subjects - soldiers, peasants, office clerks and women - developed with everyday forms of writing. Drawing on the methodologies of the history of the book, and literary and cultural histories, it creates a counterpoint to the dominant view of imperial self-fashioning as built on reading intensively and at length. Instead, it contends that the formation of identities in colonial South Asia, whether compliant or dissenting, was predicated on superficial forms of textual engagement, leaving the documents of empire most likely misread, unread, or simply read in part. I illustrate this argument through four chapters, each of which brings together extensive archival material and nonliterary texts, as well as both canonical and little-known literary works. The first two discuss the circulation of unread texts in colonial institutions: the army and the government office. I study Garnet Wolseley's pioneering war manual, The Soldier's Pocket-book for Field Service, a book that soldiers refused to read. This is juxtaposed, in the second study, with an examination of the reception of the bureaucratic document in illiterate peasant communities, explored through the colonial archive and ethnographic novels. In the third and fourth chapters, I focus on texts consumed in part. I turn to the Bengali Hindu almanac, a form that made the transition from manuscript to print in this period, and examine how it trained its new-found readership of English-educated office clerks to oscillate smoothly between British-bureaucratic and local forms of time, as well as to read quickly and selectively. I end with a study of The Indian Ladies' Magazine, and suggest that the cosmopolitan form of the periodical and editorial practices of extracting and summarising gave women unprecedented access to a network of global print.
Supervisor: Boehmer, Elleke Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: South Asian literature (English)--History and criticism ; Bengali literature--History and criticism ; Books and reading--India--History ; Publishers and publishing--India--History ; India--Intellectual life--19th century