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Title: The crisis of modernity : realism and the postcolonial Indian novel
Author: Bhattacharya, Sourit
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2017
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This thesis attempts to understand, through a study of postcolonial Indian novels, the nature and character of Indian (post)colonial modernity. Modernity is understood as the social condition that (post)colonial modernisation and development have given rise to. This condition underlies a historical crisis which is manifest in various kinds of catastrophic events – famine, peasant insurgency, caste violence, communal riot, state repression, and so on. By analysing three of these historical events – the 1943-44 Bengal famine, the Naxalbari Movement (1967-1972), and the State of Emergency (1975-1977) – this thesis argues that a careful reading of the dialectic between event and crisis can offer crucial insights into the conditions of postcolonial modernity. It claims that novels that register these events are able to capture the event-crisis dialectic through their use of form and mode. Socially committed writers adopt the realist form to represent the historical aspects and traumatising consequences of the events. However, because the nature, form, and orientation of these events are different, their realisms undergo immense stylistic improvisation. These stylistic shifts are shaped primarily by the writers’ adapting of various literary modes to the specific requirements (i.e. the historical context). Modes are chosen to represent and historicise the specific character and appearance of an event. In order to represent the Bengal famine, the thesis argues, Bhabani Bhattacharya and Amalendu Chakraborty use analytical-affective and metafictional modes, while Mahasweta Devi and Nabarun Bhattacharya deploy quest and urban fantastic modes to register the Naxalbari Movement and its aftermath. For the Emergency, writers such as Salman Rushdie, O. V. Vijayan, and Arun Joshi use magical, grotesque and mythical modes, and Nayantara Sahgal and Rohinton Mistry employ critical realist modes, defined sharply by the writers’ class- and caste-based perspectives. These modes shape the realisms in the respective texts and transform realist literary form into a highly experimental and heterogeneous matter. Contrary to the prevailing academic belief that modernity breeds modernism, the thesis posits that, in the postcolonial Indian context, the conditions of modernity have provoked a historically conscious, experimental, and modernistic form of ‘crisis realism’.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: University of Warwick
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: PR English literature