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Title: Folklore, myth, and Indian fiction in English, 1930-1961
Author: Amar, Shruti
ISNI:       0000 0004 7656 5534
Awarding Body: King's College London
Current Institution: King's College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2018
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The thesis examines the complex relationship between folklore, myth, and Indian writing in English, with reference to a number of novels and short stories written between 1930 and 1961. I look in detail at the works of five writers: Raja Rao, Mulk Raj Anand, Sudhindra Nath Ghose, R.K. Narayan, and Balachandra Rajan. With the rise of the novel in India during the late nineteenth century, vernacular writers started to experiment with the form and style of fiction. Writing in various regional languages, they frequently drew on oral tales and devised new modes of narration. Such experimentation, however, was not confined to vernacular fiction. In this thesis, I argue that novelists writing in English such as Raja Rao, Mulk Raj Anand, R. K. Narayan and several others similarly developed a distinct style of writing, as influenced by myth, folklore and folk performances. Like the bhasa writers, they too began to experiment with the form of the novel and short-stories by incorporating tales, songs, and proverbs, and their performative dimensions. Folklore centred on women became crucial to this experimentation. It is this engagement with the myths, folk tales, songs and proverbs that this thesis investigates. Along with the novels of Raja Rao, Sudhindra Nath Ghose, R. K. Narayan and Balachandra Rajan, I analyse the short stories of R. K. Narayan and Mulk Raj Anand in order to understand the complex inter-textual links between written and oral traditions. There are two dimensions to my inquiry. First, through a series of close readings, I investigate how - both in terms of theme and structure - the use of myths, folk tales, songs and proverbs help to evoke, dramatise or even ironise complex situations within the text. Second, I pay special attention to the elements of performance in some of these novels. The sustained engagement of these authors with woman-centric folklore remains a strong sub-theme in the thesis; such engagement also encapsulates the various literary debates on the status of woman in South Asia and provides a glimpse into their everyday lives. In each of my chapters, I investigate the method employed to create a new form of fiction and also how such inclusion constructs the characters as well as the relationship between them within the complex strand of caste and gender hierarchies. Though the thesis sets out to broadly discover the intricate yet inevitable relation between the folk and the written, I have kept the time period between 1930 and 1961. The period is in itself relevant in modern South Asian history as it records the transition from the colonial to the postcolonial era and so my focus remains on the texts produced during this phase. The recurrent nationalist discourse that finally culminated in the independence, as well as the partition in 1947, allowed the authors to set their fiction within the backdrop of a complex historical and political situation that offered as well as required various literary responses. The writers I argue particularly borrowed from the native mythology and folklore to respond to this change. The thesis thus intends to provide a broader perspective on the various ways in which pre-colonial and postcolonial narrative forms intermingled with each other to transform the colonial legacy.
Supervisor: Das, Santanu ; McDonagh, Josephine Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available