Prefacing “Modernism”(s): On the Nature and Purpose of ‘Adhunik’ Bangla and ‘Nayi’ Hindi Poetry
Panel:‘Vernacular’ Theorisations of ‘Literature’ in Modern South Asia
The aim of this paper is to offer a comparative analysis of the ‘paratexts’ (introductions, afterwards, authorial ‘statements’ etc.), which supplemented the major anthologies of poetic experimentalism in Bangla and Hindi literary cultures. The diverse and often disparate trends that began to appear within multiple South Asian literatures from the late 1920s, gaining momentum particularly in the following decades, are broadly classified as “modernism”, at the cost of undermining the specific contingencies which obtained in individual literary environments. Given this proclivity, it may be useful to juxtapose some of the foundational texts, from two adjacent literary cultures, which aimed to articulate the originary impulse, intellectual necessity and aesthetic objectives of these trends in their immediate cultural contexts. The principal focus of this analysis will be the prefaces to the three anthologies of ‘modern Bangla poetry’ edited by Rabindranath Tagore, Hiren Mukherjee & Abu Sayeed Ayub and Buddhadeva Bose respectively, and the forewords to the first three Saptak anthologies by Agyeya as well as the individual ‘statements’ by the poets included in each volume. A major thrust of this comparison will be to look at the specific editorial policies, as reflected in the choice of poets, space given to them to articulate their own aesthetic visions, and the internal organization of the volumes, and to situate these at the intersection of both domestic and global intellectual currents that allegedly went into making literary modernism an “international” movement.