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Lai, Guanchen (2018) Speaking from the Village : Hindi Literary Representations of the Village in the Post-1990 Era. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This thesis explores the village and the rural imaginary in contemporary Hindi literary literature in the post-liberalisation era, when contemporary scholarly discourse and public attention have tended to focus on megacities created by the inflow of immigrants and the process of urbanisation. In contrast to the pessimistic view that the village has been marginalised in Hindi literature, the comparatively rich and variegated corpus of writing on the village suggests in fact a renaissance of Hindi village fictional writing after the city- and middle-class centred New Story of the 1950s and 1960s. I examine Hindi literary writing that engages not only with the present conditions and problems of the rural world, but also with the Hindi literary tradition of representing the village going back to Premchand in the early twentieth century and Renu in the 1950s. Through a close reading of novels and short stories published after 1990, the thesis focuses on questions of representation and on the narrativisation of themes like the agrarian crisis, gender, and caste politics. More specifically, instead of conforming to any single formal paradigm, this thesis shows that contemporary Hindi village writing employs multiple genres and forms, including extensive family sagas, detailed political dramas, idealistic tales, novels consisting of loosely-linked subplots and pithy short stories, for the representation of different worldviews towards rural subjects and the rural world. I also shed light on the fact that while resonating with social scientific discourses on the village, contemporary Hindi rural texts also register their own thematic traits, offering an alternative public commentary and reshaping the way in which the rural world is currently imagined. I argue that positionality of the writers and narrators plays an important role that informs the narrative strategies in portraying rural subjects. Drawing upon Bakhtin’s idea of “chronotope”, I identify a number of key spatial coordinates that move across different texts and inform their plot 5 development and characterisation. Instead of lamenting the harshness of contemporary rural life and asking for abandoning the village, contemporary Hindi village writing tends to celebrate the agency of the village in tackling its problems and continues to have faith in the rural world as a prolonged livable space.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: Francesca Orsini
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 30 Jan 2020 11:19

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