Before the Divide: Hindi and Urdu Literary Culture
Francesca Orsini (Ed.)
140 x 216 mm
Year of Publishing
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Based on a workshop on 'Intermediary Genres in Hindi and Urdu', Before the Divide: Hindi and Urdu Literary Culture is an attempt to rethink aspects of the literary histories of these two languages.

Today, Hindi and Urdu are considered two separate languages, each with its own script, history, literary canon and cultural orientation. Yet, pre-colonial India was a deeply multilingual society with multiple traditions of knowledge and literary production. Historically the divisions between Hindi and Urdu were not as sharp as we imagine them today. The essays in this volume reassess the definition and identity of language in the light of this. Its aim is to move away from the received historical narratives of Hindi and Urdu, and look afresh at the textual material available in order to attempt a more complex picture of the north Indian literary culture that is more attuned to the nuances of register, accent, language choice, genre and audiences.

Various factors that would lead one to consider a broader range of texts and tastes that lay before poets and writers in those times are examined. For instance, why did a Sant write in Nagari Rekhta? Why did a Persian poet or an Avadhi Sufi mix Hindavi and Persian? Whatever their motivations, all these cases speak of an awareness of multiple literary models. It also implies a keenness towards experimenting with other literary or oral traditions that go against the purist intentions of modern literary historians.

This volume thus looks at the rearticulation of language and its identity in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and will be useful for students of modern Indian history, language studies and cultural studies.

Francesca Orsini is Reader in the Literatures of North India at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. She is the author of The Hindi Public Sphere, Print and Pleasure: Popular Literature and Entertaining Fictions in Colonial North India (forthcoming) and is the editor of Love in South Asia. Contributors Imre Bangha, Lecturer in Hindi in the Oriental Institute, University of Oxford. Allison Busch, Assistant Professor of Hindi-Urdu Language and Literature at the University of Columbia. Thomas de Bruijn is the author of a monograph on Malik Muhammad Jayasi's Padmavat (The Ruby Hidden in the Dust, 1996) and of several articles on medieval Avadhi literature and on the contemporary New Short Story in Hindi. He works at the University of Leiden. Lalita du Perron, Associate Director of the Centre for South Asia at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Mehr Afshan Farooqi, Assistant Professor of South Asian Literature at the University of Virginia. Christina Oesterheld teaches Urdu in the Department of Modern South Asian Studies (Languages and Literatures) at the South Asia Institute, University of Heidelberg. Valerie Ritter, Assistant Professor of South Asian Languages and Civilisations at the University of Chicago.

A Note on Transliteration

  1. Introduction by Francesca Orsini
  2. Rekhta: Poetry in Mixed Language: The Emergence of Khari Boli Literature in North India
    Imre Bangha
  3. Riti and Register: Lexical Variation in Courtly Braj Bhasha Texts
    Allison Busch
  4. Dialogism in a Medieval Genre: The Case of the Avadhi Epics
    Thomas De Bruijn
  5. Barahmasas in Hindi and Urdu
    Francesca Orsini
  6. Sadarang, Adarang, Sabrang: Multi-coloured Poetry in Hindustani Music
    Lalita Du Perron
  7. Looking Beyond Gul-o-bulbul: Observations on Marsiyas by Fazli and Sauda
    Christina Oesterheld
  8. Changing Literary Patterns in Eighteenth Century North India: Ouranic Translations and the Development of Urdu Prose
    Mehr Afshan Farooqi
  9. Networks, Patrons, and Genres for Late Braj Bhasha Poets: Ratnakar and Hariaudh
    Valerie Ritter


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