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.
A Note on Transliteration