The Dancing Poet

Rabindranath Tagore and Modernity in Performance

Rimli Bhattacharya

Tulika Books

The Dancing Poet

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Pub Date: November 2017

ISBN: 9789382381983

232 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $40.00£32.95

The Dancing Poet

Rabindranath Tagore and Modernity in Performance

Rimli Bhattacharya

Tulika Books

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Drawing on a range of visual archives and personal collections, this book casts Rabindranath Tagore as the "Dancing Poet"—in whom the contours of a pan-Indian diversity seek to merge, albeit selectively, with that of the world, eschewing most emphatically the territorial borders of the nation-state while reiterating civilizational strands. The book outlines the contradictions and possibilities in such aspirations, central to the new cultural texts that Tagore seeks to produce in lyric, songs, dance, image, or narrative. These are strategic juxtapositions that may yet yield new insights into our old debates on modernity.

Focusing on the first four decades of the twentieth century, the book evokes an international backdrop of Europe, Asia, and the Americas between the World Wars—movements, revolutionary and reactionary, whose thrust is on putting "the people" center stage. It takes as a comparative frame cultural fronts emerging in locations as disparate as Russia, Japan, and Germany alongside movements in colonial India. Overall, it marks a period when experiments are being made to weave together the hitherto exclusive discourses of education, art, and entertainment in self-consciously alternative locales, often with a founding guru at the center of activities. The locus of this work continues to be the performing woman and the creation of new publics. Dance is the great signifier in this exercise. In the idiom of performance–dance, attempts are made to resolve anxieties about the erotic, to sublimate sexuality, and new dimensions explored in multiple modes of physical culture. Masculinities, whose other need not be femininity, figure prominently in these narratives.

About the Author

Rimli Bhattacharya is the author of Binodini Dasi: My Story and My Life as an Actress (1998) and Public Women: Playing the Icon on the Urban Stage (forthcoming) as well as a corpus of translations from Bengali to English.