The Invention of Private Life

Literature and Ideas

Sudipta Kaviraj

Columbia University Press

The Invention of Private Life

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Pub Date: March 2015

ISBN: 9780231174398

376 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $32.00

Pub Date: March 2015

ISBN: 9780231174381

376 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $95.00

Pub Date: March 2015

ISBN: 9780231539548

376 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $31.99

The Invention of Private Life

Literature and Ideas

Sudipta Kaviraj

Columbia University Press

The essays in this volume, which lie at the intersection of the study of literature, social theory, and intellectual history, locate serious reflections on modernity's complexities in the vibrant currents of modern Indian literature, particularly in the realms of fiction, poetry, and autobiography. Sudipta Kaviraj shows that Indian writers did more than adopt new literary trends in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. They deployed these innovations to interrogate fundamental philosophical questions of modernity. Issues central to modern European social theory grew into significant themes within Indian literary reflection, such as the influence of modernity on the nature of the self, the nature of historicity, the problem of evil, the character of power under the conditions of modern history, and the experience of power as felt by an individual subject of the modern state.

How does modern politics affect the personality of a sensitive individual? Is love possible between intensely self-conscious people, and how do individuals cope with the transience of affections or the fragility of social ties? Kaviraj argues that these inquiries inform the heart of modern Indian literary tradition and that writers, such as Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay, Rabindranath Tagore, and Sibnath Sastri, performed immeasurably important work helping readers to think through the predicament of modern times.
Sudipta Kaviraj is one of the foremost scholars anywhere in the world working on South Asia. A master of the essay form, his writings on political theory and Indian politics show him to be a scholar of vast erudition, subtle analytical skill, and brilliant humor. Partha Chatterjee, Columbia University
Introduction: Literature as the Mirror of Modernity
1. On the Advantages of Being a Barbarian
2. Literature and the Moral Imaginations of Modernity
3. The Two Histories of Literary Culture in Bengal
4. A Strange Love of Abstractions: The Making of a Language of Patriotism in Modern Bengali
5. Tagore and Transformations in the Ideals of Love
6. The Poetry of Interiority: The Creation of a Language of Modern Subjectivity in Tagore's Poetry
7. Laughter and Subjectivity: The Self-Ironical Tradition in Bengali Literature
8. Reading a Song of the City: Images of the City in Literature and Films
9. The Art of Despair: The Sense of the City in Modern Bengali Poetry
10. The Invention of Private Life: A Reading of Sibnath Sastri's Autobiography
11. The Second Mahabharata
Index

"Literary criticism approaches literature primarily from the point of view of its internal aesthetic values; sociology of literature, on the other hand, seeks to understand the relation between literature and society. Some approaches to literary texts tend to reduce them to history, or historical raw material. It is interesting to see that this particular form of reduction—of literature to history—is not only a problem in modern culture … It is possible to claim that the only valid response to literature is a deferential silence. Literature is to be enjoyed, not taken apart by analysis. A possible defence of literary analysis in the face of this criticism would be that analysis is itself enjoyment of a different variety which does not interfere with the process of enjoying literature; and since great literature also helps us think about its own worlds in interesting and unprecedented ways, it is important to reflect on the way the text sees the world, and, as far as possible, the way the world saw the text."

About the Author

Sudipta Kaviraj is professor of Indian politics and intellectual history at Columbia University. He also taught for many years at SOAS, London University, and at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He has been a fellow of St. Antony's College, Oxford, and a visiting professor at the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Chicago, and Sciences Po, Paris. He is the author of The Imaginary Institution of India: Politics and Ideas.