Writers lament dilution of literary traditions

Writers Prema Nandakumar (left), Jaydeep Sarangi, and poet K. Srilata (right) at a panel discussion in Tiruchi. —Photo: M Srinath  

A lively panel discussion on Indian poetry in English was among the highlights of the day-long national conference on contemporary Indian writing in English hosted by Holy Cross College here.

The debate was mediated by writer and critic Prema Nandakumar and the panellists included Jaydeep Sarangi, associate professor of English, Jogesh Chandra Chaudhuri College, Kolkata; K. Srilata, poet and professor, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology, Madras; and Eugene D’Vaz, poet, painter and former English professor of St. Joseph’s College.

Lamenting the dilution of literary traditions, Ms. Prema Nandakumar said the addition of Indian writing as a formal curriculum subject had been fraught with resistance from university committees from the early 1950s. “The other side of the story is that now I come across students of English literature who have no idea of Beowulf. We studied old English, we didn’t simply study Beowulf,” she said.

“There are different kinds of prejudices when it comes to what to include in the curricula or not, but also the larger question of who is worthy of being read or who is to be considered a good author,” said Prof. Srilata. “Outside of academia, there are too many smokescreens, too many literary festivals, a huge number of publishing houses, self-publishing, literary agents … the enormous speed with which literature is being produced, (has made it) very hard to screen what is readable.”

Mr. Sarangi said that standardisation of the literary canon was a big challenge in a country of India’s size and plurality. “Knowing India is a really tough thing,” he said.

Eugene D’Vaz reflected on the difficulty faced by new writers in getting published in India.

Earlier, the departmental publication Inland Flashes: Essays in Contemporary Writing in English was released by Sr. Rosy Antony, Provincial, Sisters of the Cross of Chavanod, Province of Tiruchi. This was followed by the launch of Mr. Sarangi’s book Homeward Bound , the first copy of which was received by Holy Cross College principal Rev. Sr. Jeusin Francis.

The post-lunch proceedings featured the presentation of papers by writers, academics, and research scholars from Tamil Nadu and neighbouring states, and a question-and-answer session for post-graduate students with Mr. Sarangi and Prof. Srilata.

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Apr 21, 2021 8:46:56 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Tiruchirapalli/writers-lament-dilution-of-literary-traditions/article6779885.ece

Next Story