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CDN and the Horizon of English Studies in India

Simi Malhotra

By C.D. Narasimhaiah
Pencraft International, New Delhi, 2002, pp. 272, Rs. 495.00


C.D. Narasimhaiah is more of an institu- tion than anything else. It is not easy to come across ‘a mere village shopkeeper’s son’ (p.11) going on in the 1940s for an English Tripos at Cambridge, finding F. R. Leavis as his Tutor there, getting nominated by him for a Rockefeller Fellowship to Princeton, making acquaintances with R. P. Blackmur, returning to India to a professorship at the University of Mysore, discovering that British literature is not all that English literature has for store, spending more than half a century to popularize and academise literatures in American, Indian, Canadian, Australian, African, Caribbean and all forms of other Englishes, as well as introducing classical Indian poetics to English studies through his journal The Literary Criterion and his very own institute The Literary Criterion Centre for English Studies and Indigenous Arts, Dhvanyaloka, Mysore, and at the end of it all, getting recognized not just by students and fellow academics but by the Indian government, which conferred the Padma Bhushan on him in 1990. Therefore, when one came across the latest book by this octogenarian living legend, one took it up less with the intention to critique it, and more as a historical account by the man himself of his travails with the changing horizons of English studies in India. Needless to say, many of his observations, most of the articles included in the volume being older publications, seem quite commonsensical now, but instead of trashing them as trite, one discovers with awe that the ‘common sense’ one accepts so unquestioningly in contemporary literary scholarship is much the product of this one man, C. D. Narasimhaiah’s endeavours. After all, one who can say, “In retrospect, it is gratifying to note that the concept of English Studies in independent India which I attempted to chart out has been adopted over the past three decades in most universities in the country. Scholars who have called it a ‘pioneering work’ and a ‘one-man revolution,’ I should like to think, have been partial to me. The endeavour has simply been in the nature of contributing my bit towards widening the horizons of this discipline and firming up the validity of its teaching in our universities” (p.15), is at once too great and too humble to contend with. Instead of harping on the dated nature of its arguments, the current volume has to be read as a ...

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