Ali Sardar Jafri (1913-2000) was an influential Urdu poet and critic, as well as a leading figure in the taraqqī pasand taḥrīk (Progressive Writers’ Movement), which espouses Marxist literary sensibilities. Carlo Coppola, a pioneer in the study of modern Urdu literature, spoke to Jafri in 1968 about the historical, ideological, and aesthetic orientations of the Progressives.
Since the early twentieth century, Urdu poets have recited verse at locally-organized poetry gatherings held in country fairs across North India’s Gangetic plain. Critical engagement with these mushāʿarahs overturns assumptions about historical and affiliative aspects of vernacular and elite literary practices, revealing a patchwork of patronage, influence, and taste among poets and their audiences, while also highlighting unexpected routes of textual circulation outside urban locales. This essay examines poetry gatherings in and around the city of Muzaffarnagar located in North India’s Upper Doab. Ethnographic and archival materials tell a history of the performance arenas, tea stalls, and municipal structures of a semi-urban milieu that changes the scale of Urdu literary spaces over time.
In histories of the Urdu novel, the name of G.W.M. Reynolds (1814-1879) is either not mentioned at all or only in passing reference to his possible influence on Sharar, Urdu’s first writer of historical romances. But the actual role that this ill-reputed contemporary of Dickens played in the development of Urdu prose fiction was far greater. By 1918, twenty-four of his massive works were available in Urdu, some in more than one translation, and all reprinted more than once. Among his translators were a number of significant poets and fiction writers of the time. Arguably, between 1890s and 1920, Reynolds was not only the most widely read author in Urdu but also the most admired. He influenced not only writers of historical romances, but also inspired what can be best described as the earliest original crime tales in Urdu.
Some of the most important structural patterns and devices used in individual ghazal verses by the famous poet Mirza Asadullah Khan ‘Ghalib’ are identified and analyzed; their literary effectiveness is illustrated with examples and discussion. In particular, the paper considers two such patterns. One set of verses have a ‘twist’ to them, such that the reader (or, ideally, hearer) is first misled or confused, then at the last possible moment is suddenly and almost explosively enlightened. Another set of verses create an inherently unresolvable ‘tangle’ of several possible meanings which cannot be either affirmed or rejected on any non-arbitrary grounds. The context-free independence of such small ghazal verses, together with their division into two formally distinct and performatively separated lines, makes for unusual poetic constraints and opportunities. The author has prepared an extensive commentarial website on the poetry of Ghalib and Mir.
The reception of Mullā Ṣadrā in South Asia began soon after his death through the dissemination and commentary culture on his Sharḥ al-Hidāyah that was adopted into the Dars-e Niz̤āmī pedagogy in the eighteenth century. However, the modern reception of his thought in Urdu has been somewhat removed from that initial scholastic engagement. I examine four modalities of this reception: translation of his major work the Asfār; analytic engagement by a philosophy doctorate; triumphalism in the literary sphere; and responses to the intellectual challenge of the West by a Shiʿi seminary student. I attempt to show that these varied receptions are indicative of trends and developments in the modern intellectual history of Pakistan.
African-Asian interactions contribute to the emergence of a decentred, multi-polar world in which different actors need to redefine themselves and their relations to each other.
Afrasian Transformations explores these changes to map out several arenas where these transformations have already produced startling results: development politics, South-South cooperation, cultural memory, mobile lifeworlds and transcultural connectivity. The contributions in this volume neither celebrate these shifting dynamics as felicitous proof of a new age of South-South solidarity, nor do they debunk them as yet another instance of burgeoning geopolitical hegemony. Instead, they seek to come to terms with the ambivalences, contradictions and potential benefits entailed in these transformations – that are also altering our understanding of (trans)area in an increasingly globalized world.
Contributors include: Seifudein Adem, Nafeesah Allen, Hanna Getachew Amare, Tom De Bruyn, Casper Hendrik Claassen, Astrid Erll, John Njenga Karugia, Guive Khan-Mohammad, Vinay Lal, Pavan Kumar Malreddy, Jamie Monson, Diderot Nguepjouo, Satwinder Rehal, Ute Röschenthaler, Alexandra Samokhvalova, and Sophia Thubauville.
Detecting Chinese Modernities: Rupture and Continuity in Modern Chinese Detective Fiction (1896–1949), Yan Wei historicizes the two stages in the development of Chinese detective fiction and discusses the rupture and continuity in the cultural transactions, mediation, and appropriation that occurred when the genre of detective fiction traveled to China during the first half of the twentieth century. Wei identifies two divergent, or even opposite strategies for appropriating Western detective fiction during the late Qing and the Republican periods. She further argues that these two periods in the domestication of detective fiction were also connected by shared emotions. Both periods expressed ambivalent and sometimes contradictory views regarding Chinese tradition and Western modernity.