The rich scope of comparative studies in studying Indian Literature.


The rich scope of comparative studies in studying Indian Literature.


'The comparatist has to know that comparative literature is a method of investigation while world literature is a body of valuable literary works'(Das 96). Despite this, the term 'comparative literature ' remains ambiguous to many practitioners, students and scholars in India, who , one would expect, are familiar with the debate surrounding the discipline because it addresses the crucial issues of pluralism and cultural democracy in the subcontinent. The purpose of this seminar is to specifically address this space, which has existed in a disciplinary formation in India since 1956, but arises, as has been pointed out above, from the plural horizons of culture shared across the continent. The concept of comparative literature in India received an impetus from Rabindranath Tagore's lecture delivered on the subject when he was invited by National Council of Education in 1907.

But the idea of Comparative Literature suggested by Das, a practicing comparatist, is different from the idea expressed by Tagore. Studying Indian literature demands a comparative method, and this cannot be substituted by the direct application of any method or theory imported from outside the plural culture in which the literature is located. Hence the 'mainstream' of Comparative Literature practice may have suggestions to offer the Indian comparatist, but the task of finding the method for Comparative Literature in India - not an 'Indian' Comparative Literature, for often enough we may have to question the very basis of methods laid down by the 'mainstream'- lies with us. This would qualify it be an academic discipline.

The rich scope of comparative studies in studying Indian Literature.

We may place the idea of Comparative Literature in a broader perspective by reading it alongside the 'history' of the discipline elsewhere in the world. As academic discipline it emerged in the recent period. The term 'litteratur comparee' was first used by Villemain, a French scholar in 1829. The Indian situation may be contrasted with these endeavours in that India is multicultural and multi-linguistic. In such scenario, an 'inter-literary condition' used by Amiya Dev to describe Indian literature, is the norm rather than the exception. Since the basic objective of comparative literature is to counteract the hegemony and the professed autonomy of national literatures, by shifting the theoretical focus towards plurality and dynamism. We imagine that the minimum requisite of a comparative study is to start with at least two literatures. But as Das has reminded us, Comparative Literature is a method, not an object of study - hence we are interested in how to study literature: how literature, i.e. what we are studying, is created or produced, and how it elicits from us the responses that makes it 'literature' rather than a text of the social sciences. Besides, the binary view, comparing A to B, may not be sufficient to meet the full demand of the study of comparative literatures as several literatures are produced in different languages in all countries as an indivisible whole.

Larger part of ancient Indian literature was produced in Sanskrit. The influences or affinities between literatures which have been produced in modern Indian languages in order to project India as one nation could not be studied largely due to inaccessibility of the Sanskrit language to the majority in India but its similitude was found with Persian and Arabic, and Greek and Latin. This should have provided historical guidelines for a comparative practice of pluralism in order to understand the inter-literariness of the Indian literary culture. Warren Hastings, the first Governor General of India, pleaded for a comparative study of Gita and European works of great merit. But is comparison with the west the only criterion for the study of comparative Indian literature? Whether it is language or culture or political boundary that would limit the study to a sole criterion and hence a single perspective, which is against the very ideology of Comparative Literature

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