We believe that this is a critical moment at which to turn our gaze back on English Studies in India, to trace the journey that it has made since English scholars and teachers had examined its shape and future in the early 1990s, to scrutinize its current sense of crisis and despair, and to identify ways in which its future – and ours – can be reinvented.

Almost exactly twenty years after Gauri Viswanathan, Sara Suleri, Svati Joshi, Rajeswari Sunder Rajan and others engaged so closely with questions around English Literary Studies in India, several crucially-altered parameters – indigenism largely replaced by celebrations of globality, multiculturalism in lieu of anti-imperialist paradigms for the ‘Third World’ in the West, the staggering surge in student enrolment in English courses at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels (due to new reservation policies as well as what is perceived as a demand for the English degree), new anxieties amongst aspiring teachers because of qualification requirements like the unfathomable NET examination, and a strange silence about Eng Lit pedagogies even as the discipline has come under an entirely new set of policy-threats over the past decade or so – demands a return to the question of the state of English Studies in India in the new century.

From our current location, can we define the idea of the literary from a fresh perspective? There are competing ideas of the literary; within these various ideas, an experience of English Literary Studies in India should perhaps consist of a synthesis of workable, practical demands of the job market and that of the student community, along with a sustained and engaged interest in the discipline of English literature.

Our vision of engLitIndiaNow includes grappling with these, and other, urgent components of English Literary Studies today:

  • A contextualization and history of English Literature. A strong notion of transactional and dynamic exchanges would be built into such historicising relating to questions of embodiment, labour, empire, sexualities, ethics.
  • Reworking the whole notion of aesthetics. Keeping in mind our particular locational space, one way is to work on the idea of a modern aesthetic sensibility that is deeply conscious of expression, representation and nature of art objects and yet is severely referential and intellectual. It is by connecting the two that one can work with the materiality of artistic production, reception and dissemination. engLitIndiaNow will provide a serious engagement with aesthetic interestedness, in the materiality of the aesthetic craft and imagination. The literary is purposive—it moves from the type to the particular.
  • A robust comprehension and engagement with the oral, visual and performative along with an investment in print and textual cultures. The transmission of stories/art work, public recitations, snippets of conversations, musical genres, curative utterances and soundscapes along with manifestoes and documents/documentaries, correspondence and polemics constitute significant elements of the literary.
  • The idea of the literary significantly implies appreciating and reflecting upon phrases and utterances—both from analytical and imaginative points of view. That means regular interruptions while reading and writing, taking frequent pauses and interrogating, arguing, revising concepts and ideas.

engLitIndiaNow will be constructed on the idea of the dialogic and the polyvalent, in teaching, learning and research. We will not look for unity in dialogue but rather work on fostering vitality. Our main obligation is to refine questions instead of finding easy solutions: sharing itself means differing radically and with respect. We will thrive on a climate of dissensus.

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