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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/32945

Title: The Country And The Village: Representations of the Rural in Twentieth-century South Asian Literatures
Authors: Mohan, Anupama
Advisor: Kanaganayakam, Chelva
Department: English
Keywords: Postcolonial
Rural
South Asia
Sri Lanka
Martin Wickramasinghe
Leonard Woolf
India
Literature
O. V. Vijayan
Raja Rao
Punyekante Wijenaike
Nationalism
Utopia
Heterotopia
Issue Date: 5-Sep-2012
Abstract: Twentieth-century Indian and Sri Lankan literatures (in English, in particular) have shown a strong tendency towards conceptualising the rural and the village within the dichotomous paradigms of utopia and dystopia. Such representations have consequently cast the village in idealized (pastoral) or in realist (counter-pastoral/dystopic) terms. In Chapters One and Two, I read together Mohandas Gandhi’s Hind Swaraj (1908) and Leonard Woolf’s The Village in the Jungle (1913) and argue that Gandhi and Woolf can be seen at the head of two important, but discrete, ways of reading the South Asian village vis-à-vis utopian thought, and that at the intersection of these two ways lies a rich terrain for understanding the many forms in which later twentieth-century South Asian writers chose to re-create city-village-nation dialectics. In this light, I examine in Chapter Three the work of Raja Rao (Kanthapura, 1938) and O. V. Vijayan (The Legends of Khasak, 1969) and in Chapter Four the writings of Martin Wickramasinghe (Gamperaliya, 1944) and Punyakante Wijenaike (The Waiting Earth, 1966) as providing a re-visioning of Gandhi’s and Woolf’s ideas of the rural as a site for civic and national transformation. I conclude by examining in Chapter Five Michael Ondaatje’s Anil’s Ghost (2000) and Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry Tide (2005) as emblematic of a recent turn in South Asian fiction centred on the rural where the village embodies a “heterotopic” space that critiques and offers a conceptual alternative to the categorical imperatives of utopia and dystopia. I use Michel Foucault’s notion of the “heterotopia” to re-evaluate the utopian dimension in these novels. Although Foucault himself under-theorized the notion of heterotopia and what he did say connected the idea to urban landscapes and imaginaries, we may yet recuperate from his formulations a “third space” of difference that provides an opportunity to rethink the imperatives of utopia in literature and helps understand the rural in twentieth-century South Asian writing in new ways.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/32945
Appears in Collections:Doctoral

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