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Pluralizing Nationalism: Narrative, Politics and the Figure of the Revolutionary in the Hindi Novel from the 1930s to the 1950s


This dissertation investigates the figure of the revolutionary in the Hindi novel by establishing its lineage in the literary tradition of the Bengali novel from the eighteen eighties to the nineteen twenties, as well

as its lineage in the historical world of the nineteen twenties in the

debate between Gandhi and the several revolutionaries who were hanged by colonial authorities. The usefulness of the Hindi novels of the nineteen thirties to the nineteen fifties is that they served as the primary site for an elaborated introspection of the aims and motivations of the revolutionaries. The novel-form yields a diversity of responses to the meaning of revolutionary action. Each of the three Hindi novelists

discussed has a singular perspective. Jainendra uses the interruption of

the apathetic middle-class household by the revolutionary to probe the

unexpected opening of political as well as sexual desire. Agyeya uses the

imminence of punitive death by the colonial authorities as an occasion for

an extended meditation on the entirety of the subjective forces that

shaped the revolutionary's brief life. Yashpal uses the revolutionary

figure to demonstrate a variety of evolving political thought in the

interwar years, especially the relation of older forms of anti-colonialism

predicated on the simple experience of injustice to the new, unabsorbed,

mutating ideas of international socialism. All three novelists extended

the bare political ideal of anti-colonial revolution into new domains of

heterosexual desire and modes of subjectivation, thus facilitating the

cross-fertilization of the novelistic form between, on the one hand,

conventional social realism and on the other hand, the many emergent and experimental modernist forms.

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