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Theatre and the Making of the Modern Indian Subject in late Nineteenth Century India


In my current work, I analyze gender, class, and aesthetic performance, resistance to particular forms of class-based aesthetic practice, and the political space that emerges in the struggles over aesthetic form. I interrogate the formation of subjectivity and popular culture in western India from 1843-1900, by locating those themes within Marathi musical theatre. My central concern is how the emerging practice of popular theatre intervened in the formation of a new Indian subjectivity, and dispersed the intellectual discourse of religiosity, secularism, gender, and Indian-ness to a broadly illiterate public. Arguing that we cannot begin to think of subjectivity in colonial India without popular culture--specifically musical theatre--I divide my dissertation into three sections: a historiographic intervention into the periodization of Marathi drama, an exploration of the interconnections between translations of Sanskrit and English plays into Marathi, and their production of gender and subjectivity, and finally plays about marriage. The translations I analyze in my second chapter--of Shakuntala as Shakuntal the Musical by Annasaheb Kirloskar and a play by Govind Deval entitled Durga (1886), based on Thomas Southerne's The Fatal Marriage (1694)--are, I argue, simultaneously an act of bringing the past into the present, but also of creating an equivalent Indian modern subjectivity, equivalent to the liberal bourgeois subject of David Hume and Adam Smith. Finally, in the third chapter I suggest that women were the first "modern" Indians. My conclusion, and the direction of the dissertation, is to chart a trajectory of how popular culture created typologies for behavior and conduct, thus engendering the modern Indian subject in the late 19th century

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