Tuesday, 30 July 2013

National Seminar on Contemporary Modern Indian Languages (MILs’) Literature

Waves in the Silent Pool:
National Seminar 
Contemporary Modern Indian Languages (MILs’) Literature
Organized by the Tagore Centre of the IIAS, Shimla 
12 – 14 August, 2013
Concept Paper
The charter of International PEN, the largest global body of writers, considers literature of the world as one, though it is being written in many languages. In the context of India, however, this avowal has its obvious limitations. Firstly, because the literature being written in India essentially follows two parallel, independent modes of being: one of Indian English literature, having long achieved a worldwide currency; and another of Modern Indian Languages’ Literature (MILs’ Literature), with hardly any global readership. Secondly, the rich MILs’ Literature, being written in 23 languages, though constrained by similar factors impeding its wider appreciation, conceding a very few instances, hardly undertakes a sustained, cross-cultural dialogue across languages.
A common academic perception is that great ideas emanating from great literatures help spin great individual life-designs, thereby upholding a greater, socio-intellectual life-project, we call the social fabric of a nation. It is through literature and arts that new ideas wing their way to us. In a multicultural and multilingual society, such as India, the mental ecology of individuals, and through that of the society as a whole, equally depends on the sustainability of its literatures. Art isn't a static thing, and change has definitely emerged as a dominant paradigm in today’s globalized literary world. And yet, a kind of literary inertia appears to hamper the MILs Literature’s much needed onward momentum. Why is it so and what are its ground realities?
In order to understand the dynamics of the range of problems encountered, it is imperative to look at MIL’s Literatures not only from the point of view of its creation, but also from that of its reception, translation, its production, as well as the dissemination. Hence, visualising a composite dialogue, the IIAS, Shimla is organising a National Seminar to bring together a wide-range of literary partners such as creative writers, literary scholars, literary translators, literary publishers, literary activists, literary festival organisers, and literary journalists of both print and electronic media to help them work in tandem so as to create a literary milieu in which global critical reception and readership gets access to MIL Literatures, too. Such a forum shall focus on how the ‘being’ of the regional Indian literatures could negotiate and ultimately transcend its self-limiting linguistic and geographical boundaries.
Instead of looking at a single thematic concern the seminar proposes to enter in a composite debate to raise the following fundamental questions, such as:
  • What is the dominant literary politics in India, if any, which must be taken into account if  we are to understand the perceived dichotomy of mental environment and literature?
  • How can a multilingual literary scene develop interface across languages for its simultaneous growth and promotion?
  • Given the lingual implications, what other ‘modes of being’ of MILs’ literatures, if any, are common to them all, and how to overcome their linguistic boundaries to unravel their inherent aesthetics, ideological and stylistic specifications?
  • Are we heading towards literary/intellectual boundaries that are characterised by the local (MILs’ Literature) and the global (Indian English Literature) phenomenon?
  • What are the problems that MILs’ Literatures face at the global level and how could these, if at all, be addressed?
  • Given the effective role that the translations/translators can play in promoting MILs’ Literatures in the global context where Indian English literatures continues to enjoy some inherent privileges  in terms of its direct reception and readership, how could MILs’ Literatures enter into this highly competitive, quality-conscious domain and gain a cutting edge? Is this the only reason for MILs’ Literature’s discontent?
  • What role do critics and reviewers of MILs’ Literature play to promote this brand on the national literary scene? Have they been able to present this literature in the English papers adequately? If not, what ameliorative steps should now be taken to turn the tide?  
  • What are the underlying beliefs, intentions and expectations of the publishing houses (and that of the author, too) while producing/designing a book? Are writers, publishers, critics partners in luring or wooing readers as buyers, or what agenda do they follow?
  • What is the role of media in sensitizing the readers of MILs’ Literature? Has it worked adequately to nurture the next generation of writers from MILs’ Literature, and their readers, ensuring that literature and its unique contribution to our culture gain real significance?
  • How far is the institutional support being rendered for the promotion of MILs’ Literature? Are the supportive resources adequately geared towards the young authors?
  • How the internet and the new socio-intellectual constituencies, suchas blogging and social media, are changing the way we look at literature, and connect with writers?

In order to deliberate over these and many related issues, IIAS, Shimla is inviting a selected number of top doyens as well as emerging writers, literary scholars, translators, publishers and cultural administrators to promote appropriate new ways and thinking of engagement with the literary endeavour of MILs’ Literature in India and abroad.
This broad based seminar is designed not to fall into the ethnographic trap, but to accomplish nuanced readings on the socio-political, cultural and aesthetic implications of the abovementioned questions. It will look towards, what Clifford Geertz calls, a ‘refinement of debate’ rather than a ‘perfection of the consensus’.

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