Academia to Cultural Politics
NARRATIVE: FORMS AND TRANS¬FORMATIONS by Sudhakar Marathe and Meena¬kshi Mukherjee Chanakya Publications, Delhi , 1987, 225 pp., 130
July-August 1987, volume 11, No 4

This is an engaging book, and it only narrowly misses being an important one. By widening the scope of traditional ‘lit. crit’. concerns to include analyses of non-western, non-literary, and even oral narrative forms, the contributors demonstrate how academic critics may engage in cultural politics through a process that the editors have described, simply thus: ‘(A) paper starts with theory, and spills over into life….’This engagement comes, for the most part, out of their responsiveness to the formalist and structuralist poetic theories current in the western academy in the sixties and the seventies (where it is somewhat passe now). Sometimes the allegiance leads to a mechanical ‘application’ of these theories, but in the best papers, it leads to a genuine opening up of ways of looking at the text. Three of the papers explicitly consider colonial fiction. Jashodra Bagchi’s essay on Bankimchandra’s Anandmath and Meenakshi Mukherjee’s on Premchand’s Godan relate formal and thematic concerns in the novels they discuss in such a way that it is their formal ‘flaws’ and disjunctions that provide the critical levers. According to Bagchi the ‘non-narrative structure’ of Bankim’s late fiction is the result of the ‘crisis’ in the ‘last phase of his social thought’.

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