By Indian English Writing, we mean that body of literature which is written by Indians in English. It could be in the form of poetry, prose, fiction or drama. English is not our mother tongue and we are not native speakers of English, yet when in the early decades of the nineteenth century, English was introduced as the medium of instruction in our educational system, Indians were able to read Western literature that was available in English. They found the language and the literature versatile and some intellectuals took to conveying their social and religious thoughts in this language. The writings of people like Raja Ram Mohun Roy, Swami Vivekananda, Mahatma Gandhi and others started pouring in and gave rise to a body of prose literature having great socio-cultural relevance. Soon poets like Romesh Chandra Dutt, Toru Dutt and many others took to writing poetry in English. But this literature was highly influenced by the style and content of English literature. When Sarojini Naidiu wrote poetry while in England and showed it to Sir Edmund Gosse, he advised her to write about her own culture/country so that the outsiders would also come to know of India.
When Indians started using the English language creatively there were critics who felt that since English was not our native tongue, this writing did "not belong to the soil." But, scholars like K.R. Srinivasa Iyengar and C.D. Narasimhaiah spotted great potential in it. Iyenger's books Indo-Angliun Literature, (1943) and The Indian Contribution to English Literature, (1945) gave credibility to Indian writing in English. His Indian Writing in English (1962) was the first comprehensive history of this literature. C.D. Narasimhaiah categorically stated in his The Swan and the Eagle (1969), "Indian writing in English is to me primarily part of the literature of India." General Introduction According to him so long as the "operative sensibility" is Indian, the writing is to the Indian English
Another important question was to give some name to this writing. In the early decades it was called "Anglo-Indian" writing, to cover all writing in English about India, whether by Indians or Europeans. This umbrella term did not fit well to the Indian setting. K.R. Srinivasa Iyengar's book Indo-Anglian Literature gave it a distinct name and the literature written in English by Indians came to be known as Indo-Anglian Literature. Later, it was called Indian Writing in English and now the popular term is Indian English Literature. The Sahitya Akademi, which has published histories of Hindi Literature, Malayalam Literature etc., has a History of Indian English Literature (1980) written by M.K. Naik.
17.5.1 The Beginning
India has a long tradition of story telling. The Panchatantra, Hitopadesha, Jatakas, Vetala Panchavinshati and Katha-Sarit-Sagara are perennial sources of stories. The style and technique of narration is also unique in that these stories are linked together by the frame-narrator, with one story leading on to the other and holding the interest of the reader/listener. But, though these stories in oral form reigned long and supreme, they cannot fall in the category of the 'novel'.
Similarly, dramas, epics, lyrics and poetry have existed here since centuries. We know of Kalidasa and Bhavabhuti; we are aware of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata; and we have enjoyed the lilting Sanskrit lyrics, and the regional language poetry. All this forms the rich corpus of our literature. However, the novel in India came in at a much later stage. In fact, it emerged only after the introduction of English in the Indian educational pattern. Inspired by the English novel, Indians too, experimented with this genre in the regional languages. Some of these Indian novels were...
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