The Department of English at Maharaja Agrasen College was privileged to invite renowned academic, formerly Professor and Head, Department of English, University of Delhi, Prof. Harish Trivedi to deliver its Annual Lecture on September 18, 2014. The event was held in the college premises at Vasundhara Enclave in collaboration with FORTELL which has a large footprint in the college.
Prof. Trivedi stands tall as an eminent scholar, critic and writer, giving a new direction to postcolonial studies in India and abroad. A few weeks prior to his visit to Maharaja Agrasen College a festschrift titled India and the World (edited by Ruth Vanita) was released in his honour. Since 2004, Prof. Trivedi himself has been associated with an international collegium working to put together a literary history of the world, locating the literary history of India in relation with the rest of the world.
Speaking therefore, on the topic India and the World: A Literary History, Prof. Trivedi questioned the uni-dimensional approach of history as a continuous master narrative of dynasties and political events. While this approach has its own significance, there is now a new understanding of history which is intangible and which records interactions of sensibilities; of why and what we got from others and what we gave in exchange. A literary history makes this understanding possible.
Prof. Trivedi lamented that today we are so caught up with the linguistic and literary sensibilities of the Western world (primarily in the English language) that there is no cognizance of the significant literary interactions India has had with China and South-East Asian countries since the ancient times and thereafter with the Middle East, Central Asian countries or the Muslim world. Translations of Indian religious and Buddhist texts, scriptures and other classics made Indian literature available to these worlds. In fact, some of these Indian texts are today available only in translation and not in the original Indian language! On the other hand, the nature of the relationship between the Indians and their British rulers played a significant role in determining the kind of literature that was accessed by the West through English translations. Prof. Trivedi also highlighted the fact that in our present obsession with the English speaking world we have taken little cognizance of literatures and litterateurs in Indian languages.
Prof. Trivedi’s scholarship and erudition received a standing ovation from the large audience at Maharaja Agrasen College.
Mona Sinha is Associate Professor in Department of English, Maharaja Agrasen College, University of Delhi. She has taught and researched in areas of translation, gender studies, media and cultural studies.