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Nationalism, Genre and Childhood in Colonial Indian Children's Literature

Dasgupta, Sreemoyee (2021) Nationalism, Genre and Childhood in Colonial Indian Children's Literature. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Though Childhood Studies has been gradually diversifying, children’s literature of the Global South is still understudied. This has resulted in a normative understanding of the concept of ‘multiple childhoods,’ a concept that is gradually permeating the field in opposition to universalist global formulations of childhood which fail to account for both the history and the experiences of non-Western, marginalized childhoods. Postcolonial scholarship rarely addresses the role of children’s literature in nationalist discourses. Moreover, the pre-existing literature on colonial childhoods is dominated by historical and sociological analyses, relegating the role of the literary, a highly prominent public sphere in anti-colonial debates, to a peripheral position.
My dissertation addresses this lacuna by arguing for the centrality of the literary and concept of childhood to the understanding of political autonomy in late nineteenth and early twentieth-century colonial India and highlighting the primacy of age categories to colonial practices and postcolonial policies. It does so by approaching colonial childhood through the reception and consumption of nineteenth-century British literature and ideas of childhood in colonial India, and their impact on the production and publication of Indian children’s literature, with a focus on Bengali texts. My goal is to track the role of the literary in the creation and circulation of conversations about childhood within the juvenile periphery in India and to trace its political import within the Indian nationalists’ nascent visions of nationhood. My dissertation also demonstrates that within India, Bengal’s position as a forerunner in both nationalist politics and colonial education uniquely situates works of Bengali children’s literature as potent political artifacts and signifiers of contemporary visions of nationhood. Examining colonial children’s literature can lead to an epistemological alternative to “global, universal” ideals of childhood which originated in the 19th century in Europe. Ultimately, it radically challenges postcolonial scholarship’s neglect of the role children’s literature in nationalist discourses by demonstrating the processes by which the ontology of childhood determines transnational literary practices of colonialism and vice versa. Central to my argument lies the claim that analyzing conceptions of childhood is crucial to understanding the colonial enterprise. At the intersection of literary studies, colonial history, nationalist politics, and the history of the book, my project is positioned to investigate this claim.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Dasgupta, SreemoyeeSRD51@PITT.EDU
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairWeikle-Mills,
Committee MemberBickford,
Committee MemberMajumdar,
Committee MemberGrenby,
Date: 8 October 2021
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 2 August 2021
Approval Date: 8 October 2021
Submission Date: 28 September 2021
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 232
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > English
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Childhood, Children's Literature, India, Colonial India, South Asia
Date Deposited: 08 Oct 2021 19:48
Last Modified: 08 Oct 2021 19:48


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