Gender, Genre, and the Idea of Indian Literature: Hindi and Tamil Short Story Writing in Post-Independence India


ACLS Fellowship Program


African, Middle Eastern, and South Asian Languages and Literatures


This project explores how the short story became the key medium through which Hindi and Tamil writers articulated the function of literature following Indian independence (1947). It was not the popularity and accessibility of the genre alone, but rather the intersections of these traits with popular notions of gender, that enabled the Hindi and Tamil story forms to define literature’s role in society and contribute to the new state’s effort to achieve national integration through literature. Hindi and Tamil writers creatively drew on representations of the Indian woman that had become commonly used tropes for interrogating tradition and modernity in colonial debates on social reform and nationalism. Yet, their intersecting uses of gender and genre also engaged regionally specific concerns about literature, language, and identity in the post-independence moment. Conducting the first comparison of these two major literary spheres, this project offers a method of studying Indian literature as comparative literature.