The charter of International PEN, the largest global body of writers, considers literature of the world as one, though it is being written in many languages. In the context of India, however, this avowal has its obvious limitations. Firstly, because the literature being written in India essentially follows two parallel, independent modes of being: one of Indian English literature, having long achieved a worldwide currency; and another of Modern Indian Languages’ Literature (MILs’ Literature), with hardly any global readership. Secondly, the rich MILs’ Literature, being written in 23 languages, though constrained by similar factors impeding its wider appreciation, conceding a very few instances, hardly undertakes a sustained, cross-cultural dialogue across languages.
A common academic perception is that great ideas emanating from great literatures help spin great individual life-designs, thereby upholding a greater, socio-intellectual life-project, we call the social fabric of a nation. It is through literature and arts that new ideas wing their way to us. In a multicultural and multilingual society, such as India, the mental ecology of individuals, and through that of the society as a whole, equally depends on the sustainability of its literatures. Art isn't a static thing, and change has definitely emerged as a dominant paradigm in today’s globalized literary world. And yet, a kind of literary inertia appears to hamper the MILs Literature’s much needed onward momentum. Why is it so and what are its ground realities?
In order to understand the dynamics of the range of problems encountered, it is imperative to look at MIL’s Literatures not only from the point of view of its creation, but also from that of its reception, translation, its production, as well as the dissemination. Hence, visualising a composite dialogue, the IIAS, Shimla is organising a National Seminar to bring together a wide-range of literary partners such as creative writers, literary scholars, literary translators, literary publishers, literary activists, literary festival organisers, and literary journalists of both print and electronic media to help them work in tandem so as to create a literary milieu in which global critical reception and readership gets access to MIL Literatures, too. Such a forum shall focus on how the ‘being’ of the regional Indian literatures could negotiate and ultimately transcend its self-limiting linguistic and geographical boundaries.
Instead of looking at a single thematic concern the seminar proposes to enter in a composite debate to raise the following fundamental questions, such as:
In order to deliberate over these and many related issues, IIAS, Shimla is inviting a selected number of top doyens as well as emerging writers, literary scholars, translators, publishers and cultural administrators to promote appropriate new ways and thinking of engagement with the literary endeavour of MILs’ Literature in India and abroad.
This broad based seminar is designed not to fall into the ethnographic trap, but to accomplish nuanced readings on the socio-political, cultural and aesthetic implications of the abovementioned questions. It will look towards, what Clifford Geertz calls, a ‘refinement of debate’ rather than a ‘perfection of the consensus’.
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