Society and Politics

Organiser: Eline Batsleer (Ghent University)

The panel investigates the relationship between literary works and their contexts, with a particular emphasis on social and political dynamics. Of course, the society/history-literature cannot be reduced to a strict cause-and-effect relationship. On the contrary, as Ricoeur argued, the literary work reconfigures the starting model: mimesis is never a copy, and even less when it refers to social and political aspects. As modernists have always avoided direct and explicit stances, the political and social ribbing of the works is even more delicate in the case of Modernism. Yet, this does not preclude the presence of political elements in their works. The papers in this panel will uncover the political matrix and social focus within works that have a high rate of stylistic experimentation, and, above all, that deem it impossible to express definitive and universal world views. As such, the papers will explore a key question underlying the complex links between Modernism, politics, and society: how does one socially and politically narrate the world, if one believes that everything is relative?

The panel consists of four papers: Christina Bezari (Ghent University) examines the emergence of a new literary aesthetic in interwar Spain known as “la joven literatura” and analyzes women’s role in shaping this movement. To this end, she draws on literary magazines from the 1920s and 1930s to shed light on the critiques that were addressed to the female poets who participated in the new literary movement of the time. Taniya Neogi (Vidyagasar University) examines the colonial modernity of travellers – flâneurs who are both the spectators and the spectacle within the Empire’s capital. In particular, she focuses on the travel account With Cyclists Around the World written by three Parsi men- Adi B. Hakim, Lal P. Bapasola and Rustom B. Bhumgara who embarked on an unprecedented and astounding bicycle trip around the world in 1923, covering 44000 miles in four and a half years. The travel account documents the presence of Indian subjects, who, during the interwar years, positioned themselves as atypical flâneurs in the imperial cities of Europe and the colonial cities of Persia, China, Japan, French, Indo-China as they witnessed the Empire in its twilight period. Looking at mobility that overturns the centre-margin equation in the context of both race and gender in a post-colonial and post-modern world, Deblina Hazra (Presidency University Kolkata) reads Nabaneeta Dev Sen’s travel narratives vis-à-vis her unique subjective position as a divorced single mother from India travelling to Occidental spaces to both observe and be observed. Chowdhury (Ambedkar University Delhi) highlights political and insurgent humour in the caricatures of three leading practitioners of the form in early postcolonial India (Pramatha Chaudhuri, PC Lahiri, Chittaprasad Bhattacharya) and offers a critique of their work in the context of modernist caricature practises at the precise moment of India’s entry into the geo-historical category of the post-colonial


Sayandeb Chowdhury (Ambedkar University Delhi) – To Hell with the Modern Nation: Restless Satire and Insurgent Humour in Early Postcolonial India

Taniya Neogi (Vidyasagar University)Flâneur from the Fringes: Reading Modernity, Mobility and Identity in With Cyclists Around the World

Deblina Hazra (Presidency University Kolkata) – Empire Travels Back: Subversion of Gender and Racial Hierarchies in the Modernist Travel Narratives of Nabaneeta Dev Sen

Christina Bezari (Ghent University) – “Those Books Could not Have Been Ours: We Were Women”: Ernestina de Champourcín and the Modernist Press in Interwar Spain (1918–1936)