V. Rajesh — Progressivism in Tamil Literature

Conférence de V. Rajesh, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) Mohali, Punjab

Dans le cadre de l’atelier thématique du CEIAS

Régionalisme & Cosmopolitisme : L’Inde du Sud

Le mardi 17 juillet 2018, de 11h à 12h, Salle 751 (7e étage), 54 boulevard Raspail, 75006 Paris

The All-India Progressive Writers Association (AIPWA) formed in late 1930s had considerable impact in the regional literatures of the subcontinent. Emerging in the context of anti-imperialism, anti-fascism and Indian national movement, the progressive literary movement was influenced by socialism, communism and radical humanism. The regional character of the movement is a fascinating story yet to be documented in southern India. The organizational form of the movement was established quite early in Kerala and Andhra where Malayalam and Telugu literature came under the spell of progressivism respectively. In Tamil, the term murppokku ilakkiyam referring to progressive literature was used quite often in 1940s when efforts were made to form an association of progressive writers in discrete ways by such literary figures like Tamil Oli (1924-1965), T.M. Chidambara Ragunathan (1923-2001) and T.K. Sivasankaran (1925-2014). These efforts never translated into setting up of a durable organization of progressive writers in Tamil language. However, such individual efforts resulted in prolific writings on the subject and publication of literary magazines like Santhi (by Ragunathan), Saraswati (by Vijayabaskaran) and Tamarai (by Jeevanandam) that professed progressive ideology and introduced a new generation of writers. It was only in early 1960s with the efforts of communist leader Jeevanandam that a broad based organization for progressive writers and artists, Tamilnatu Kalai Ilakkiya Perumantram was formed at a conference in Coimbatore. It continues to exist in Tamilnadu today as a cultural front of the Tamilnadu unit of Communist Party of India (CPI). In mid-1970s as a result of ideological differences and a decade after a split in Indian communist movement, Tamizhnadu Murpokku Ezhuthalar Sangam (Tamilnadu Progressive Writers Association) was formed. Today, Murpokku Ezhuthalar Sangam is a mass cultural front of CPI(M) (Communist Party of India (Marxist)) in Tamilnadu. My talk will attempt to provide a critical overview of the history of this movement from 1940s to 1980s and analyse its place in the history of contemporary literature in Tamil.

V. Rajesh is Assistant Professor in History in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) Mohali, Punjab. He is currently investigating the history of progressive literary movement in Tamil language and the intellectual history of early communist movement in Tamilnadu. He is the author of Manuscripts, Memory and History: Classical Tamil Literature in Colonial India, Cambridge University Press, New Delhi, 2014.


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