Exploring Emotional History – Shivangi Bhardwaj

Ray, Rajat Kanta. Exploring Emotional History: gender, mentality and literature in the Indian awakening. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

The book talks about the emotional history of the country that intersects with other fields like intellectual history and literature. The author looks at Indian literature post-Independence more specifically Bengali literature. Indian literature helps reveal the cultural consciousness of a country. The substance of Indian poetry recreates the emotions and verbalises the subconscious of the thinking mind. The collective identity of Indian literature does not denote a collective thinking, rather a distinct psyche of the Indian mind. This psyche, the writer says is formulated of symbols, sentiments and categories which has been inherited from a tradition that stands for its antiquity. So, while the Indians adopted several notions of the West, so there came a mix of the older erotic style with a newer approach, which reflects in the translation of Indian texts. In the contemporary Indian literatures there is still an influence of the older notions. The cultural identity of the country reflects in every piece of literature through the characters, their situations and their dialogues. The Indian literature universe is separate and is connected through the regional languages with the predominance of the idea of sentiments that rise out of the consciousness which is moulded by traditional images that have been derived from historical texts and epics. The book does not look beyond the ideal Bengal Renaissance which limits the field of study and leads to a slight danger of generalization which is the biggest problem that is faced by Indian Literatures in contemporary times.

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