ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Lesser Known Life of a Hindi Journal in Colonial Lucknow

Hindi Publishing in Colonial Lucknow: Gender, Genre, and Visuality in the Creation of a Literary ‘Canon’ by Shobna Nijhawan, Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2018; pp xviii + 241, `1,050.


On page 29 of Shobna Nijhawan’s Hindi Publishing in Colonial Lucknow: Gender, Genre, and Visuality in the Creation of a Literary ‘Canon’ we are made to pause at a black and white photograph of a building in ruins. The closed shutters, the dark gaping archway and the signs of dereliction make the story Nijhawan tells all the more poignant. The photograph contrasts with the bright mustard yellow backdrop of the book cover, used to juxtapose lively images from Sudha, a Hindi literary journal. Nijhawan’s book chronicles the life of this journal, published by the Ganga Pustak Mala Karyalaya, Lucknow, between the years 1927 and 1942. The photograph of the Karyalaya building is a reminder of the depleted archives and challenging circumstances faced by researchers choosing this domain of inquiry. The cover montage from Sudha suggests a dogged persistence at work in pursuing the fast disappearing traces of a robust literary culture.

Despite incomplete archives and scant information on the publishing house, Nijhawan builds her case study through richly detailed accounts of the content, layout, artwork, advertisements and design of Sudha, invoking newer ways of reading journals along a “horizontal” and “vertical” axis simultaneously. She reminds us that histories of print culture in colonial India are necessarily conjectural at some level, requiring us to consider alternative analytical tools and methodology. Nijhawan is not new to this inquiry. However, while her earlier book focused entirely on journal culture for women and girls in Hindi, this book is ambitious in a different way (Nijhawan 2012). Her masterful “biography” of the journal Sudha juxtaposes the concerns of gender, genre and visuality in a manner not seen before. It makes good the scholarly promise of book history in South Asia while also shifting disciplinary boundaries.

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Updated On : 3rd Jan, 2020
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