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Reading India's Partition Through Literature

Arnal Dilantha Dayaratna
Duke University
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From Google Books: In the chapters that follow, I argue that South Asian literature about the 1947 partition of colonial India converges on the topic of masculinity as the decades unfold from the 1940s onwards. In other words, partition literature evinces a qualitative shift in its scope and theoretical preoccupations between 1940 and 2003. The 1940s mark a preoccupation with questions about women and girls in relation to partition. From the 1950s onwards, questions about masculinity become more and central to the imaginary of novels, short stories and films about the partition of India. Khushwant Singh's 1956 novel Train to Pakistan, for example, takes up questions about homosexuality and its relation to Hindu nationalism. After 1960, partition literature develops an increasingly elaborate vocabulary for thinking about masculinity in relation to the partition of colonial India. Writers such as Attia Hossain, Salman Rushdie and Chandraprakash Dwivedi think about the historical relation of South Asian masculinity to India's partition in increasingly subtle and complex ways. These writers think about topics such as generational differences amongst Hindu and Muslim men and the historical place of discourses of fatherhood in nationalism in colonial India.