C. D. Narasimhaiah and the formulation of 'Indian Sensibility'

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C. N. Ramachandran


Prof. C. D. Narasimhaiah personifies as it were intense passion for literature and liberal humanism in world view. Born to a poor family in a small town in south India (Karnataka), he had to struggle for education throughout. But owing to his strong resolve and self-confidence, he rose to great heights in the academic world. He went to Cambridge and got his Master’s degree under the tutelage of the renowned critic F. R. Leavis, and after returning to Mysore, he headed the English Department in Mysore University. He was a very influential teacher and critic, and after his retirement he established a unique ‘cultural centre’ called Dhvanyaloka. He was almost a ‘reference point’ for English Studies in India. This paper attempts to understand CDN as a teacher of English and as a literary critic. The paper has two parts: the first part describes in detail his modernisation of the English department which entailed a total revision of syllabus with a special focus on the then ‘modern writers’ such as Hopkins, Eliot, Auden, and Lawrence, and Leavis (in criticism); introduction of new fields of study as American Literature, Australian Literature, and Commonwealth Literature; and text-centred analysis in criticism. The second part of the paper considers CDN’s distrust of Theory in literary criticism and goes on to analyse his strong conviction of ‘Indian Sensibility’ and ‘Indianness’ in both critical and creative exercises, and relates such issues to the ‘pressure of cultural identity’ in the colonial world . The paper concludes that CDN was a Liberal Humanist to whom Literature was not a playground meant to play games but a profound Ashrama where one learnt the values of life and societal systems.

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