C. D. Narasimhaiah's N for Nobody

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Mohan Ramanan


This essay is an overview of CDN's autobiography. Not everyone should write an autobiography but CDN was justified in doing so because in a way he represented English Studies as it developed in India in the 20th Century and that story had to be told. The essay follows the logic of the book, touching on CDN's humble beginnings , his move to Cambridge where he met F.R. Leavis , the impact Leavis had on his personality and criticism. Leavis facilitated his visit to America and there CDN came under the spell of the Transcendentalists whose influence on him was not unconnected with their overt Indianness. CDN went on to insist that criticism in India must have an Indian voice and with this as his standpoint he proceeded to win attention for Indian writers in English, introduce modern literature and American literature in India . His pioneering criticism of Australian literature and love of Indian aesthetics is noted. He rose to the top of the profession becoming one of the most influential Professors in the country . He made a number of innovations in the exam system and in teaching and revolutionized the study of Literature in India. In the process he was not afraid to speak his mind . His criticism of B. Rajan and his disdain for mere language studies at the expense of literature are discussed. The essay touches on all this in detail and closes with some observations on his love of domesticity and his family and his loyalty to Mysore, a town not even Indira Gandhi , could persuade him to leave . N is not Nobody. N is for Narasimhaiah.

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