To Make a Difference: A Memorial Tribute to Chelva Kanaganayakam

T Hawkins's picture

University of Toronto Quarterly - Volume 84, Issue 4, Fall 2015

To Make a Difference: A Memorial Tribute to Chelva Kanaganayakam
This special issue, edited by Prasad Bidaye and Victor Li, is a Gedenkschrift, a memorial issue in honour of the late Chelva Kanaganayakam, a professor in the Department of English at the University of Toronto and an influential scholar and teacher of postcolonial and South Asian literatures, with contributions by his colleagues, students, and friends.

To Make a Difference

Prasad Bidaye and Victor Li

We did not say ‘Good bye’ (For Chelva)
Uzoma Esonwanne

“Touching Them into Words”: Running with Michael Ondaatje among the Dead
Neil ten Kortenaar

Michael Ondaatje's Running in the Family makes the claim, however obliquely, that the author can speak with his dead father. This contact relies on shifting pronouns that in writing, unlike in speaking, can be attributed to more than one person in different contexts. The text cannot reach out directly and touch the dead, but it makes room for the dead to enter, much as wild animals invade human spaces. The dead exist in the depths of the flat page, and writing allows them to communicate with the living. Writing can do so because the living and the dead are both readers. The article seeks to extend this kind of communication beyond Ondaatje and his father to include Ondaatje's readers, specifically the author of the article and the Sri Lankan-Canadian critic Chelva Kanaganayakam.

Giraya and the Gothic Space: Nationalism and the Novel in Sri Lanka
Anupama Mohan

The essay turns to Punyekante Wijenaike's 1971 novella, Giraya, to study the ways in which the Gothic features as a framing device for the exploration of the gendered and ideological domain of home in twentieth-century Sri Lankan writing. The walauwe or feudal manor is transformed, in Wijenaike's novella, into a spectral space that challenges the prevailing nationalist discourses and literatures which fashioned the Sri Lankan nation as a rural utopia. Nostalgia and visions of national utopias give way to terror and dislocation as the fragmentary narrative of Giraya calls into question, from the very heart of the idealized nation – its home – the representational powers of the ordered social realist novel, Sri Lanka's most dominant literary genre in the post-Independence era.

(In)auspiciousness, Discipline, and Sympathy in Bankim Chandra Chatterjee's Bishabriksha and Rabindranath Tagore's Chokher Bali
Margaret Herrick

The article traces how, in two extremely influential early Bengali novels, a widow's “inauspiciousness,” the destructiveness she trails in her wake (variously defined), is instrumentalized to inaugurate a new domesticity and a new bourgeois couple who inhabit it. These novels, in other words, use a widow's inauspiciousness to create modern citizen subjects. And they do so, the article argues, both within their own pages (the householder protagonists are transformed into citizen subjects) and beyond them (their readers are transformed into citizen subjects too). By the end of these texts, however, the widow herself is hurried offstage, effectively containing the danger of any further social change and banishing inauspiciousness as such to a realm outside modernity.

The Nation's Taxidermist: Ungovernable Bodies in R.K. Narayan's The Man-Eater of Malgudi
Sundhya Walther

The taxidermy animal confronts the viewer with an array of strange contradictions, in part owing to the strong colonial resonance of taxidermy as a form. This article examines the representation of taxidermy in R.K. Narayan's 1961 novel The Man-eater of Malgudi. It considers how the novel utilizes the taxidermy body as a conduit for its political critique aimed at the modernization and capitalist expansion of the post-Independence period. At the same time, the taxidermy animals exceed the project of the novel, and expose Narayan's Malgudi itself as a taxidermic representation. By cutting away the complex realities of its context, The Man-eater of Malgudi conducts a problematic act of preservation, one that constructs and holds in stasis an imagined India. This reading connects taxidermy and literature as forms that aim to place nonhuman animal bodies, both spatially and ontologically, within anthropocentric frames.

On Responsible Distance: An Interview with R. Cheran by Aparna Halpé
R. Cheran and Aparna Halpé

R. Cheran speaks on his trajectory as a Tamil poet, journalist, and intellectual, during the years of conflict in Sri Lanka and on his current work as a playwright, activist, and collaborator in the development of Tamil diaspora studies with Chelva Kanaganayakam in Toronto, Canada. This interview provides a glimpse of the histories of dislocation, censorship, and exile that framed Tamil political, cultural, and intellectual life throughout the latter half of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first century. Precariously positioned as an artist and scholar who eschewed the non-democratic, militant positions of successive Sri Lankan governments and Tamil militant organizations, Cheran interrogates evolving notions of Tamil nationalism as articulated in the post-war context and looks to the future of the idea of the Tamil nation in Sri Lanka and around the world. This interview is a transcript of the public interview held at Trans(sub)continental Imaginations: Three Centuries of South Asian Literary English, a symposium in memory of Chelva Kanaganayakam, University of Toronto at Mississauga, 25 March 2015.

Poems by Ashley Halpé
Ashley Halpé

Communal Identities in Rohinton Mistry's Bombay Novel
Kelly A. Minerva

The article examines Rohinton Mistry's Such a Long Journey as a defining example of the Bombay novel. This genre of literature, I argue, depicts Bombay as a powerful force that defines individual residents just as much as it is defined by them. The genre demands a reading strategy that highlights the artifice and agency necessary to create the composites of personal and public (i.e., historical and political) narratives that comprise the city's postcolonial identities. Mistry, like many Bombay novelists, presents the city as a nuanced site produced through the interactions between memory, personal and public histories, and power relationships. His use of literary realism emphasizes the limitations of individual agency and presents Bombay as a decaying, unwelcoming place defined by pessimistic nostalgia. Thus, Mistry's depiction of Bombay exemplifies the tenuous nature of individual narrative agency over personal and urban identity as well as both the alienating and the restorative consequences of communal politics.

Slavery, Death, and the Village: Localizing Imperatives of Nigerian Writing
Taiwo Adetunji Osinubi

This article explores the ubiquitous citations of the village and the manifestation of villagers in Nigerian fiction published since about 2000. Through a close reading of Chuma Nwokolo's Diaries of a Dead African, I argue that Nwokolo's novel exemplifies the ongoing critical regionalism in Nigerian writing, a practice through which writers expand the geographical imaginaries of Nigerian fiction as well as meditate reflexively upon the circulation of Nigerian fiction within the global book-publishing industry. This critical regionalism responds to the global circulation of the Nigerian novel by drawing upon, revising, and updating the geographical imaginaries of early Nigerian novelists. Elements of the village novel as a genre and ideas of the village as a crucial iteration of African spaces are deployed to signal the interplay between the complex spaces and representational practices of emerging fiction. In sum, this article works toward the legibility of the village within contemporary writing.

The Varthamanappusthakam or Is there Justice for the Narrating Subaltern?
Clara A.B. Joseph

The article examines India's first modern travelogue, The Varthamanappusthakam, from the point of view of narratology and Kanaganayakam's observations on storytelling from the margins. The focus is on the travelogue's narratology, including the story and its narration, and on the discussion it triggers, in a secular academy that is Western or Westernized, with a closed canon that incorporates postcolonial studies. The article draws on, among other things, Gérard Genette's narrative theories and Gerhart Husserl's phenomenological discussion of communities. It makes an argument for the inclusion of a translation of a Christian text from the Indian subcontinent in the curriculum of English Studies as a challenge to preconceived notions of colonial India, thereby providing the required institutional approval that Gayatri Spivak points to.

US–Soviet Antagonism and the “Indirect Propaganda” of Book Schemes in India in the 1950s
Sarah Brouillette

The article addresses US perceptions of subsidized pro-Soviet books and periodicals in India in the 1950s and the way that pro-US book programs, intended to counter the Soviet initiative, imagined that they might help to strengthen the hold of liberal capitalist democracy in the face of the threat of Soviet influence.

Poems by Rienzi Crusz
Rienzi Crusz