River Fiction of India: Intersectional Flows of Narratives, Geographies and Histories

Subhadeep Ray Discussion
Call for Papers
March 30, 2023

Call for Papers

River Fiction of India: Intersectional Flows of Narratives, Geographies and Histories

Edited by Subhadeep Ray

Proposed Book Project to be submitted for consideration to

Routledge South Asian Literature in Focus book series

Critical re-engagements with Indian literature involving shifts in foci help to open up what Jacques Derrida’s calls the “floodgate of genre.” The “axiom of non-closure” — to use another phrase from Derrida (Acts of Literature) — enfolds within re-readings of the corpus of canonized and contemporary literatures, when the text’s unlimited potential to belong to a wide range of settings, conditions and identities is underscored. This is particularly evident in Indian literature because of the very vast and varied geo-political entity that India represents. In this connection, the river fiction requires to be understood as a separate literary genre, cutting across other literary and generic boundaries, particularly in India, where cognitive and emotional perceptions have been largely mapped by the mighty rivers and their numerous branches that flow through a great variety of lives since the ancient time. As part and parcel of the ecological and anthropological constitutions of maximum Indians, rivers form the cartographies and meta-cartographies of the layers of Indian civilizations and their crossovers, cross-currents and exclusions. Thus, socio-economic and ideological implications of none of the projects involved in the establishment of colonial modernity and postcolonial democracy, like fixing the political boundaries, tackling diasporas across external and internal partitions, configuring the master-plans of development, and expanding industrial frontiers, could be perceived irrespective of any of the rivers.

This proposed volume is an attempt to re-read a polyphonic but distinct body of pan-Indian modern prose-fiction, including both Indian English fiction and Bhasha fiction, in which meanings and values are felt and lived as well as relations between formal elements of creed, art and life and their practical variables are set in terms of narrative preoccupations with some river-bed. What Raymond Williams in Marxism and Literature understands as “structures of feeling,” which are interconnections between “specific feelings, specific rhythms” of imaginative writings, and “their specific kinds of sociality,” are here conditioned by intersections between fictional narratives and river-centric geographies and histories. This project therefore seeks to follow variations in feelings and rhythms of Indian novels and short-fiction reflecting on lives by the seven great rivers: the Ganges, whose course is again broadly divided into a northern and deltaic one as the Bhagirathi, the Indus, the Brahmaputra, the Narmada, the Godavari, the Krishna, and the Cauvery. As the life of a river being determined by its capacity to change its course it also dissolves, destroys, and re-construct the surrounding land-mass. A river provides a settlement with most of the surviving strategies and often acquires the symbolical image of mother or goddess, but also forces the same settlement to survive under a constant threat of extinction. Once a river changes its course to engulf an entire region or a part of it and affects changes in the physical geography, her former flow becomes cultural memory, or the myth of identity formation, or even mystery and exoticism, feeding imaginative literature. In the river fiction, therefore, physical geography is inseparable from metaphorical geography, and, even a single state like West Bengal, having the distinction of being a part of the largest delta of the world, has produced an astonishing variety of river novels and short stories over the centuries. Every Bhasha literature, likewise, contributes to the body of Indian River Fiction. On the other hand, the Indian English writers from Raja Rao to Amitabh Ghosh to Vandana Singh have seen river-human relationships from multiple perspectives. However, there is a serious dearth of critical literature on Indian River Fiction, as such; and this book proposes to fill up this gap. Abstracts of 300-350 words on following sub-topics and related areas are invited:

  1. River Fiction of the North-East India
  2. River Fiction of the Indus Valley
  3. River Fiction on the Ganges
  4. Bengali River Fiction
  5. River Fiction of Central and/or Southern India
  6. Narrative Forms and Styles of River Fiction
  7. River as/and Border in Indian Fiction
  8. River as/and National Identity
  9. Diaspora in River Fiction
  10. Corporeality and River Fiction
  11. Myth and Religion in River Fiction
  12. Social Stratifications in River Fiction
  13. State, Development, Modernity, Water-policy and Social Crisis in River Fiction
  14. Ecology in River Fiction
  15. Gender in River Fiction
  16. Genre Fiction as River Fiction

  The abstracts are to be mailed in word formats positively within 30th March, 2023 to subhadeep.ray.eng@gmail.com

The prospective contributors will be communicated with further details by 15th May 2023.

About the Editor: Subhadeep Ray, Ph.D. (English), is an Associate Professor of English at Bidhan Chandra College, Kazi Nazrul University, Asansol, and Visiting Professor, Dept of English, Kazi Nazrul Universitty, Asansol, West Bengal, India. His comparative study of Joseph Conrad and Manik Bandyopadhyay is included in Some Intertextual Chords of Joseph Conrad’s Literary Art (28th volume of Conrad: Eastern and Western Perspectives, Ed. Wiesław Krajka; UMCS, Lublin & Columbia UP, NY, 2019) – the essay has been acclaimed in Joseph Conrad Today and Literary Research. Ray’s comparative study of Conrad and Adwaita Mallabarman is included in Joseph Conrad and Ethics (30th volume of CEWP, Eds. Amar Acheraïou and Laëtitia Crémona; UMCS, Lublin & Columbia UP, NY, 2021), and another comparative study of the short tales of Conrad and Premendra Mitra is included in the forthcoming 32nd volume of Conrad: Eastern and Western Perspective (Ed. Ewa Kujawska-Lis; UMCS, Lublin & Columbia UP, NY, 2023) His recently published works include a chapter on Bengali postcolonial SF in the national award winning volume Science Fiction in India (Eds. Shweta Khilnani and Ritwick Bhattacharjee; Bloomsbury, 2022) and a chapter on translating disability stories of Tarashankar Bandyopadhyay and Jagadish Gupta in Disability in Translation (Eds. Someshwar Sati and G.J.V. Prasad; Routledge, London & NY, 2020). Ray’s translation of Tarasankar Bandyopadhyay’s short-story, ‘Nāri O Nāgini’ is included in the forthcoming second volume of the anthology, Reclaiming the Disabled Subject (Eds. Someshwar Sati, GJV Prasad and Ritwick Bhattacharjee; Bloomsbury). From 2012 to 2015 Ray was the Principal Investigator of a UGC sponsored research project on popular science writings of the Bengal Renaissance, and in 2016 he was awarded Travel Grant by UGC to present his paper on modernism at UMCS, Lublin, Poland. In 2018 he was invited by the Department of History of Sheffield University, UK, to speak on Bangla modernist tales at an international conference. Ray worked as translator of Bangla travel writings for a UGC project, and another project on border stories, both conducted by the Department of Comparative Literature, Jadavpur University, Kolkata. His edited volumes include Eugene O’Neill’s Thirst and Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, both published from Kolkata in 2005 and 2014, respectively. He has written articles on literary modernism in a number of national and international journals, and widely presented papers on the area in India and abroad. He also holds the translation right of Tarashankar Bandyopadhyay’s two novels and two short-stories, and is engaged in translating them.