Freedom and Beef Steaks: Colonial Calcutta Culture
Rosinka Chaudhuri
140 x 216 mm
Year of Publishing
Territorial Rights
Orient BlackSwan

Freedom and Beef Steaks explores path-breaking debates to do with the literary,  with identity, and with cultural authenticity in nineteenth-century Calcutta--- debates arising from the flux of creative and critical work in that period. The seven essays collected in this book range across a diverse field of interests that have been, so far, under-researched. Crucial to our understanding of the making of modern Indian culture in a particular location, these are issues that uncover the complexity of the postcolonial field and further extend its scope.

A humorous poem written by Henry Meredith Parker (1796–1868) about the newly educated youth of Calcutta is used to frame debates for and against meat-eating as the issue played itself out against the backdrop of a developing Indian nationalism. A closer look at the political poetry written by a radical iconoclast such as Derozio reveals the communal stereotyping of the ‘Muslim’ as Other—representations in keeping with British historiographical orthodoxies of the time. Scrutinising early letters written to the Calcutta Journal in 1819 about the community’s thoughts on naming and defining itself, Rosinka Chaudhuri also deals with the early history of the Anglo-Indians.

There are chapters in this book that range from an analysis of recurrent problems in modernist readings of the poems of both Milton and Bengal’s greatest nineteenth-century poet, Madhusudan Datta, to the changing modes of everyday cultural experience in the city as experienced in the shifting representations of the drawing rooms of colonial and postcolonial Bengal. Finally, in an important chapter on certain subalternist  historians‘ (mis)readings of Tagore, the author investigates the place of the relation of history and literature in history-writing today.

Situated in a modernity that was both radical and traditional in texture and forms of play, the texts examined in these essays challenge received ideas of historicity through their own particularity. This volume will be of interest to students and scholars of literature, cultural studies and postcolonial studies.

Rosinka Chaudhuri is Fellow in Cultural Studies at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta (CSSSC). She has published Gentlemen Poets in Colonial Bengal: Emergent Nationalism and the Orientalist Project, Derozio, Poet of India: The Definitive Edition, and (co-edited with Elleke Boehmer) The Indian Postcolonial: A Critical Reader.

List of Figures
Publishers’ Acknowledgements


Chapter one ‘Young India: A Bengal Eclogue’; or Meat-eating, Race, and Reform in a
Colonial Poem

Chapter two An Ideology of Indianness: The Construction of Colonial/Communal
Stereotypes in the Poems of Henry Derozio

Chapter three The Politics of Naming: India’s First Modern Literary Society, Calcutta, 1825

Chapter four Three Poets in Search of History: Calcutta, 1752–1859

Chapter five Modernity at Home: A Possible Genealogy of the Indian Drawing Room

Chapter six Refashioning Milton: Madhusudan and the Modernist Discourse of Reading

Chapter seven The Flute, Gerontion, and Subalternist Misreadings of Tagore

The Telegraph, Kolkata 22 Nov 2013

‘Rosinka Chaudhuri is one of the most original minds in the field of modern Indian history. The seven essays brought together [in this book] … provide ample evidence to prove my point…. These highly intelligent essays show a profound and imaginative understanding of the mental world of [the nineteenth-century] and make it very vivid for us … We become aware of our origins as modern Indians.’

Tapan Raychaudhuri
Emeritus Fellow, St. Antony's College, Oxford

'This book opens up for critical study the neglected phase of early-modern literary culture in Bengal. In particular, it takes seriously—perhaps for the first time—the literary productions of the racially mixed Indo-European civil society of Calcutta of the time. By turning to under-researched figures such as Mrityunjay Vidyalankar, Henry Derozio, Iswar Gupta and Madhusudan Datta, Chaudhuri has shed new light on the origins of literary modernity in India.'

Partha Chatterjee
Professor of Anthropology, Columbia University, and Honorary Professor,
Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta

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