A dominated culture not only learns to be like the culture that dominates it, it attempts to conceal its own antecedents. In such cultural encounters, amnesia plays a major role in defining the self-perception of cultures.
After Amnesia, first published in 1992, offers an incisive analysis of contemporary literary scholarship in Indian languages by demonstrating how modern Indian languages ‘learnt to forget’ that literary criticism had been rejected by them during the post-Sanskrit medieval centuries, and how they have posed before themselves a false choice of intellectual practices rooted in culturally distant Western or Sanskritic traditions.
‘Of Many Heroes', first published in 1997, is a historiography of literary historiography in India. It presents a wide-spectrum survey of texts on literary history, beginning with the fourth-century Bhartrihari's Vakyapadiya to the seminal texts produced during the twentieth century.
The Reader also includes two new essays—The Being of Bhasha and Countering Violence. These philosophical essays discuss the significance of dialects and vanishing languages in the making of civilisation, the place of silence and insanity in the making of meaning, and of language itself in the future of knowledge. After closely analysing the sociological and psychological roots of violence, the author argues that the increasing violence in modern societies and the loss of languages in an increasingly intolerant and aggressive world need to be seen as closely related aspects of the cultural impact of historical processes germinating in colonialism and a globalisation hostile to cultural plurality. Together, they present a complete theory of knowledge in postcolonial times and urge for a radical reorientation to the question of education, knowledge, expression and the interpretation of the linguistic creative. They form, perhaps, the most challenging and unorthodox thesis on epistemic and hermeneutical issues central to modern Indian culture. This Reader is a true summa, bringing together Devy’s ground-breaking work in the field of contemporary Indian thought.
G. N. Devy is Chairperson, People’s Linguistic Survey of India.