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Modernity and Social

Crisis in Bengali Poetry



Thesis submitted
for the Degree of
Doctor of Philosophy (Arts)
in History of
Jadavpur University

Dipankar Bagchi

The concept of this thesis is modernity and its reflection in the
transition of Bengali poetry from Kallol era to Krittibas. There is a lot
of confusion over the term modernity. It is basically a transition from
feudalism to capitalism, faith to reason, and corporate identity to
individual identity. But there is a considerable overlap of one phase
with the other, which is loosely called archaic. But on a closer analysis,
it is but inevitable and desirable synthesis in a story of tradition and
transformation. It has happened in the European renaissance and
evolution of modernity when identity crisis cropped up.
The same argument applies to the progress of Bengali poetry
from Kallol to Krittibus era. There is a lot of archaism in the synthesis
and even in materialist modernity. Romanticism comes and goes
between tradition and transformation. The stumbling book to
modernity in Bengali poetry was Rabindranaths incurable
romanticism. Many poets of the Kallol era, last but not the least
Buddhadeb Bose bewailed this fact. For even he could not escape
the interface of romanticism in his modern poetry. He is juxtaposed
between Rabindranath and Baudelaire. So also, the other firebrands
of Kallol. The thesis goes even beyond them and starts with Tagore
demolition from the time of Suresh Samajpati. It was a love-hate
relationship that was rampant in the writings of Suresh Samajpati,
Chandranath Bose, Panchkori Bandopadhyay and Dwijendralal Roy.
Tagore survives all these rallies to become immortal. The poets of
the 30s headed by Jibanananda Das and others struggled between
being and at once becoming and were pre-modern, modern and
ultra modern along with Rabindranath himself.
But the context of post war poets was different. They were
shattered by the Second World War and its concequences. A great
anxiety, insecurity, depression and melancholia and ephemerality

of their life and work gripped their poetry. This is both realistic and
ultra-modern. Krittibus represents this genre. Sunil Gangopadhyay,
Sakti Chattopadhyay, Sankho Ghosh, Aalok Sarkar, hover between
bloom and gloom. This is the sign of the nouvel-vague or new-trend.
I have tried to analyse their thoughts and link them to the pase
ambivalence between romanticism and realism at the time of Tagore.
Therefore the first chapter discusses the concept of modernity.
The second deals with historical perspectives of modern Bengali
poetry. The third critiques Tagore tirades. The fourth opens up the
Pandoras box of Kallol era. The fifth probes the uncertainties of
post war period as reflected in the poets of those times. The sixth
excavates the political and economic background of post war poetry.
The next is all about the experiments made by the Krittibas group
in realism and psychological individuality. Poets like Sunil
Gangopadhyay and Sakti Chattopadhyay figure prominently. Thus,
it is a survey of modern Bengali poetry on which there is no suitable
book at present. It may be seen as a sequel to the seminal works of
Dipti Tripathi, Abu Sayeed Ayub and others.
I chose Modernity and Social Crisis in Bengali Poetry,
1920-1950 as my present doctoral thesis, because I had already
completed my M.Phil Dissertation on the subject Modernity : The
Turning Phase of Literature and the Age of Kallol. Indeed, I chose
a subject as a part of history where I tried to assimilate history and
literature in one container. I want to understand a dialectical process
where the history of literature and the literature of history
conjoined in the same background. I have divided the subject into
seven chapters :

Modernity : Theory and Practice


The Prelude


Tagore Criticism


Kallol Era


Interwar Period, 30s & 40s


Political and Economic Background : The Interwar Period


Krittibas or Young Poets Movement

The first chapter deals with the theory and practice of Modernity
in both India and the west. I have argued that modernity is neither
chronology nor mere realism, it is more towards surrealism.
In the second chapter, the historical prelude to modern poetry
has been thoroughly discussed.
In the thrid, the modern poets criticism of Tagore romantic poetry
is analysed.
In The fourth chapter is a core chapter which critically examines
the post Tagore new poets writing in Kallol and allied magazines.
Announcing the arrival of new modern poetry.
In the fifth chapter the seven great poets of the 30s and 40s
have been taken up for minute apprasial.
In the sixth chapter the social crisis of the interwar period has
been highlighted with an emphasis on political and economic issues.
This serves as the backdrop of the experiments of the young and
angry poets centring round krittibas a new vogue mouthpice of the
In the seventh chapter, therefore, the angst of these poets in
throughly review.
Altogether it becomes a comprehensive literary and social history
of the dangerous decades in the interwar period for which no
subtantial work exists.

At the end of the survey, it may be concluded that modernity is

an inscrutable rainbow. It has many colours pre-modern, modern
and post modern but blends wonderfully in the final frame of Bengali
poetry. It has been my effort to carry out the analysis in the mode,
thesis-anti-thesis-synthesis. It has been shown that no phase was
totally detached from the others and unique in character. The only
difference that has been noticed its that pre-war poetry was more
fanciful than the post-war starkness of modern Bengali poetry.
The great divide between contentment and discontent has been
made visible as far as possible. That is the central argument of this
thesis. To come to this conclusion, western allusions and Bengali
quotations have been liberally mixed and used. This is not merely a
conceptual cutout like other disciplines. It has been attempted to
made a historical empirical analysis with a sound database.
Hopefully, discerning readers will find out what is meant in the
above paragraphs.



by the Supervisors
Date :

Date :