Tuners of souls

Sonali Barua
This dissertation examines 20th and some very early 21st century Indian English writing that thematizes music and musicians. I argue that Indian English authors who engage with the question of music write in response to the phenomenon of guru worship both in India and abroad. The many works that turn to music in a bid to depict, defend, or as in some cases, turn away from Indian musical culture, present a complex range of reactions to guru worship and its consequences. Within these works, while
more » ... the auto/biographical writing often tends to replicate older patterns and postures as part of the process of postcolonial cultural self-fashioning, the fiction attempts to break away from the rule of the guru to gesture towards more contemporary possibilities. My secondary argument relates to the much-debated question of whether or not Indian English fiction is relevant to the Indian reality. In this connection, I shall show how the deployment of themes and motifs from Indian music allows authors like Shashi Deshpande and Kiran Nagarkar to make meaningful contributions to current Indian discussions on religion, politics, gender, and class. Chapter 1 analyzes E.M.Forster's Indian works, Rabindranath Tagore's Gitanjali, and the lectures of the vina maestro and Sufi teacher Inayat Khan, mapping the intersection of notions about Indian spiritual and musical gurus on the early 20th century international stage. In Chapter 2 I read a selection of musical novels and fictionalized autobiographies in an attempt to understand the crucial roles of the raga music guru and of musical autobiography in the process of postcolonial self-fashioning. Chapter 3 deals with Indian authors' handling of western musical forms, specifically pop-rock by Salman Rushdie and art music by Vikram Seth. My emphasis is on the unique methods by which each author seeks to virtualize the role of the maestro/guru. Finally, my focus moves in Chapter 4 to bhakti or devotional music, its relation to Gandhian thought, and its use by Kiran Nagarkar in a project that [...]
doi:10.7282/t3bg2p3d fatcat:ykimlufvizavxip7fgruks6k6m