Translating tragedy into Kannada

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Despite an apparently rich literary heritage in nineteenth-century India, Indians and English Orientalists were bewildered that literary cultures in the ‘Indian’ context lacked what they perceived as the culmination of aesthetic complexity, the tragic form. Although the explanations they came up with might fall short of a convincing answer, the debate and the consequent translation of Greek tragedies into Indian languages so as to address this lack offer a fertile ground for investigating the issues of politics of genre and the question of colonialism and nationalism. This paper argues that translations of Greek tragedies into Kannada, the official language of Karnataka, reflected the colonial subject’s negotiation with white literary supremacy.


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