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BENGAL, BRITAIN, FRANCE: THE LOCATIONS AND TRANSLATIONS OF TORU DUTT

  • Tricia Lootens (a1)
Extract

To a far greater degree than many of us have yet realized, late-nineteenth-century women's poetry may be a poetry of alien homelands: of cultural spaces, that is, in which the domestic proves alien, even as technically alien territory comes to represent some form of home. And partly for this reasosn, to explore poetry in English may require moving not only beyond Britain, but also beyond English itself. Think, for example, of Christina Rossetti, who composed poems in Italian; of Mathilde Blind, with her German accent and translation of the French edition of the Journal of Marie Bashkirtseff; of Agnes Mary Frances Robinson Darmesteter Duclaux, whose poetry preceded a long, successful career of writing in great part in and for the French; of Louisa S. Bevington Guggenberger, with her German home and husband; or, for that matter, of nineteenth-century India's first influential English-speaking woman poet, Toru Dutt. As generations of Indian critics have stressed, as early anthologizer E. C. Stedman made clear, and as certain editors of recent nineteenth-century poetry collections have also acknowledged, Dutt's writing played a suggestive role within late-century understandings of “British literature.” Indeed, even now, growing attention to her work is helping extend our conception of the geographical origins of “Victorian” poetry from Britain to Bengal. Still, if we are to develop a full exploration of Dutt's cultural presence, we may need to move further as well, connecting Indo-Anglian literature to that of France.

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Victorian Literature and Culture
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