Western theatre narratives had a profound influence on modern Indian theatre. In the traditions of Euro-American, modernity is both a teleological principle of historical organization that separates the ancient and, medieval from the post-Renaissance world, and also a name for qualities that distinguish objects from one another within a given historical period. More specifically, literary modernity signifies a deliberate disengagement from past and present conventions in favour of verbal, formal, intellectual, and philosophical attributes that are new for their time, whatever the time. Horace, Dryden, George Eliot and Sylvia Plath are all moderns in this sense, as are the late seventeenth century proponents of libertinism in England, or the late twentieth century practitioners of minimalism in the United States.
However, in Indian literary history, the issue of modernity remains inseparable from that of the transformation of Indian cultural forms by Western influences under the inherently unequal conditions of colonial rule. The conventional historical argument is that Indian literary modernity was a consequence of the dissemination of the European literary canon on the subcontinent, the institutionalization of English literary studies in the mid-nineteenth century, the formation of modern print culture in the course of the nineteenth century, and the large-scale assimilation of modern Western literary forms novelistic and short fiction in the realist mode, historical drama, nationalist epic, romantic and confessional lyric, essay, discursive and critical prose, and biography and autobiography, among others. Concurrently, the influence of Western dramatic texts, conventions of representation, and forms of commercial organization displaced indigenous traditions of performance and established theatre as a modern, urban, commercial institution for the first time in the mid-nineteenth century. Given the ideological underpinnings of such a position, the 'colonial' origin of Indian literary and cultural modernity has emerged as a key issue in the debates of the post-independence period, since colonialism is seen as destroying the very 'essential' and 'authentic' civilizational qualities that the orientalists had constructed in the nineteenth century. The resulting polemic, however, treats the culture of print very differently from that of performance.
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