Bengal and Italy
Transcultural Encounters from the Mid-19th to the Early 21st Century
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The ten essays collected in this book manifest the current global interest for trans-border dialogues and trace the origins and development of Italian and Bengali internationalisms in the period from the mid-19th to the early 20th century. Despite having differing political statuses and lacking a shared geographical or historical space, Bengal and Italy remained uniquely connected and, at times, actively sought to transcend different kinds of constraints in their search for a significant dialogue and mutual enrichment in the fields of literature, music, architecture, art, cinema, diplomacy, entrepreneurship, travels, education and intellectual engagement. In this context, the volume confronts strategies of evaluation adopted by prominent representatives of the Bengali and Italian cultural environments with particular emphasis on readings embedded in the moment of contact. Both regions benefited from this ‘elective affinity’ as they advanced along their respective paths towards a fuller awareness of their specific identity, and thus set a positive example of transcultural understanding which may provide inspiration in today’s world.
Table of Contents
List of illustrations
Introduction: Paromita Chakravarti & Mario Prayer
Part 1. Encounters in words and sounds: Literature, Music, Performance
- Chapter 1. From Dante to Rabindranath: An Unfolding Renaissance: Sukanta Chaudhuri
- Chapter 2. Rabindranath Tagore as Reflected in the Works of Early-20th-Century Italian Composers: Luisa Prayer
- Chapter 3. Translating Cultures: Italian Dramatists on the Bangla Stage: Paromita Chakravarti
Part 2. Encounters in shapes and images: Architecture, Art, Cinema
- Chapter 4. Neoclassical Architecture in 19th-Century Calcutta and the Case of Bengali Domestic Residences: Monolina Bhattacharyya
- Chapter 5. The Italian Connection to Indian Art in Calcutta: The Contribution of Olinto Ghilardi and Sashi Hesh in the Late 19th and Early 20th Centuries: Rituparna Basu
- Chapter 6. Before Neorealism, After Commedia: Tracing an Aesthetic Décalage: Trinankur Banerjee
Part 3. Encounters through experience: Business, Travel, Politics
- Chapter 7. Italy and the Discovery of India: The Early Phase of Italian Foreign Policy in Bengal (1849-1936): Marzia Casolari
- Chapter 8. "The Italian [...] who Comes Here to try his Luck [...] Only Deals in Trade": Italian Traders in Bengal 1850-1950 ca.: Antonella Viola
- Chapter 9. Travels in Italy: Bengali Writings in the Late 19th and Early 20th Centuries: Sanjukta Das Gupta
- Chapter 10. Emissaries of Swadeshi: Bengali Internationalists in Inter-War Italy: Mario Prayer
- Postscript. Interview of Consul General Dr. Gianluca Rubagotti with the Editors of the Volume on Continuing Cultural Exchanges Between Italy and Bengal
Paromita Chakravarti is Professor, Department of English, and has been the Director of the School of Women's Studies, Jadavpur University, Kolkata. She completed her doctoral studies at the University of Oxford, UK. She teaches Renaissance drama, women’s writing, sexuality and film studies. Her work in the School of Women’s Studies has focused on education and sexuality. Her edited book Women Contesting Culture was published in 2012. Her co-edited books Shakespeare and Indian Cinemas and Asian interventions in Global Shakespeare were published by Routledge in 2018 and 2021 respectively.
Mario Prayer is Professor of Modern and Contemporary History of India at Sapienza University of Rome. His research interests focus on the political and cultural history of 20th-century Bengal, Indo-Italian relations in the inter-war period, Mahatma Gandhi’s reconstruction movement and the Panchayats in West Bengal. He is the author of The «Gandhians» of Bengal. Nationalism, Social Reconstruction and Cultural Orientations 1920-1942 (2001) and has translated works by Rabindranath Tagore and Manik Bandopadhyay from the original Bengali into Italian.