This book presents a set of original letters exchanged between Rabindranath Tagore, the first Asian to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, and the eminent Irish poet and theosophist, James Henry Cousins. Through these letters, the volume explores their shared ideas of culture, art, aesthetics, and education in India; aspects of Irish Orientalism; Irish literary revival; theosophy, eastern knowledge, and spiritualism; cross-cultural dialogue and friendship; Renaissance in India; anti-imperialism; nationalism; internationalism; and cosmopolitanism. The book reveals a hitherto unexplored facet concerning two leading thinkers in the history of ideas in a transnational context.
With its lucid style, extensive annotations and a comprehensive Introduction, this book will be an essential read for scholars and researchers of Indian literature, Bengali literature, comparative literature, South Asian studies, Tagore studies, modern Indian history, philosophy, cultural studies, education, political studies, postcolonial studies, India studies, Irish history, and Irish literature. It will also interest general readers and the Bengali diaspora.
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Sirshendu Majumdar is Associate Professor of English, Bolpur College, West Bengal, India. He is the author of Yeats and Tagore: A Comparative Study of Cross-Cultural Poetry, Nationalist Politics, Hyphenated Margins and the Ascendancy of the Mind (2013) and co-editor of Rabindranath Tagore: Humanity and Cultural Affinity (2016). His areas of interest are Irish studies, WB Yeats, Rabindranath Tagore, modern European literature, nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century Bengal, print culture and translation. He was a Trinity Long Room Hub Visiting Fellow at Trinity College Dublin, 2018–2019.
‘Dr Majumdar’s edition of the letters between Rabindranath Tagore and James Cousins illuminates a little-known friendship of the great Bengali writer and thinker with the Irish writer, teacher and Theosophist who made India his second home. Majumdar’s meticulous annotation of the correspondence and his wide-reaching introduction to the book make this an important contribution to the study of Tagore and the connections between Indian and Irish culture.’
Nicholas Grene, Emeritus Professor of English Literature, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland
‘Sirshendu Majumdar has brought to light a correspondence by two minds who fostered art, literature, and education in a time of upheaval and transnational change. Dr. Majumdar’s insights and impeccable scholarship reveals a friendship that was both more intimate and earnest than many literary friendships, including that of W.B. Yeats and Tagore. These letters are remarkable for their honesty, humor, and professional hopes—they veer in tone from reverential to professional to jocular. Majumdar’s expert overview helpfully puts their words in their cultural and historical contexts. By editing the letters of these two remarkable friends, educators, and cultural leaders, Majumdar has done a great service to students and scholars of Indian and Irish revivalism, as well as postcolonial studies. In reading these exchanges, we witness a rare exception to colonialist dynamics: Tagore’s and Cousins’s shared, and enviable, vision for a universal humanism.’
Joseph Lennon, Associate Dean, International and Interdisciplinary Initiatives; Emily C. Riley Director of Irish Studies; Professor, Department of English, Villanova University, USA, and author of Irish Orientalism: A Literary and Intellectual History
‘As James Cousins wrote to Rabindranath Tagore, ‘Poets get put to queer jobs’. A quarter century of correspondence between these poets, carefully edited and contextualised by Sirshendu Majumdar, demonstrates a close ideological affinity between Irish cultural nationalism and Indian cultural self-assertion. Both poets proposed an alternative modernity, challenging the modes of metropolitan modernity in Britain and Europe, because each worked in the context of decolonisation. Practical educators and organisers of education, their shared pedagogical ideals and project — a humanist and counter-imperialist universalism — integrated arts and crafts, music and dance, poetry and philosophy into a holistic approach to the revival of the nation and world reform.’
Seán Golden, Former Professor, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain