The Moment of Criticism in Indian Nationalist Thought: Ramchandra Shukla and the Poetics of a Hindi Responsibility
Why was the moment of criticism in Hindi nationalist thought defined in terms of an ‘Indian’ mode of responsibility? When Ramchandra Shukla (1884–1941), perhaps the most influential Hindi critic of all time, began writing his major essays in the late 1920s, the battle for Hindi against the claims of Urdu had already been won. The identification of the Hindi language with the idea of a homogeneously ‘Hindu’ nation had been decisively established. For some decades, the rapid development of the Hindi canon, in which Shukla himself played a salient role, and the inclusion of Hindi in school and college curricula had been an accomplished fact. Coming at the end of this long process that began in the early 19th-century, Shukla’s major work exemplifies a new and hitherto unprecedented development in the cultural history of Hindi. It refers us to what I will call the inaugural dimension of the critical act in the 1920s and 1930s, which is I believe closely bound to issues of Hindu (nationalist) responsibility and colonial wonder.