College english in india: The first textbook

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In her groundbreaking book Masks of Conquest: Literary Study and British Rule in India (1989), Guari Viswanathan established that the discipline of English came into its own not in England but in India, as an instrument of cultural colonization: As early as the 1820s, when the classical curriculum reigned supreme in England despite the strenuous efforts of some concerned critics to loosen its hold, English as the study of culture and not simply the study of language had already found a secure place in the British Indian curriculum (2, 3). Pausing to summarize the English literary curriculum fostered by government schools in midcentury India, she lists the following poetical works, gleaned from a report reprinted for the House of Lords in 1853: Richardson's Poetical Selections (Goldsmith, Gray, Addison, Pope, and Shakespeare), Otway's Venice Preserved, Shakespeare's Hamlet, Othello, and Macbeth, Pope's Iliad by Homer, [and] Milton's Paradise Lost (the first four books) (54). Although Viswanathan does not identify Richardson or his Poetical Selections, she is right to head the list with that textbook, which is mentioned in many other government reports of the period, and which was instrumental in establishing a classroom canon of British poetry in India before any such curriculum had been determined in Great Britain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)553-572
Number of pages20
JournalVictorian Literature and Culture
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2014

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