Ghostly Predicament: Narrative, Spectrality and Historicality in Rabindranath Tagore's 'The Hungry Stones'

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Abstract

This essay explores the connection between spectrality and historicality in Rabindranath Tagore's short story 'The Hungry Stones'. I bring this ghostly story in a dialogue with Tagore's prose essay 'Historicality in Literature' to argue that the function of the 'spectrality effect' deployed by Tagore is to exteriorize the discourse of realist historiography. My argument here is twofold: first, I argue that Tagore, through this ghostly story, questions realism's attempt at turning literature into a totalizing narrative. Aesthetically predicating his narrative on the limitations of recorded history, Tagore tries to reach at an understanding of 'human history' by invoking the spirit of a nameless woman who never found her place in 'national history'. Second, I claim that the spectrality of this narrative is not limited to the content only. The casual beginning and the abrupt ending of the story not only reaffirm the ghostliness of the narrative, they also spectralize the literary form itself. By questioning the finitude of literature in its realist, representative role, this story also enables an understanding of the limitations of the assumed and linear relationship between postcolonial literature and history.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)728-743
Number of pages16
JournalInterventions
Volume17
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 3 2015

Keywords

  • Rabindranath
  • Tagore
  • historicality
  • historiography
  • short story
  • spectral

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