Aparna Dharwadker

Aparna Dharwadker

Interweaving Performance Cultures

Fellow 2010/11, 2014/15, 2015/16

Aparna Dharwadker is Professor of English and Interdisciplinary Theatre Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is active in the fields of postcolonial theatre, modern Indian theatre, comparative modern drama and dramatic theory, as well as the literature and cinema of the global South Asian diaspora. Her essays and articles have appeared in a wide range of journals and collections, including PMLA, Modern Drama, New Theatre Quarterly, Theatre Journal, Theatre India, Theatre Research International, Modern Philology, English Postcoloniality, The Blackwell Companion to Restoration Drama, The Encyclopedia of Asian Theatre, and Representing the Past: Essays in Performance Historiography. Her study of post-independence Indian theatre won the 2006 Joe A. Callaway Prize for the best book on drama or theatre published during 2004-05, and she has published award-winning essays in such journals as Modern Drama and Theatre Journal. Aparna has held fellowships from the NEH, the American Institute of Indian Studies, the Folger Library, and the Newberry Library, among others, and has served on the editorial collective of Genre, the Fulbright National Screening Committee for India, and the Gerald Kahan Prize Committee of the American Society for Theatre Research. She was also a resident fellow at the International Research Centre “Interweaving Performance Cultures” in summer 2011.

Research Project

Cosmo-Modernism and the Other Theatre

Indian-language theatre of the second half of the twentieth century contains the largest clustering of “modernist” as well as “postcolonial” drama outside the circuits of Euro-American textuality and performance, but the qualities that define it as a notable formation also contribute to its virtual exclusion from discussions of postcolonial and global modernisms. By the late 1990s theatre studies in the West had begun to challenge the arbitrary exclusion of drama from standard accounts of modernism, and since then scholars have employed topoi such as primitivism, disease, and antitheatricality, or categories such as popular culture and visual culture, to create suggestive conceptual frameworks for the interpretation of Western drama as modernist text and performance. The problem of modernist literature and theatre in non-European languages is more intractable. The conjuncture of modernist and postcolonial studies in the Western academy has established the centrality of modernism to postcolonial writing, but much of the consequent attention has been focused on the products of global English, especially prose fiction. The forms of multilingual literacy that are constitutive of postclassical culture in India, and the versatile role of English as the language both of original composition and translation, have been either bypassed altogether, or subsumed under questionable theories of “vernacular modernism,” “vernacular cosmopolitanism,” and binaristic centre-periphery relations. Connecting these issues of language and genre to the broader problem of theorizing non-Western modernisms, and approaching English as both a Western and an Indian language, Cosmo-Modernism and the Other Theatre considers modern Indian theatre as a significant field of geomodernist representation anchored in the principles of inter-generational rupture, authorial self-fashioning, aesthetic autonomy, anticommercialism, omnitemporality, and the modernity of tradition.

Selected Publications

  • Dharwadker, A., and Dharwadker, V., One Day in the Season of Rain (translation from Hindi of Mohan Rakesh’s play Ashadh ka ek din, with Introduction, Afterword, and Notes), Penguin Modern Classics, 2015.
  • Dharwadker, A., “Modern Indian Theatre,” forthcoming in The Routledge Handbook of Asian Theatre, ed. Siyuan Liu, London: Routledge, 2016.
  • Dharwadker, A., “Modernism, ‘Tradition,’ and History in the Postcolony: Vijay Tendulkar’s Ghashiram kotwal (1972),” Theatre Journal 65 (December 2013): 467-87.
  • Dharwadker, A., “Mohan Rakesh, Modernism, and the Postcolonial Present,” South Central Review 25. 1 (Spring 2008): 136-62.
  • Dharwadker, A., Theatres of Independence: Drama, Theory, and Urban Performance in India Since 1947, Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2005; New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2006.
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