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Abstract

This dissertation offers a new intellectual and cultural history of the colonial encounter in nineteenth and early twentieth-century south India. It analyzes the diverse ways Indian scholars negotiated the changing cultural status of the Telugu language and their contributions to the development of radically new conceptions of language and community under British colonial rule. To this end, it tracks the reorganization of Telugu literary culture over a span of roughly one hundred years by documenting the formation of new intellectual networks, spaces of literary life, and fields of disciplinary knowledge. These changes are examined in close association with shifts in colonial education policy and the growth of print. The period of study begins with the opening of Fort St. George College (est. 1812) and ends with the early years of the Andhra Sahitya Parishat (est. 1911). The dissertation moves beyond standard assumptions and narratives of the colonial encounter in order to retrieve the complex genealogies of Telugu cultural modernity. Its four chapters ask why and how Indian scholars of the colonial period engaged pre-colonial traditions of Telugu literature. Two distinct types of intellectuals are focused on: English-educated professionals and Telugu pundits. Although typically seen as signifying irreconcilable cultural orientations—one modern, the other traditional—the study uncovers a surprising history of converging intellectual affinities and literary aspirations. In documenting their collaborative projects to "reform" and "revive" Telugu literature, the dissertation sheds critical new light on Indian constructions of regional and national identity and the cultural origins of a new middle class. Ultimately, the dissertation highlights Telugu scholarly interrogations and inventions of tradition as a foundational site in the colonial remaking of language and community in south India.

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