Publication Date




Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


English (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Frank Palmeri

Second Committee Member

Timothy P. Watson

Third Committee Member

John R. Funchion

Fourth Committee Member

Jyotsna G. Singh


In this dissertation I examine literary texts of Saadat Hasan Manto, Khushwant Singh, Chaman Nahal, Bhisham Sahni, Bapsi Sidhwa, and Amitav Ghosh in order to explore the historical sense of South Asian Partition writing that exhibits less and less the pain of diaspora, and opens up more and more to a cosmopolitan mode of living. I argue that in a first phase of response to Partition, writers concentrated on the depiction of overwhelming violence; in the next phase, they gave space to reconstruction as well as loss; and in the third phase, represented here by Ghosh, they have concentrated on cosmopolitan modes of diasporic existence and tried to bridge the boundaries of national, cultural, and religious differences. In the fictional works of these writers, I examine the treatment of violence, attitude toward history, use of literary form, and the ways characters react to violence. I use the theoretical works of Gyanendra Pandey and Ranajit Guha to explore historical sense, and for reading Partition history from the subaltern point of view; Cathy Caruth and Dominic La Capra to understand the traumatic mind of the characters who suffered the violence of Partition; Vijay Mishra to analyze the subjectivity, identity, and allegiances of the characters; and Kwame Anthony Appiah to perceive their cosmopolitan consciousness. After the Introduction, which discusses the theorists and historians, Chapter One analyzes the stories of Manto who concentrates on the actual physical and mental pain of people amidst scenes of violence, conflict, and chaos. In the vignettes in Black Margins, and short stories such as “Open It,” “Colder than Ice,” and “Toba Tek Singh,” Manto captures the suddenness, specificity, and immensity of Partition-related violence. Chapter Two and Three examine Singh’s Train to Pakistan, Sidhwa’s Cracking India, Sahni’s Tamas, and Nahal’s Azadi, observing that these writers attempt to achieve an objective representation of the riots and other forms of violence. Through their brilliant structural form and craft, Train to Pakistan, Cracking India, Tamas, and Azadi produce an affective form of history that serves as an alternative to the official history of Partition. Chapter Four studies Ghosh’s The Shadow Lines, which takes up the case of Partition violence, and communicates the idea that nationalism, based on geographical borders and boundaries, makes no sense. What starts as a preparation for re-location and reconstruction for the displaced characters in Nahal’s Azadi, moves on to a relatively comfortable living in alien worlds in Ghosh’s The Shadow Lines. Ghosh not only shows the ability of his characters to live with some degree of satisfaction in different cultures, but also produces a revisionist history by exploring the history of local riots, and making use of characters’ personal memory. The Conclusion suggests that Ghosh’s cosmopolitanism provides a useful model to study the post-Partition condition. In the last sixty years or so of Partition writing, we can perceive a development in which global and planetary cosmopolitan consciousness has replaced the representation of communal violence and trauma.


Partition Literature; South Asian; Violence; History; Cosmopolitan Consciousness; Trauma