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Pritika Pradhan joined York in 2023 as a Lecturer in Nineteenth-Century Literature. Her research interests span the long nineteenth century in Britain and the Empire, from Victorian realism to modernist poetry, and their enduring, complicated legacies in the work of contemporary South Asian and African writers. Pritika pursues these interests through academic research as well as public and creative writing, with a view to interrogate the divide between the two modes. Her first book project, Modernity’s Marks: Details in Victorian Literature and Aesthetics, examines seminal Victorian and modernist writers – such as John Ruskin, Robert Browning, George Eliot, Oscar Wilde, and Virginia Woolf – to uncover the relationship between details and modern subjectivity. Her essay on Ruskin’s Gothic aesthetics was published in ELH, and her chapter on Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s 2013 novel Americanah appeared in the edited collection Post-45 Vs the World (Vernon Press). Her short fiction and public writing have appeared in Literary Hub, Electric Literature, and Emerald City.
Pritika completed her PhD in English at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, in 2019, and her MFA in Creative Writing at Minnesota State University, Mankato. She also completed BA degrees in English at Lucy Cavendish College, the University of Cambridge, and Lady Shri Ram College for Women, the University of Delhi. At York, she is the convenor of the MA in Victorian Literature and Culture, in addition to teaching nineteenth-century literature from Britain and the empire (in particular, colonial India) at undergraduate and postgraduate levels.
Pritika's primary research interests span the long nineteenth century, from the melding of neoclassicism and Romanticism in the late eighteenth century, to the psychological depth and details in Victorian realist novels and paintings, to the Images and impressions of twentieth-century modernist poetry and criticism. Her first book project, Modernity’s Marks: Details in Victorian Literature and Aesthetics, traces the alignment of the representation of the external world and the inner life across the works of Victorian and modernist writers such as John Ruskin, George Eliot, Oscar Wilde, and Virginia Woolf. Critics generally identify details with the accurate representation of the external world in a realist novel or painting, which is associated with the rise of empiricism and of scientific objectivity. However, Pritika uncovers an alternative tradition that links details of everyday life to the advent of a liberated, modern subjectivity that perceived such details as significant. Victorian writers and aesthetes used details to manifest the inner lives of modern subjects, in works that centred the peripheral ornamental details of Gothic architecture, such as Ruskin’s The Stones of Venice (1851-3), or the details of provincial life in George Eliot’s Middlemarch (1871-2). While modernists such Virginia Woolf claimed to break with their Victorian forebears, their renderings of the inner experience of reality fulfils the nineteenth-century view that the elaborate representations of the external world are intertwined with intricate and inward modes of subjectivity. Combining close reading with theories of subjectivity, the history of science, and aesthetic philosophy, Modernity’s Marks recovers the subjective and emotional content of seemingly objective details, to retrace the story of the twin births in modern literature of the inner life and the external world.
Pritika is also interested in tracing this radical inclusion of the inner life and the external world to the fringes of empire in colonial India. Her second book project, Observant Owls: Hybrid Subjects and Syncretic Forms in Colonial India, examines how the growing appreciation of Indian arts and crafts, and the interaction of British, Continental, and Indian aesthetic ideals produced subjectivities and forms whose hybridity often disrupted the colonial inequities that subtended them. This appreciation is evident in the Indian Court at the Great Exhibition of 1851, and the growing presence of Indian crafts in novels by Charlotte Brontë, Wilkie Collins, and Benjamin Disraeli. Conversely, writers such as Rabindranath Tagore and Kaliprasanna Sinha reconceived Victorian models of realism and caricature respectively in their work, establishing a complicated tradition of appreciation and critique that continues in the work of contemporary Indian authors such as Salman Rushdie and Arundhati Roy. Uncovering this tradition provides a more nuanced picture of the global nineteenth century and its present-day inheritances.
Pritika will contribute to teaching the first-year module “World of Literature II: Empire and Aftermaths”, and the second-year modules “Writing Now” and “Victorians: British Literature 1832-1901.”
I am convening the MA in Victorian Literature and Culture from September 2023 onwards. In addition, I will contribute seminars on George Eliot and on nineteenth-century Indian women writers such as Toru Dutt and Rokeya Hossain to the Victorian MA core module, “Questioning the Victorians.” I will also offer an MA module titled “Prose of the World,” examining the rise of prose as a liberatory aesthetic and social medium in Victorian Britain and colonial India.
I am open to research enquiries concerning nineteenth-century literature and aesthetics, empire studies, and projects that include a creative writing element.
Pritika's interest in the global nineteenth century and its contemporary legacies continues in her creative and public writing. In addition to her academic research, she is also an emerging writer of fiction and public criticism. Her nonfiction writing in Literary Hub and Electric Literature explores the work of contemporary authors who interrogate nineteenth-century colonial and cultural legacies, such as the Indian essayist Pankaj Mishra and the Nigerian-American novelist Chinelo Okparanta. Her short fiction has been published in The Mays and Emerald City, and her reviews in The Corresponder. Prior to coming to York, Pritika was a Co-Managing Editor of the Blue Earth Review, the literary journal of the MFA program in Creative Writing at Minnesota State University, Mankato, of which she is a graduate. She was also a founding member and fiction editor of River Whale, MSU Mankato’s undergraduate literary journal.
Pritika is currently revising her MFA thesis, a novel titled The Transient, for publication. The Transient uses an immigrant’s trajectory to explore the fluid nature of identity in a world where the established markers of belonging – home and destination, foreign and familiar, the First World and the Third World – are in flux. It traces the journey of a young Indian woman, whose literary aspirations and disappointments take her across three countries, from her homeland of India to the former colonial mother country of Britain to the new aspirational metropolis, the United States.
Other public-facing projects include a series of short stories set in contemporary India, and a literary essay on Hilary Mantel. Pritika looks forward to continuing the pursuit of critical and creative modes of writing together, exploring ways in which creative writing can benefit from scholarly rigour and research, and critical writing be expanded and renewed through contact with creative rhythms and freedoms.