, Volume 39, Issue 6, pp 589-597
Date: 05 Apr 2011

U. Vē. Cāminātaiyar and the Construction of Tamil Literary “Tradition”

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Abstract

U. Vē. Cāminātaiyar (1885–1942) is arguably one of the most influential figures of the so-called “Tamil Renaissance” of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; his work has profoundly shaped the study of Tamil literature, both in India and the Euro-American academy, for more than a century. Among his many literary works is a long and incomplete autobiographical treatise known as Eṉ Carittiram, literally “My Life Story,” initially published in 122 installments between 1940 and 1942. What little scholarly attention this fascinating autobiographical narrative has received thus far has largely read the text as an artless, transparent documenting of South Indian literary culture in the late nineteenth century. Yet the text reveals substantial rhetorical art on close reading. Greater attention to Cāminātaiyar’s specific context and probable concerns when composing (and publicly publishing) Eṉ Carittiram suggests alternative ways of reading Tamil literary history and those texts that he first made widely available.