Department of English, Jadavpur University

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Shakespeare in Bengal

531189_10152345360970401_1258018376_nThe ‘Shakespeare in Bengal’ project is being pursued under the CAS Programme, Phase II (UGC-SAP), Department of English, Jadavpur University, as part of the Department’s broader interest in ‘Cultural Transactions’. The members of the Working Committee for the project are Prof. Supriya Chaudhuri (CAS Co-ordinator), Prof. Ananda Lal, Dr. Paromita Chakravarti, Smt. Sonia Sahoo, Sri Abhishek Sarkar, and Sri Subhankar Bhattacharya (Project Fellow).

A project planning meeting was held in May 2011 at the Department of English, JU with  academics and Shakespeare specialists, theatre professionals, historians of drama including past and present teachers from Jadavpur University, the University of Calcutta, Kalyani University, and Visva-Bharati. The suggestions received from the meeting have proved useful for framing the scope and aims of the project. Possibilities of undertaking collaborations with the Departments of English at KalyaniUniversity and VidyasagarUniversity which were working in related areas, were discussed.

It was decided that the project would document three different but connected fields of Shakespearean presence in Bengali culture. These are performances, translations and adaptations and pedagogy. The project aims to collect and archive material related to these fields, and ultimately make them available online for the benefit of students and researchers. For the preservation and digitization of the data, collaborations with the SCTR (School for Culture, Texts and Records), JadavpurUniversity would be considered. A brief account of the scope of work in each of these fields follows:

  1. Shakespeare performance – This part seeks to revise and update an earlier survey of Shakespearean performance on the Calcutta stage produced by the Department of English entitled Shakespeare on the Calcutta Stage: A Checklist, edited by Prof. Ananda Lal and Prof. Sukanta Chaudhuri (Kolkata: Papyrus, 2001). This will produce a comprehensive account of productions of Shakespeare (including translations and adaptations in various languages) in Kolkata from the 19th century till recent times. This will consider public and private, commercial and amateur performances, with special emphasis on productions in an academic milieu. Written and photographic records and oral accounts of performances will also be documented. Attempts would be made to include records of Shakespeare performances outside Kolkata as well.
  2. Shakespeare translation and adaptation An annotated and critical list of Shakespeare translations and adaptations generated in Bengal, mostly in Bengali would be prepared. A list of previous publications in this field is under preparation and several texts are being located.
  3. Shakespeare pedagogy: This part of the project will look at written testimonies, syllabi, question papers, and oral narratives of students and teachers of Shakespearean texts in order to construct a history of Shakespeare teaching in Bengal from the 19th century onwards. A collection of Honours and Masters level question papers from the middle of the 20th century onwards is being prepared. This collection seeks to trace the changing patterns of approaching Shakespeare in academia. Currently, the emphasis of the project is on collecting oral narratives about class room Shakespeare teaching. A list of eminent academics who studied in Bengal during the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s has been prepared and the interviews are being conducted. The transcript of the interviews, as authorized by the concerned individual, would become a part of the Shakespeare in Bengal digital archive which has been planned.  The project has received a warm response from several senior scholars who have given enthusiastic accounts of their Shakespeare teachers. The interviews completed so far include those of Prof. Ruby Chatterjee (formerly of the University of  Delhi), Prof. Dhriti Kanta Lahiri Choudhury (formerly of Rabindra Bharati University), Prof. Sheila Lahiri Choudhury (formerly of Jadavpur University), and Prof. Shanta Mahalanobis (formerly of Lady Brabourne College and the University of Calcutta). These detailed narratives help us to trace the shift in Shakespeare pedagogy from close reading to theory, and from reading Shakespeare’s plays as poetry to seeing them as texts necessarily meant for the theatre.

Report from Project Fellow

  1. At the first meeting it was decided that the archive should not replicate other  collections and should provide a digital database. The outcome of the project may be a critical anthology or a collection of essays. The time frame of the project was discussed and whether broadening the scope was feasible. The various phases of the project (collecting and archiving, followed by anthologizing and digitization) were discussed along with potential collaborations with National Library and SCTR. Including prose works in Bengali by Bengali writers like Tagore and including other Renaissance dramatists was considered.
  2. A file has been created with hard copies of the following material:

Shakespeare’s Macbeth by Utpal Dutt, an essay by Swapan Majumdar from the Jadavpur Journal of Comparative Literature, TW Clark’s Shakespeare in Bengal in the Sasibhushan Dasgupta Commemoration Volume, Swapan Majumdar’s essay on Jatindranath Sengupta’s Shakespeare translations, an essay by SC Sengupta, Remembrance of Things Past, a Bengali newspaper report on the World Shakespeare Congress in Prague, Shantiram Chattopadhyay’s essay on Shakespeare Studies in Kolkata, Saubhik Dutta’s checklist of translations of European texts in Bengali from 1800-1900.

  1. Old question papers on the Renaissance and Shakespeare from the past papers of Calcutta and JadavpurUniversity have been xeroxed and catalogued.(from 1984 onward)
  2. Hamlet, with Tarak Nath Sen’s class notes transcribed line by line from Prof Sheila Lahiri Choudhury’s personal copy.
  3. A  digital checklist of performances from pre-1850 by local British companies and productions in Bengali and other Indian languages has been created. The list is currently being updated with Shakespeare adaptations  in Kolkata from the 1990s onward.
  4. Oral interviews of  Dhritikanta Lahiri Choudhury, Sheila Lahiri Choudhury, Ruby Chatterjee and Shanta Mahalanobis have been taken, recorded and transcribed.


  1. 1.      Not much attention appears to have been paid to the theatrical aspect of Shakespeare’s works. Shakespearean pedagogy in Presidency and other colleges seems to have stressed the language of Shakespeare’s plays and the rhetorical aspect of his works. The interviewees noticed this marked change when they moved to UK for higher studies (in Cambridge and Leeds) where the performance aspect was integrated with the textual reading.
  2. 2.      A fuller, more lively engagement with the text was discernible with L.C.Knights, D.J.Palmer and A.C.Bradley as the standard critical apparatus mentioned by professors. The professors taught the text by reading aloud and proceeding line by line.
  3. 3.      Shakespeare performances when they happened were extra-departmental and not integrated with the textual engagement in the classroom.

List of people interviewed till June 2013 for compiling an oral history of Shakespeare pedagogy in Bengal (in the chronological order of the interviews)


  1. Dhritikanta Lahiri Choudhury (formerly of Rabindra Bharati University)
  2. Sheela Lahiri Choudhury (formerly of Jadavpur University)
  3. Ruby Chatterjee (formerly of Rabindra Bharati University and the University of Delhi)
  4. Shanta Mahalanobis (formerly of Lady Brabourne College)
  5. Angshumitra Basu (formerly of Visva-Bharati University)
  6. Santa Bhattacharyya (formerly of Visva-Bharati University)
  7. Nila Das (Kalyani University)
  8. Indrani Haldar (formerly of Jadavpur University)
  9. Ramaprasad De (formerly of Jadavpur University)
  10. Sati Chatterjee (formerly of Jadavpur University)
  11. Dipendu Chakraborty (formerly of the University of Calcutta)
  12. Salil Biswas (formerly of Heramba Chandra College, Kolkata)
  13. Parbati Charan Chakraborty  (formerly of Burdwan University)
  14. Abhijit Sen (JU Publication Officer)
  15. Sukanta Chaudhuri (Professor Emeritus, Jadavpur University)
  16. Ramkrishna Bhattacharya (via e-mail) (formerly of Anandamohan College, Kolkata)
  17. Mahasweta Sengupta (via e-mail) (EFLU, Hyderabad)
  18. Subha Chakraborty née Dasgupta (formerly of the Department of Comparative Literature, JU)
  19. Pralay Kumar Deb (formerly of Kalyani University)
  20. Samik Bandyopadhyay (independent researcher and critic)
  21. Pranati Dutta Gupta (formerly of Swami Vivekananda College, Kolkata)
  22. Pran Kumar Mukherjee (via telephone) (formerly of North Bengal University)
  23. Krishna Sen (formerly of the University of Calcutta)
  24. 24.  Tirthankar Bose (via e-mail) (Professor Emeritus, Simon Fraser University)
  25. 25.  Aloka Sarkar (formerly of Bijoykrishna Girls’ College, Howrah)
  26. Deviprasad Bhattacharya (formerly of Kalyani University)
  27. Tapati Gupta (University of Calcutta)
  28. Pradip Bhattacharya (retired IAS officer, independent scholar)
  29. Sobha Chattopadhyay (formerly of Jadavpur University)
  30. 30.  Bani Basu (formerly of Bijoykrishna Girls’ College, Howrah; eminent Bangla novelist)
  31. 31.  Prabir Kumar Hui (formerly of A.B.N. Seal College, Cooch Behar)
  32. Jharna Sanyal (formerly of the University of Calcutta)
  33. Shankar Chatterjee (formerly of Kalyani University)
  34. Ashoke Kumar Mukherjee (formerly of Presidency College)
  35. Jasodhara Bagchi (formerly of Jadavpur University)
  36. Bibhas Chakraborty (veteran theatre director and actor)
  37. Mukul Sengupta (formerly of Bethune College)
  38. Lakshmi Narayan Gupta (formerly of Burdwan University)
  39. Jayati Gupta (West Bengal State University)
  40. Abhijit Sen (Visva-Bharati University)
  41. Shormistha Panja (University of Delhi)
  42. Brinda Bose (University of Delhi)
  43. Swapan Kumar Chakravorty (Jadavpur University)
  44. Mihir Ranjan Bhattacharya (formerly of Jadavpur University)
  45. Malini Bhattacharya (formerly of Jadavpur University)
  46. Ananda Lal (Jadavpur University)
  47. Malabika Sarkar (Presidency University)
  48. Sarbani Chaudhuri (Kalyani University)
  49. Subodh Sarkar (Rammohun College, Kolkata; eminent Bangla poet)
  50. Atreyee Basu (formerly of Bangabashi College)
  51. Suhash Kumar Roy Moulick (formerly of North Bengal University)
  52. Amitava Ray (formerly of Rabindra Bharati University)










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