Urdu Poetry, 1935-1970: The Progressive Episode

Coppola, Carlo

     This is a study of progressivism, a literary movement in Urdu literature during the first three-quarters of the twentieth century. This study is an attempt to determine the nature and meaning of the term 'progressivism' and to assess its significance in the larger context of Urdu literature. This [is] done in three major ways.
     First, this study [investigates] the background of the progressive movement. Here I . . . discuss both the indigenous and foreign influences -- literary, historical, intellectual and philosophical -- which set the stage for the progressive movement. Contrary to the idea held by some critics that the progressive movement was entirely derivative from English and Russian sources and influences, I . . . show that there are indigenous elements which contributed equally and possibly more to this movement than the foreign ones.
     Next I . . . present a detailed history of progressivism in India with special reference to the poetry which this movement produced. A briefer history of progressivism in Pakistan [is] also . . . given. I . . . show the ways in which the progressive movement complemented and in some instances conflicted with other intellectual movements and historical events of the period; for example, the Indian freedom movement, the so-called 'art for art's sake' school of Urdu literature, and the Pakistan movement.
     In discussing these various events and movements, I . . . draw attention to similar elements to be found in other Indian literatures at the same period . . . . to show the Urdu progressive movement in the context of the larger socialist realist movement in India. . . . Lastly, I . . . discuss the various aspects of progressivism in comparison to socialist realism in an attempt to determine what common ground the two doctrines share and in what specific areas the two differ. This [is] done in large part in the discussion of five progressive Urdu poets: Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Asrarul Haq Majaz, Makhdum Mohiuddin, Ali Sardar Jafri, and Sahir Ludhianvi. I . . . show what is progressive in each writer's poetry and what is not, and why. Based on these tenets of progressivism I . . . come to some conclusions regarding the quality of the poet's verse. In addition, I . . . also attempt to make a judgment of the poet's work in light of other critical methodologies, notably that of the 'Chicago' school of criticism. Finally, based on both the history of the movement and the discussion of the individual poets, I . . . attempt an assessment of the progressive movement in light of post-progressive (that is, contemporary) Urdu literature.