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A Cosmopolitan Literary Culture with a Façade of Nativism: A Re-evaluation of the Sinhala Literary Culture around 1956

Author:

Liyanage Amarakeerthi

University of Peradeniya, LK
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Abstract

1956 is often treated as a certain culmination of Sinhala cultural nationalism and a turning point in the trajectory, intellectual and cultural, contributing towards the nationalist discourse of that era. The year is indeed a crucial juncture in Sinhala intellectual activity and numerous artistic, literary and scholarly works were produced that year. In the popular imagination ‘the revolution of fifty’ signified a victory in Sinhala nationalist politics that was set in motion in the early twentieth century. This paper takes a closer look at two aspects of that ‘revivalist movement’ and endeavors to see what it was made of: literary criticism and literary studies. From the beginning of the twentieth century Sinhala literary culture witnessed the appearance of new genres such as the novel and short story. Poetry which had an illustrious history, new forms and subgenres appeared. While print capitalism made book production ubiquitous, modern education produced numerous creative writers and scholars in literature and art leading to a significant growth in modern literary activities producing several masterpieces around the middle of the twentieth century. Thus, the revival of 1956 has many facets, and is hardly product of a cultural nationalist trend. This paper reveals that what is often taken to be an indigenous ‘cultural revolution’ in reality resulted from a confluence of ideas that had been in circulation in and around 1956 a year often described as a historical mark of a victory of the local, traditional, domestic, Sinhala, indigenous and so on. The aim is to show that underneath these rhetorical claims, there existed a richly cosmopolitan intellectual milieu which contributed to the phenomenon of the literary revolution of 1956.
How to Cite: Amarakeerthi, L., 2022. A Cosmopolitan Literary Culture with a Façade of Nativism: A Re-evaluation of the Sinhala Literary Culture around 1956. Sri Lanka Journal of the Humanities, 43(1), pp.25–47. DOI: http://doi.org/10.4038/sljh.v43i1.7288
Published on 01 Jul 2022.
Peer Reviewed

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