• Preetha Mani
  • Preetha Mani
  • Associate Professor of South Asian Literatures
  • Phone: 848-445-4307
  • Office hours: by appointment
  • Office address: 15 Seminary Place Room 6168, College Ave Campus
  • Education:

    Ph.D. South and Southeast Asian Studies with a Designated Emphasis in Women, Gender, and Sexuality, University of California, Berkeley

    M.A. South and Southeast Asian Studies, University of California, Berkeley  

    B.A. English and Philosophy, Tufts University  

  • Areas of Research/Interest:

    Modern Hindi, Tamil, and Indian literatures; South Asia feminisms; women’s writing; literary multilingualism; world literature; translation studies; realisms, modernisms, and literary form; postcolonial studies

    I am a literary comparatist focusing on issues of translation, genre, feminist and postcolonial theory, and world literature. My specialization is in twentieth-century Hindi and Tamil literature and literary history with an emphasis on how these rich traditions converse with other literatures of India and the world. I approach the study of literature through close textual reading combined with a firm rootedness in how understandings of the relationship between literature and society have changed over time. I have an enduring interest in the relationship between gender and genre and the popular and the literary, which informs my ongoing work on the comparative study of Indian and world literatures, translation studies, and women’s writing in South Asia.

    Mani BookMy first book, The Idea of Indian Literature: Gender, Genre, and Comparative Method (Northwestern University Press 2022; South Asia edition by Permanent Black 2022) won the MLA Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for South Asian Studies, received the ACLA René Wellek Prize Honorable Mention for best overall book in comparative literature, and was shortlisted for the MSA First Book Prize. The book explores the paradox that a single canon could be written in multiple languages, each with their own evolving relationships to each other and to English. Examining canonical Hindi and Tamil short stories from the crucial decades surrounding the era of decolonization, it contends that Indian literature must be understood as indeterminate, propositional, and reflective of changing dynamics between local, regional, national, and global readerships.            
    I am currently working on two new projects. The first explores the emergence of Tamil new poetry between the late 1950s and early 1980s in relation to aesthetic frameworks built around prose and the rise of vocabularies pertaining to music and language. It proposes that new poetry was a primary avenue through which Tamil writers belonging to various literary approaches crossed ideological boundaries to draw inspiration from each other and from new poetry movements in other Indian and world languages, ultimately enabling the democratization of poetic form.

     A second project revisits the familiar gendered division of literary labor that situates Hindi, Urdu, and Indian English female writers as “sentimental,” “popular,” “true-to-life” realists and their male counterparts as “experimental,” “sophisticated,” “abstract” modernists. It explores how women’s representations of female experience substantiated Indian modernism’s grasp on postcolonial reality by allowing its aesthetic emphasis on abstract symbols and elusive meaning — concepts which were theorized and practiced almost entirely by men — to stake claim to the truth of universal human experience.

    I was elected to the American Institute of Indian Studies (AIIS) Board of Trustees for a three-year term during 2020-2023 and now serve on the AIIS Book Prize Committee. I was also elected to serve on the Modern Language Association LLC Forum on Literatures of the United States in Languages Other Than English Executive Committee for a five-year term from 2021 to 2026. This year I am the forum’s secretary. As a Dean’s Faculty Fellow in 2022-2023, I led the Year of Languages programming for the Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences Humanities Office. I am currently conducting new research in India as a 2023-2024 United States-India Educational Foundation (USIEF) Fulbright Nehru Fellow.   

  • Select Fellowships and Awards:

    Fulbright Nehru Academic and Professional Excellence Fellowship (2023-24)

    Rutgers Global International Collaborative Research Grant (2023-24)

    MLA Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for South Asian Studies (2022)

    ACLA René Wellek Prize Honorable Mention for Best Overall Book in Comparative Literature (2022)

    MSA First Book Prize Shortlist (2022)

    Rutgers University Institute for Research on Women “Care” Faculty Fellowship (2022-23)

    Dean’s Faculty Fellow, Humanities Office, School of Arts and Sciences, Rutgers University (2022-23)

    Distinguished Contributions to Undergraduate Education, School of Arts and Sciences, Rutgers University (2021-22)

    Rutgers University Center for Cultural Analysis Early Career Research Prize (2020)

    Rutgers University Research Council Award (2020)

    American Institute of Indian Studies Edward Cameron Dimock, Jr. Prize in the Indian Humanities for First Book, Short List (2020)

    Rutgers University Center for Cultural Analysis “Classification” Faculty Fellowship (2018-19)

    American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship (2015-16)

    Rutgers University Institute for Research on Women “Decolonizing Gender/Gendering Decolonization” Faculty Fellowship (2013-14)

    Rutgers University Global Advancement and International Affairs International Collaborative Research Grant (2013-2014)

    British Center for Literary Translation Mentorship Award (2013-14)

  • Select Publications:

    Mani, Preetha. Forthcoming. “The Literary Management of Multilingualism in India: The Sahitya Akademi and the Case of Tamil New Poetry,” The Oxford Handbook of Modern Indian Literatures, edited by Ulka Anjaria and Anjali Nerlekar, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Mani, Preetha. 2022. The Idea of Indian Literature: Gender, Genre, and Comparative Method. Evanston: Northwestern University Press.                 

                                             South Asia edition published by Permanent Black (Ranikhet, India: 2022).

    Mani, Preetha. 2020. “An Aesthetics of Isolation: How Pudumaippittan Gave Preeminence to the Tamil Short Story.” Special issue on “Literary Sentiments in South Asia,” South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies 43 (5): 926-942.

                                              Republished in Literary Sentiments in South Asia: Gender and Genre in Modern South Asia, edited
                                               by Charu Gupta, Laura Bruek, Hans Harder, and Shobna Nijhawan. London: Routledge, 2022, 102-117.                                                                        

    Mani, Preetha. 2020. “The Secret of Literature,” translation of Pudumaippittan’s “Illakiyattin Irakaciyam,” appendix to “An Aesthetics of Isolation: How Pudumaippittan Gave Preeminence to the Tamil Short Story.” Special issue on “Literary Sentiments in South Asia,” South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies 43(5): 941-942.

    Mani, Preetha. 2019. “What Was So New about the New Story? Modernist Realism in the Hindi Nayī Kahānī.” Comparative Literature 71 (3): 226-251.

    Mani, Preetha. 2019. “Literary and Popular Fiction in Late Colonial Tamil Nadu,” in Indian Genre Fiction: Pasts and Future Histories, edited by Bodhisattva Chattopadhyay, Anwesha Maity, and Aakriti Mandhwani. London: Routledge, 17-37.

    Mani, Preetha, Aparna Dharwadker, and Vinay Dharwadker. 2019. “The Playwright and the Stage,” translation of Mohan Rakesh’s “Natakar aura Rangmanc” in A Poetics of Modernity: Indian Theatre Theory, 1860 to the Present. Ed. Aparna Dharwadker. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 234-239.

    Mani, Preetha. 2016. “Feminine Desire is Human Desire: Women Writing Feminism in Post-Independence India.” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East 36 (1): 21-41.

    Mani, Preetha. 2015. “Don’t you know Sita?”, introduction to and translation of R. Chudamani’s “Citaiyait Teriyuma?” SAGAR: A South Asia Research Journal 23: 111-127.

    Mani, Preetha. 2010. “In Premchand’s Home,” introduction to and translation of selections from Shivrani Devi’s Premchand Ghar Mein in Nationalism in the Vernacular: Hindi, Urdu, and the Literature of Indian Freedom. Ed. Shobna Nijhawan. Delhi: Permanent Black, 241-253.

  • Courses:

    Introduction to the Literatures of South Asia

    Women Writers of South Asia

    Introduction to Translation Studies

    Gender, Nation, and Literature in South Asia

    Love in South Asia (Honors Seminar)

    Crossroads: Classical Literatures of Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia

    Introduction to Postcolonial Literatures and Theories

    Senior Seminar in Literature and Society

    Banned Books

    Introduction to Literary Theory (Graduate Seminar)