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The establishment of British rule in India was contingent upon the reshaping of Indian society. The introduction of English literature in India became an important method for instilling British social ideals in Indian society, as literary study was an effective way of introducing imperial rhetoric in mainstream society. Though educational discourse was officially secular, the interests of British missionaries eventually coalesced with the colonial administration, leading to the insinuation of Christian ideology into British education. As a result, John Milton's Paradise Lost became an especially popular text in the colonial curriculum, as it presented a method for teaching tenets of Christianity through the English literary canon. Due to colonial discourse on race and education, this trend was most prominent in the Northeastern state of Bengal, which embraced Paradise Lost and integrated it into the colonial Bengali education system. In this paper, I will argue that imperial views on education, race, and conversion colluded with the esteem of the epic tradition in India to establish the popularity of Paradise Lost in colonial Bengal. In addition, I will demonstrate how the ubiquitous nature of Paradise Lost in Bengal influenced rewritings of Indian epic poetry, as Paradise Lost was regarded as a model for the rewriting of epic material. Michael Madhusudan Dutt's The Slaying of Meghanada and Rabindranath Tagore's The Home and the World demonstrate that because of Milton's popularity in colonial Begnal, Paradise Lost's model for rewriting religious material was replicated in the region. In order to establish British rule in colonial India, it became necessary to present the culture of England as inherently superior to the local culture, and literary study became an imperative method of presenting this view. Thomas Macaulay, the most well known proponent of the institution of English literature into the colonial curriculum, wrote, "[I] have never found one among them who could deny that a single shelf of a good European library was worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia. The intrinsic superiority of the Western literature is, indeed, fully admitted by those members of the Committee who support the Oriental plan of education ("Minute on Indian Education")." Macaulay's views were foundational in the movement to prioritize the use of English literature in India's colonial education system, as its rhetoric was heavily repeated throughout the colonial rule of India. The role of English literature in the perpetuation of the goals of imperialism has been most clearly articulated by Gauri Viswanathan, who notes that knowledge of English literature soon became directly linked to examinations for the civil service and other administrative positions, as English literature was seen as representative of the ideals and qualities that should be replicated by the colonial subject (2). In addition, the discourse surrounding literary study was used to subjectify the colonized population, through the relationship between the colonial educator and the colonial subject who is to be educated. Viswanthan writes, "A vital if subtle connection exists between a discourse in which those who are to be educated are represented as morally and intellectually deficient and the attribution of moral and intellectual values to the literary works they are assigned to read" (4). English literature was thus utilized to further empower the civilizing mission of colonialism, thus enforcing the subjectification of the Indian.

1 March
Samar Habib
The Gale Group, Inc., a Delaware corporation and an affiliate of Cengage Learning, Inc.

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