Print Cultures Before the Postcolonial Era, The Miscellany: Program

Workshop of 

Organized by Pr. Josephine McDonagh (UChicago)

University of Chicago Paris Center, 6 Rue Thomas Man, Paris 75013, France

18 – 19 January 2024



This workshop focused on the miscellany in colonial and postcolonial print cultures, as a way of fostering communication between scholars of pre- and post-independence print cultures in different regions.  “Miscellany” is a catchall term for the various kinds of anthologies that were such a distinctive element of nineteenth-century print culture and which persisted in various forms in the first half of the twentieth century.  “Cut and paste” was the dominant technology of imperial print culture (Hofmeyr), enabling the assemblage and circulation of images and texts across continents.  In the workshop we will think about the aesthetics and politics of “cut and paste” (or “collage”), of assemblage, extraction and compression as technologies and practices in the various print cultures of empire, resistance, and post-colony.

What kinds of native or indigenous practices of assemblage were also in operation in colonial contexts? And have colonial practices of assemblage impacted the way we access, read and hierarchize postcolonial texts?  And to what effect?  


DAY 1 • Thursday, 18 January

12h30-13h30: Lunch

14h00-15h30: Printing Presses

Moderator: Paulo Horta (NYU Abu Dhabi)

Ulrike Stark (University of Chicago): “Majestic Patronage: Muslim and Christian Printing at the Lucknow Royal Press, 1819-1849”

Despite its importance as the earliest Muslim-sponsored printing press in North India, the Matba‘-i Sultani, or Royal Press, established by the King of Awadh in 1819, has received little scholarly attention. Best known for its production of Haft Qulzum (1822), a celebrated Persian dictionary and grammar, the Royal Press epitomizes the momentous shift from movable type to lithographic printing in northern India at an early stage in the global transfer of print technology. It is less well known that the press underwent a parallel shift from Muslim to European agency. The paper recounts an untold story of Christian educational printing at His Majesty’s Lithographic Press, complicating standard narratives of early Indian print culture. In tracing the history of the press, I explore the participation of Awadh’s Shi’i Muslim rulers and local European actors in knowledge production and discuss some of the material and cultural factors marking early Lucknow print culture with a view to how questions of the local and the global, multilingualism, and the powerdynamics of transcultural encounters are relevant across colonial and postcolonial print culturestudies. I will focus on two extraordinary print objects: a monumental Persian dictionary and aminiature book in Urdu.

Graham Shaw (Institute of English Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London): “Paper Bullets for India”

An examination of the printed leaflets produced by the Japanese in the early 1940s in support of the Indian National Army led by Subhas Chandra Bose – the transcultural encounter represented by this propaganda exercise – the contrast in style and approach with the nationalist images produced in India itself – how they add a different dimension to the iconography of the Indian Freedom Movement.

Tea break

16h00–18h00: Periodicals part 1

Moderator: Estelle Murail (Université Catholique de Paris)

Rosinka Chaudhuri (Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta): The Bengal Spectator Calcutta, 1843”

The Bengal Spectator, published from Calcutta for a brief period between April 1842 to November 1843, was a monthly bilingual paper printed in parallel columns in Bengali and English, a form which, I argue, facilitated substantial changes in the structure of Bengali prose. The public print sphere of early nineteenth-century Calcutta supported a multilingual public; here I will focus closely on form and sentence structure to demonstrate the evolution of printed Bengali prose located in the political everydayness of newsprint.

Sara Thornton (Université Paris Cité): “Transportation, Timelapse and Local and Global Reportage: the Case of Punch, or the Sydney Charivari in 1857”

I have decided to present a colonial artefact : an 1857 copy of the early Sydney Punch called Punch, or the Sydney Charivari. I am interested in several aspects of this 1857 number. Firstly its dependency on the Scottish built steamship “Simla” which took 51-55 days to arrive from Britain and bought news from Europe which was out of date but increasingly less so as technology improved. Transport technology and the fuel which powered it, had an effect on written content, timelapse influencing the production and treatment of local and global news. Secondly, we can consider the way in which news, entertainment, gossip and local reportage blended together to form a discourse on local community, national identity and imperial belonging. These scales of community and the conflicting emotions they produce give us a sense of how identity, or alienation, is built. The coverage of international events such as the Sepoy Revolution or Indian uprising of 1857 offers insight into how immigrants positioned themselves in terms of empire. In general, the pages of these early numbers of Sydney Charivari offer up images of a complex and multicultural society in which not everyone feels at home.

Benedetta Zaccarello (CNRS-ITEM): Arya – revue de synthèse philosophique (1914-1920)”

I will present on the transcultural journal Arya – revue de synthèse philosophique (1914-1920) published in Pondicherry and mainly featuring contents by Aurobindo Ghose (1872-1950). The Arya is a very interesting printed object, assembling essais in philosophy, literature, hermeneutics and philology accompanied by commented translations displaying a quite innovative transcultural approach. After the publication of the first issues, the co-authors Mirra Alfassa and Paul Richard have to flee to Japan because of WW1 and Aurobindo finds himself alone in composing the contents of the journal, as it had previously happened – for political reasons at that time – for his newspaper Bande Mataram and weekly review Karmayogin. Here Aurobindo moves a step ahead in his project of a vast reappreciation of his mother land cultures as expressed in his early nationalistic writings, and focuses on texts, often through comparative readings bridging across Indian andEuropean traditions and several different disciplines in humanities. Due to such accidental circumstances, the Arya ends up becoming the “lieu génétique” of all Sri Aurobindo’s major works, with the only exception of the epic poem Savitri.


DAY 2 • Friday, 19 January

9h30-11h00: Periodicals part 2

Moderator: Álvaro Luna Dubois (NYU Abu Dhabi)

Neelam Srivastava (University of Newcastle): “A Partisan Press: Sylvia Pankhurst’s Broadsheet New Times and Ethiopia News

My paper examines Sylvia Pankhurst’s broadsheet New Times and Ethiopia News, which campaigned in favour of the Ethiopian resistance against the Italian invasion of 1935. It became an unofficial organ of African nationalism more broadly, publishing letters and articles by many anticolonial activists across the continent and beyond. I discuss the specific impact of Italian colonialism on conceptions of (and resistances to) empire in the interwar period, and on Pankhurst’s anticolonial politics.

Laetitia Zecchini (CNRS-THALIM): “Worldliness as Critique: The Cut-and-paste Activism of The Indian PEN (30s-50s)”

This presentation will focus on The Indian PEN, the newsletter-cum-journal of the All-India PEN Center, the Indian branch (founded in Bombay in 1933) of the world association of writers now known as International PEN. The Indian Center’s activism on behalf of Indian literatures, and on behalf of India’s freedom struggle is supported by an awareness of other world literatures, periodicals, networks and struggles, itself materialized in the cut-and-paste intertextual and transnational fabric of The Indian PEN. By paying attention to the intertextual materiality of a specific issue of the journal in 1940, I also propose to consider “wordliness” as a form of critique.

Coffee break

11h30 – 13h00: Annuals

Moderator: Todd Porterfield (NYU)

Jonathan Sachs (Concordia University): “Forget Me Not from 1830”

I will be presenting on the literary miscellany Forget Me Not from 1830. I am interested in the temporal aspects of the publication, the way that it combines the cyclical quality of its annual publication with a linear movement through its series of issues forward through calendar time. I am curious about whether and how this serial and cyclical temporality translates into the contents of the issue. Further, I will discuss the multimedia qualities of the publication, its combination of genres and of text and image. I am also interested in how its various poems and stories present children and their movement and migration more generally. Finally, the annual is of interest because it prints what may be Byron’s first poem “To My Dear Mary Anne” (for Mary Chaworth), which I believe is an unnoted first printing of the poem.

Charlotte Cary Beckett (University of Chicago): “Re-printing ‘Recollections’: the Uneven Terrain of Susanna Moodie’s Settler Sketches”

Like many popular writers in the 1820s and 30s, Susanna Moodie (born Strickland) published over 30 poems and short stories across at least nine different literary annuals. Written over the span of just three years (1829-1832, importantly, the same period in which she transcribes Mary Prince’s History), this accumulation of work becomes a kind of trove for Moodie to return to in the decades ahead. Once in Canada, her evergrowing collection of poems becomes a tremendously important resource. My presentation focuses, in part, on the re-printing of her poetic works amongst the prose sketches in Roughing It in the Bush (1852), her account of settler-colonial life for which she is most known. The transatlantic transportation, shuffling around, and pasting in of earlier papers allows me to think (a) about the particular nowhere and universal everywhere enabled by something like the poetic/rural idyll, encouraged/fostered by the affective regime of the literary annual; and (b) the ease with which the deictic center (the lyric here) shifts, helps me think about Moodie’s own conceptions of audience and reception in a print culture shaped by the mobilization of global populations.

13h00-14h00: Lunch

14h30–16h00: Miscellaneous Form 1

Moderator: Will Slauter (Sorbonne Université)

Priyasha Mukhopadhyay (Yale University): “Graphic Data in the Report of the Bombay Plague Committee (1898)”

Object: Report of the Bombay Plague Committee appointed by government resolution No.1204/720P, on the plague in Bombay, for the period extending from the 1st July 1897 to the 30th April 1898 / under the chairmanship of Sir James MacNabb Campbell; examined by Captain the Hon R. Mostyn (Bombay: Times of India Steam Press, 1898).

The print object I’ll be speaking about is the Report of the Bombay Plague Committee (1898). The report, documenting the spread and control of the plague by the British colonial administration in Bombay from 1897-1898, is a multimedia miscellany bringing together statistical tables, bureaucratic prose, and data visualizations. Taking the report’s data visual apparatus (maps, graphs) as my central focus, I’ll argue that such diagrams are a unique form of narrative that rely on the deliberate arrangement of data to tell a story. The intention of such stories is to highlight the epistemological claims that an underlying data set is making, but which cannot be seen without the help of the visualized form. Atthe level of the diagram, I will examine how the aesthetic and informational roles of graphs and maps are intertwined, with colour, size, design, and scale all intimately affecting how the narrative unfolds in the eyes of its readers. I will pay close attention to the kinds of trade-offs that are made to generate the most convincing, if not always the most accurate, version of events. At the level of the page, I will explore how the data visualization works in concert with other kinds of narrative persuasion like tables, footnotes, and prose as part of the textual infrastructure of empire. I’m interested in the media ecology of the report, tracking how readers shift between word and image, and between raw number and graphic representation.

Josephine McDonagh (University of Chicago): “Displaced Children in Colonial Print Miscellanies (ca. 1820s and 1830s)”

My presentation will focus on some examples of annuals published principally in London in the 1820s, and 1830s (probably Forget-me-not, Fisher’s Drawing Room Scrap Book, and the Juvenile Keepsake). Multimedia, multi-genre, and multi-authored productions, these once-yearly illustrated anthologies actively participated in producing the colonial literary culture that postcolonial critics have identified as central to Britain’s nineteenth-century imperial project. One of the striking features of the annual format is the repeated singling out of children as agents within the represented colonial world. There are stories and poems about child protagonists, visual images of children, and children are frequently identified for specific address, most especially (but not only) in the many juvenile annuals that are published from the late 1820s. Usually presented as single figures, children represented in annuals are repeatedly figured as orphans, alone, abandoned, and cast adrift – and sometimes dead – on intercontinental journeys across oceans in the interests of empire. Frequently they are racialized. In this presentation, I ask two questions: first, do these representations of children challenge familiar conceptions of the Romantic invention of childhood at the turn of the nineteenth century? And second, how do the particular affordances of the annual’s miscellaneity help to produce these particular forms of childhood? Ultimately I would like to think about the legacies of these versions of childhood, in the long and continuing (and postcolonial) history of global displacement.

Tea break

16h30–18h00: Miscellaneous Form 2

Moderator: Eve Tignol (CNRS-CESAH)

Mark Turner (King’s College London): “Extractive Miscellaneity and the Launch of Australian Serial Print (ca. 1820s)”

My talk will present the idea of ‘extractive miscellaneity’ with which I have been wrangling in recent months. I am interested in the miscellany not only as a form, format and container technology, but for the way the very concept of ‘miscellaneity’ is at the centre of print of modernity. While scholars (including me) have spent a great deal of energy exploring the concept of seriality (an expansive mode), rather less attention has been paid to miscellaneity (a reductive mode). I see these two concepts as working in tandem, what I’ve described elsewhere as the ‘twin engines of print modernity’. I am interested in miscellaneity as process and method and I am trying to understand how the dynamics of print intersect with, represent, enable or even construct forms of colonial encounter. I focus on the launch of The Australian Review in 1821 and tease out the ways miscellaneity works in the first Australian magazine, in relation to other miscellanies in the early 19th century.

Coraline Jortay (CNRS-THALIM): “Entanglements between gender representations and typographical materiality in the Sinosphere in the 1920s and 1930s”

I will present on the debates surrounding gender and language that shook Republican-era China through the prism of typography and will likely bring a satirical cartoon or advertisement related to those debates. Moving beyond linguistic pamphlets and grammar books, this talk examines the iconic value that was attributed to newly-coined gendered pronouns in advertisements, satirical cartoons, and periodicals published in China and other Sinophone spaces throughout South-EastAsia. Teasing out the visual valence of the presence or absence of these characters in relation to their conditions of production, as well as to the impediment that they were said to constitute for less resourced printing presses, this talk seeks to unravel the manifold entanglements between gender representations and typographical materiality in the Sinosphere in the 1920s and 1930s.

18h00: End of Workshop Drinks