Miraji and South Asian Aesthetics, Poetics, and Politics

The prolific poet, critic, and translator Muhammad Sana Ullah Dar ‘Miraji’ (1912-1949) is among the most prominent and controversial literary figures in late-colonial Urdu, yet his work remains largely unknown outside of Urdu literary communities. This special issue will capture renewed scholarly interest in Miraji’s life and works, using contemporary critical frameworks to reexamine his writings and present them to a broader audience.

Miraji’s lifestyle, beliefs, and poetry have produced equal parts ire and fascination. Extraordinarily prolific over his short lifetime, he wrote numerous collections of poetry across several genres, extensive translations from South Asian and world literature, and a vast number of critical essays and editorials. After achieving prominence as an editor and tastemaker, he was censured as an “art for art’s sake” retrograde and sexual pervert by ideologues of the Progressive Writers Association, the foremost literary movement of his time. A number of prominent Pakistani Urdu critics later condemned his poetry as un-Islamic for its embrace of Indic elements, “Hindi” rhythms, and sexual themes. Yet his hybrid poetry and personality have been the subject of numerous Urdu-language studies and recent novels, and many contemporary Urdu poets still trace their artistic and intellectual lineage back to Miraji.

Despite Miraji’s stature in Urdu letters–built upon his radical innovations in literary form, his hybrid use of Urdu, Hindi, Braj, and Awadhi language, and the deep and complex subjects of his poetry–very little scholarship in English has assessed the historical significance of his work. Geeta Patel’s pioneering study, Lyrical Movements, Historical Hauntings: On Gender, Colonialism, and Desire in Miraji’s Urdu Poetry (2002), remains the only English-language book on the subject.

Addressing the resurgence of interest in Miraji’s poetry in recent years, this special issue highlights a new body of emergent scholarship on Miraji’s aesthetics, poetics, and politics. The issue would consider some of the following questions:

  • What might be the politics of Miraji’s poetry?  How does it contest the dominance of the Progressive Writers’ Association in modern South Asian literature?
  • How does Miraji figure in cross-lingual literary and intellectual networks, both cosmopolitan and local?
  • How does Miraji’s writing address questions of translation, and what problems in turn does his poetry present for translators?
  • What is unique about Miraji’s poetic voice(s)? How does his poetry inhabit multiple languages? How does it expand notions of interiority and subjective experience?
  • How does Miraji’s poetry rethink sexual desire, gendered voices, and subjectivity? What relationship does Miraji’s poetry forge between gender and sexuality?
  • How can contemporary interdisciplinary perspectives—affect studies, gender and sexuality studies, new modernist studies, sound studies, and translation studies—help us understand and contextualize Miraji’s poetry and life?
  • Why does Miraji remain such a central figure today? What lost futures does his poetry and writing still hold?

Please send a title, 300-word abstract, 3-6 keywords describing the content, and your contact details (name, institutional affiliation, email address)  to Krupa Shandilya ( and A. Sean Pue ( by May 1.

Following the acceptance of article proposals, completed articles should be submitted by summer 2019. Accepted articles will be sent out for double-blind peer-review. Articles can be up to 7500 words in length.