Balachandra Rajan

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Balachandra Rajan (March 24, 1920 – January 23, 2009 [1] [2] ) was an Indian diplomat and a scholar of poetry and poetics.


Life and career

Focusing particularly on the poetry of John Milton, Rajan was Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Western Ontario and Rajan was Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge from 1944–1948, but left England to return to his native India, where he served in the Indian Foreign Service until 1961. During that period he served on the Indian Delegation to the United Nations, working extensively with UNESCO and UNICEF, and chairing an international anti-malaria effort. [3] He served as Chairman of the UNICEF Executive Board from 1955 to 1956. Leaving his diplomatic career to return to academe, Rajan taught at the University of Delhi before emigrating to Canada to take up a position at the University of Western Ontario. [4]

Rajan's scholarly work covered a wide range of English poetry, but returned frequently to Milton and particularly to Milton's Paradise Lost . His work cannot be easily assigned to any critical methodology; he was a scholar of poetics in many forms and from many approaches. His 1947 book Paradise Lost and the Seventeenth Century Reader is primarily a response to Milton's apparent interest in Arianism, considered a heresy, and argues for a distinction between private and public meaning in Milton's poetry. The book was influential for William Empson, particularly Empson's critique of strictly theological readings of Paradise Lost, Milton's God. [5] Later essays explore what Rajan calls "generic multeity" in Paradise Lost.

In addition to his work on Milton, Rajan's later criticism addresses issues of meaning, intention, and context in a broad array of writers including Spenser, Yeats, Marvell, Keats, and Macaulay. Rajan considered 'poetry cannot report the event, it must be the event.' [6]

Rajan also wrote two novels. The Dark Dancer is a sobering study of the conflicts of the Partition; [7] Too Long in the West, on the other hand, is a more light-hearted satire (perhaps influenced by Tagore's Farewell, My Friend) about a girl's return to her home village after an emancipating education in New York. [8]

Rajan's daughter is the scholar and literary theorist Tilottama Rajan, who also teaches at Western. [4]

Critical Works


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  1. Rajan, Tilottama – Romantic Narrative: Shelley, Hays, Godwin, Wollstonecraft
  2. "Western mourns loss of Milton scholar". Western News. University of Western Ontario. January 28, 2009. Retrieved January 29, 2009.
  3. "U.N. Fund to Spur War on Malaria". The New York Times. March 5, 1955.
  4. 1 2 Tamburri, Rosanna (November 8, 2004). "Academic Dynasties". University Affairs. Archived from the original on August 8, 2009. Retrieved 2009-01-24.
  5. Empson, William (1965). Milton's God (2nd ed.). London: Chatto and Windus. pp. 34–35.
  6. Rajan B., 'The Overwhelming Question:A study of the Poetry of T S Eliot' University of Toronto Press, Toronto 1976
  7. Morton, Frederic (June 29, 1958). "New Truths, Old Values". The New York Times.
  8. Poore, Charles (February 20, 1962). "Books of The Times: Too Long in the West". The New York Times.