The dreaming subject : early speculative fiction in colonial Bengal

Atanu BHATTACHARYA (Presenter), Preet HIRADHAR (Presenter)

Research output: Other Conference ContributionsPresentation


The speculative dream-narrative is an insistent presence in Bangla YA writings of the nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries. The private sanctum that the dream offers, within what is essentially a public enterprise in the colonial regime, creates a speculative stance that counters not only the hegemonic structures of colonialism but also posits an alternative space enabling a negotiation of one’s own subjectivities. The dream may be viewed as a space of reclamation, however transitory that may be, of a colonized self that is located within a technological horizon of ‘colonial governmentality’. This space, however, is often sieved through class, caste and gender structures promising emancipation as the ultimate goal and yet withholding it from ever being realizable within the colonial domain.

Speculative fiction, from its inception, has been imbricated in dreams since its classic commencement in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; or the Modern Prometheus (1818). YA fiction assumes added significance in colonial Bengal being located within a network of contesting discourses involving history, pedagogy, gender, technology and religion. Thus, in Shoshee Chunder Dutt’s ‘A Run to Sumeru’ the dream offers a radical re-reading of the Hindu gods and goddesses. Jagadananda Roy’s Shukra Bhraman (Travel to Venus, 1892), one of the earliest YASFs written during the period, the dream is a strategy to subvert both the imperial claims to epistemology as well as the stereotype of the effeminate Bengali youth. On the other hand, Trailokyanath Mukhopadhyaya’s Kankabati (1892), an imitation of Carroll’s Alice, inserts the dream abruptly within the oppressive gender structures of marriage, propelling Kankabati into the domain of the fantastic. Rokeya Hossain’s ‘Sultana’s Dream’ (1905) is, perhaps, the most discussed of such narratives. Rokeya’s projected dreamscape of Ladyland as well as her other speculative pieces not only problematize the gender debates of the times but also locates them within the larger historical and technological imaginaries within the colonial domain. The paper will explore the significance of such oneiric speculative imaginings in early YA fiction in the context of wider literary practices in colonial Bengal.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jun 2022
Event2022 Children's Literature Association Conference : City in a Forest - Hyatt Regency Atlanta , Atlanta, United States
Duration: 2 Jun 20224 Jun 2022


Conference2022 Children's Literature Association Conference : City in a Forest
Abbreviated titleChLA2022
Country/TerritoryUnited States
Internet address


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