Student Question

How does Indian English literature differ from American English literature?

Quick answer:

Indian English literature differs from American English literature primarily because it was authored by the colonized, while American literature was written by colonizers and their descendants. American literature has a longer history, starting in the 17th century, whereas major Indian works emerged post-1800. Additionally, English in India is an official language among many, whereas it has been the everyday language in the U.S. for centuries.

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The most significant difference between Indian English literature and American English literature (and the source of many other differences) is that the former was written by the colonized people and the latter mainly by the colonizers and their descendants. Indeed, works written by Anglo-Indians, such as Rudyard Kipling, are generally considered as being part of an entirely different genre from Indian English literature.

American English literature, therefore, has a longer history than Indian English literature. While the former begins in the seventeenth century, there are few major works in English by Indians before 1800. The greatest period of Indian English literature is the twentieth and twenty-first century, with many living writers such as Salman Rushdie, Vikram Seth, Amitav Ghosh, and Arundhati Roy still shaping the genre.

India is a country with hundreds of languages and thousands of dialects, in which English has been imposed as the language of officialdom and bureaucracy. In the United States, though Spanish is ever more widely spoken, English has for hundreds of years been the everyday language of the common people. This means that, despite the fact that India is a much more populous country, the range of English literature in the United States has been wider. In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, this has increasingly included the voices of Native American writers such as Sherman Alexie and N. Scott Momaday.

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