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Professor Sankalapuram Nagarajan (1929 - 2014)

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.037  Monday, 20 January 2014

 

From:        Jim Harner < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         January 16, 2014 at 11:51:30 AM EST

Subject:    Professor S. Nagarajan, India

 

Professor Sankalapuram Nagarajan (1929 - 2014)

 

Professor Sankalapuram Nagarajan, one of India’s finest academicians, passed away in New Delhi around noon on January 6th, 2014. He leaves behind his wife, Srimathi, sons Shankar and Chandramouli, daughter Leela, and their families. Nagarajan—‘Nag’ to his close friends—was regarded as one of the most eminent Shakespeare scholars of India and an original voice in the world Shakespeare community of scholars.

 

Born in 1929 in Bangalore, he did his B.A (English Honours) at the University of Mysore and his M.A. in English Language and Literature at the University of Nagpur where he was awarded the University Gold Medal. After teaching at colleges in Amravati, Bangalore and Jabalpur, he went on to study for his Ph.D. in English at Harvard University. He earned the doctoral degree in a record time of two years (1959-61), and held the distinction of being India’s first Harvard Ph.D. in English. For his doctoral study he was awarded a Smith-Mundt/Fulbright fellowship, a Harvard University fellowship, and a Folger fellowship. 

 

At Harvard he worked with eminent Shakespeare scholars such as Professors Alfred Harbage and Herschel Baker. He finished his coursework with distinction under scholars like Walter Jackson Bate, Reuben Brower, David Perkins, and I.A. Richards. His dissertation on Shakespeare’s Problem Comedies resulted in an invitation to edit Measure for Measure for the Signet Classic Shakespeare. This edition has been in print continuously for over 45 years in spite of severe competition from later and more generously edited editions. In 2013, he published an edition of King Lear, a study he started as a Folger Shakespeare Library Fellow in 1998. 

 

Dr. Nagarajan’s scholarly articles on a wide-range of subjects, including comparative studies (the influence of Advaita Vedanta on Isherwood, for example) appeared in prestigious international journals like the Shakespeare Quarterly, Comparative Literature, Modern Fiction Studies, Ariel, and the Oxford Essays in Criticism. He was the Indian Correspondent of the World Shakespeare Bibliography for about three decades. As many of his former students and colleagues have remarked, Nagarajan was a keen supporter of literature in Indian languages. Thinking about literature in more than one language, he insisted, was a singular strength that Indian scholars could bring to the world stage.

 

Professor Nagarajan is also remembered for his outstanding contribution to higher education in India. After he returned to India from Harvard in 1961, he was appointed Chair of the University Department of English and Chairperson of the Board of Studies in English at the University of Poona (now Pune). He taught there till 1977 when he moved to the University of Hyderabad to assume the position of Professor of English, a position he held until he retired in April 1989. At the University of Hyderabad, he was Dean of the School of Humanities for six years and officiated for some time as Vice-Chancellor of the university. 

 

After his retirement, he served as an Emeritus Fellow of India’s prominent University Grants Commission (UGC). Later, the University of Hyderabad requested him to serve as the inaugural Director of its new Centre for the Study of Comparative Literature. During his tenure as professor at the University of Pune and at Hyderabad, the UGC honored him as National Lecturer in English and as a National Fellow. In addition, he held many fellowships and honorary lectureships, including being a British Council Visitor, an American Studies Fellow at Harvard, a visiting fellow at Clare Hall (Cambridge, U.K.), a Leverhulme Fellow at the Australian National University and a Commonwealth Universities Fellow at the University of Edinburgh. In 1988, he was elected Life Member at Clare Hall at the University of Cambridge. He was also invited to serve as Visiting Professor and advisor for the University of Mauritius during 1993 -1994.

 

Professor Nagarajan will be remembered for his many scholarly accomplishments and his role in advancing higher education in India. But above everything, it was Professor Nagarajan’s students who always brought an unstoppable sparkle and tenderness to his eyes. Their success and achievements evoked in him a parental pride. He gave his everything to students. Every student came away inspired and all felt deep love and respect for him. Students and colleagues were to remain his ever-growing family until he retired and beyond. One of most memorable occasions for Professor Nagarajan was the grand felicitation his former students from across the years hosted for his 75th birthday in Pune (or Poona, as he never stopped calling it by its older name). On hearing the news about Dr. Nagarajan, one of his former students (who now teaches in Belfast, Ireland) wrote, “[Dr. Nagarajan] conveyed to us brilliantly the disturbing power of poetry to teach us what we often did not know of ourselves. It is something we will never forget.”

 

Professor Nagarajan wrote late into his life. Commenting on his masterful edition of King Lear which was published recently in 2013, Professor Sylvan Barnet, the eminent Shakespeare scholar said, quoting from As You Like it: "O wonderful, wonderful, most wonderful wonderful, and yet again wonderful, and after that, out of all whooping!" Professor Barnet went on to describe the book: “[Nagarajan’s] King Lear is not only for Indian students--it is for all students--yes, and for all readers, including professors--who want a thorough yet judicious, readable commentary on the play.” 

 
 

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