Kumaran Ashan’s “The Fallen Flower” (1907) and Malayalam Modernism in a Global Context
Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations
University of Chicago
Abstract: In November of 1907, in the South Indian town of Palakkad (Palghat), a thirty-four year old man known to posterity as Mahakavi Kumaran Ashan (1873–1924) wrote a poem in his native language Malayalam that he titled “The Fallen Flower” (Veena poovu). Literary historians have often taken this poem as marking the beginning of modern Malayalam poetry. This paper attempts not only to examine how precisely this claim may be substantiated and what the term “modern poetry” might mean in Malayalam literary history, but also to read “The Fallen Flower” in the context of other poems written in 1907 by various poets around the world. The aim of this comparative study is to ultimately develop a better theorization of “Modernism”, one that reaches beyond the hegemonic European and American literary works and in which non-European literatures do not automatically appear as belated, emulatory and second-rate.