Abstract

Focusing on decolonization and the home rule movement in India and Ireland, this article examines the career of the poet and theosophist James Cousins, who left a flourishing career in Dublin and settled in India in 1915. The substantial body of work published by Cousins in India represents his attempt to work through issues of realism and idealism in art that, in his view, remained unresolved in the Irish cultural renaissance. In his literary criticism he sought to find satisfactory models to deal with the pressing questions of decolonization and home rule. Privileging art over politics, Cousins regarded the Indian renaissance not as a moment of political awakening but rather as a movement toward aesthetic and philosophical unity, in stark contrast to the Irish literary revival, which was driven primarily by political goals. Drawing on such diverse thinkers as Tagore and Okakura, Cousins maintained that the struggle for freedom was essentially an expansion of critical consciousness. The real measure of civilizational strength for him was the accommodation of inner growth by external conditions. Where such conditions did not exist, only violence could result. Cousins pointed to the French Revolution as history's prime example of the reduction of the ideal to the assertion of local, narcissistic needs. The result of the friction between world idealism and political realism was the self-centered nationalism that Cousins abhorred as an aberration from the true course of human history. In his attempt to develop an aesthetics that could accommodate politics without being subordinated to it, however, Cousins drove his own work into oblivion, as other models of internationalism that were more overtly political and economic gained ascendancy.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-8050
Print ISSN
1045-6007
Pages
pp. 7-30
Launched on MUSE
2004-02-11
Open Access
No
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