Literary Notes: Signposting Pakistan's literary, socio-cultural and aesthetic trends.

But some have rejected the concept that history and 'history of ideas' are synonymous with each other. Another term that has been topic of contentious debates is 'intellectual history'. Some think ideas and thoughts are the main subject of 'history of ideas', while others say ideas and disseminating them are two different things. So disseminating ideas is what 'intellectual history' is concerned about, they say.

Literary history is yet another issue: history of literature is a form of historiography and its subject is literature. But historians usually do not write literary histories and feel that critics - we call them literary historians - are not qualified to write history. On the other hand, critics feel historians are not competent enough to write on literature. The problem is literature is created against a specific cultural, political and social backdrop, but it is basically the literary features, such as use of language and rhetorical techniques, that gives the text a uniqueness that is often known as 'literariness'.

The dilemma is that literature is not history and cannot replace history as source, but certain literary genres are known to have provided history with source material, for instance, autobiographies and letters recording historical events as eyewitness. Secondly, fiction does not claim to be true but it does reflect some events that are not recorded in history and tell us the real sentiments of common people.

This unresolved or unexplainable connection between history and literature comes up every time some literary history is published. But for a student of Urdu literature, such as this writer, histories of Urdu literature are keys that open the door to a panoramic view of literature with its aesthetic and socio-cultural perspectives. This enables us to see literary texts, literary movements and literary trends as and when they are influenced by politico-social happenings and philosophical thoughts. In other words, literature is a kind of intellectual history.

The Pakistan Academy of Letters (PAL) has just come up with a series of books recording history of Pakistani Urdu literature written with social and political circumstances in mind. Coinciding with Diamond Jubilee celebrations of Pakistan's independence, these books are intended to record, preserve and disseminate the intellectual, social and cultural factors that helped shape Pakistani Urdu literature during 75 years of independence, writes PAL chairman Dr...

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