Contents: 1. The art of the Urdu Marsiya. 2. Homosexual (pederastic) love in pre-modern Urdu poetry. 3. Transvestic words? the Rekhti in Urdu. 4. Yes, the poem itself. 5. The Ghazal itself: translating Ghalib. 6. 'Pseudo-dramatic' poems of Iqbal. 7. Poet-audience interaction at Urdu Musha'irahs. 8. Prize-winning Adab. 9. Mughal and English patronage of Urdu poetry. 10. The consequences of Indo-Pakistani War for Urdu language and literature. 11. How Bibi Ashraf learned to read and write. 12. Popular jokes and political history: the case of Akbar, Birbal and Mulla Do-Piyaza. 13. Ghalib's Delhi: a shamelessly revisionist look at two popular metaphors.
"The essays collected here, eclectic in methodology but often written 'against the grain', offer fresh perspectives on diverse Urdu texts vital to the cultural history of India, and on the equally diverse literary, social, and performative contexts historically identified with the Urdu language in South Asia and beyond.
"Significantly, several of these essays deal with texts that are usually not considered a part of the Urdu literary canon, e.g. an autobiographical fragment by a schoolmistress born in 1840, transvestic verses written by men disguised as women, and anonymous jokes about the Emperor Akbar and his favourite 'jokester', Birbal.
"While some essays offer close readings of literary texts, most explore the dialectical relationship between Urdu texts and their varying cultural and political contexts: e.g. public performances, the state patronage of literature, the nature of political propaganda, patriarchal Muslim society in India, and so on. Text and context is thus a method for exploring some of the major themes of Indian cultural history, specifically in relation to the domains of literary creation and reception.
"The selection here represents Professor Naim's lifelong interest in broadening the field of Urdu literature into the more inclusive and interdisciplinary field of Urdu studies. As such, all who are interested in the sociology of literature in South Asia or the social history of the Muslims of North India will find much that is new and exciting in this book."