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Home and Wanderlust: Patriotic Wayfarers on The Path of "Universal Life" in Rabindranath Tagore

Scholars have observed that the clash between patriotism and cosmopolitanism constitutes a central theme of Rabindranath Tagore’s novel The Home and the World. What remains to be fully addressed, however, is Tagore’s profound depiction of affective and spiritual sources of sympathy larger than loyalty to one’s country. Tagore’s multi-personal delineation of consciousness illuminates the complicated relations between notions of the constitution of self and allegiances to vital sites of belonging—home, nation, the world, and the infinite. Through a close examination of spatial tropes in the novel, the article illustrates how Tagore draws on Buddhist traditions in presenting his vision of svadeśsamāj, a form of social collectivity that amalgamates inner life with traditional Indian ways of communal existence. Paying special attention to the protagonists’ introspections, this essay argues that the novel suggests how moral judgments can be nurtured by aesthetic sentiments that are tied to such communal existence.

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