Sirshendu Majumdar

Panel 6C: Avant-garde and Artist’s Books
Session 6 – July 3, 15:30 – 17:30

Word into Picture: Doodles of Rabindranath Tagore

Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), the first Asian to win the Nobel Prize in literature in 1913, began to paint pictures when he was about seventy. But more significantly he began drawing doodles out of scratched out words in his manuscripts. He had been infrequently drawing doodles since around 1905, but from 1924, the number of doodles on manuscripts increased profusely. The purpose of my paper is not merely to demonstrate the unique genius of a poet who was simultaneously creating two forms of art—written and visual— out of the same material. The doodles that Tagore drew were drawn in fine lines of red and black has likeness with figures in primitive art. The most brilliant doodles are covered with dark thick lines from which can be deciphered pointed faces of beasts one set over the other. From amidst the geometrical forms, the lines of the poems seem to be peeping out. One MS page has a chief form above which lies the head of a beast-like figure. The words of the poem seem to come out through window-shaped blocks the tops of which are designed with cobweb-like nets of very fine lines. The subjects of the poems apparently do not conform to the figures drawn, but I want to argue that these doodles are not the mindless playfulness of a master artist, but are intimately related to the deep recesses of his thought and some of his chief preoccupations which find expression in those fantastic and beautiful forms.


I am an Associate Professor of English at Bolpur College, University of Burdwan, India. My monograph, Yeats and Tagore: A Comparative Study of Cross-Cultural Poetry, Nationalist Politics, Hyphenated Margins and the Ascendancy of the Mind was published by Maunsel & Co/ Academica Press (Bethesda, Dublin & Palo Alto, 2013). I have also co-edited Rabindranath Tagore: Humanity & Cultural Affinity (Kolkata,2016). I have contributed many book chapters and essays to learned journals. I have presented papers in Barcelona, New York and Dublin. I was also invited to lecture at Villanova University, USA. I was a Trinity Long Room Hub Visiting Research Fellow 2018-19 at Trinity College Dublin. I am in teaching for the last thirty years.