SOAS University of London

South Asia Section, School of Languages, Cultures & Linguistics

Francesca Orsini

BA (Venice), PhD (London)
  • Overview
  • Teaching
  • Expertise
  • Publications


Francesca Orsini
South Asia Section, School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics

Professor of Hindi and South Asian Literature

Centre of Jaina Studies

Member, Centre of Jaina Studies

SOAS South Asia Institute

Academic Staff, SOAS South Asia Institute

Centre for the Study of Pakistan

Academic Staff, Centre for the Study of Pakistan

Centre for Cultural, Literary and Postcolonial Studies (CCLPS)


Professor Francesca Orsini
Email address:
+ 44(0)20 7898 4242
SOAS University of London
Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG
Russell Square: College Buildings
Office No:
Office Hours:
Mondays 1-3pm


Francesca Orsini is Professor of Hindi and South Asian Literature. She took her undergraduate degree in Hindi at the University of Venice, followed by a long spell in Delhi. Her PhD research at SOAS was on the Hindi public sphere of the 1920s and '30s, published as The Hindi Public Sphere 1920-1940: Language and Literature in the Age of Nationalism (OUP Delhi 2002, Hindi tr. Vani 2010). She taught at the University of Cambridge for several years and joined SOAS in 2006, where she teaches courses on Hindi language, literature, the literary history of South Asia, and contemporary politics of culture.

Professor Orsini's research interests span modern and contemporary Hindi literature; popular literature in Hindi and Urdu such as detective novels, romantic fiction, and barahmasas;  women writers and women's journals; book history and nineteenth-century commercial publishing in Hindi and Urdu; the multiligual history of literature in early modern North India. She has organized several workshops and conferences, including one on Love in South Asia (CUP 2006).

Her most recent book, Print and Pleasure (Permanent Black 2010), explored the genres of commercial publishing in nineteenth-century north India, while the collection she edited on Hindi and Urdu Before the Divide (Orient Blackswan 2009) proposed ways of approaching Hindi and Urdu literary genres not as watertight traditions but as possibilities within the multilingual literary and linguistic world of early modern North India.

Between 2006 and 2009 she ran a research project on "North Indian Literary Culture and History, 1450-1650", funded by the AHRC. The project sought to rethink the history of north Indian literature from a sustained multilingual perspective, and included a series of seminars, workshops, and 3 annual conferences. Two volumes of proceedings are going to be published: After Timur Left (co-edited with Samira Sheikh, forthcoming from OUP New Delhi in 2014) surveys political formations and cultural production and circulation in fifteenth-century North India. Tellings and Texts (co-edited with Katherine Schofield) contains essays on music, story-telling and performance in Persian, Braj Bhasha, Hindavi, Bengali, Newari, etc. and seeks to make an argument about the interconnectedness and complexity of north Indian performance traditions and their importance to the understanding of cultural, social and political history.

At present she is working on two projects: an international collaboration with SARAI/CSDS (New Delhi) on Hinglish, funded by the British Academy; and a new project on a multilingual history of Awadh that seeks at the same time to engage with current models of world literature by offering a ground-up perspective that is mindful of local audiences and of multiple levels of literary production and circulation. In 2013-2014 she is a Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University.

Inaugural Lecture

Loading the player...

Prof. Francesca Orsini Inaugural Lecture, Literature in a Multilingual Society


Programmes Convened
Courses Taught
PhD Students supervised
  • Aakriti Mandhwani, Everyday Reading: Popular magazines and Book publishing in Post Independence India
  • Adrian Plau, The Deeds of Sita: A Critical Edition and Literary Contextual Analysis of the 'Sītācarit' by Rāmcand Bālak
  • Akanksha Mehta, Negotiating Space on the 'Right': The everyday politics of Hindu Nationalist and Zionist settler women in India and Israel-Palestine
  • Chinmay Sharma, The Mahabharata re-constructed for Hindi and English publics: modernity and the 'national epic'
  • David Landau, Working title - National narratives and the (re)production of Minority: Minor Literature in Hindi
  • Eleanor Halsall, The Indo-German beginnings of Bombay Talkies, 1925-1939
  • Florence Shahabi, Sayyid Bahodine Majrouh: an intellectual biography
  • Georgie Carroll, Working Title: Towards an Eco-Aesthetic of Indian Poetry
  • Guanchen Lai , Speaking from the village: modes of writing about the village in contemporary Hindi fiction
  • Helen Ashton, Listening to Indian Accented English in Film (1960-2013)
  • Maddalena Italia, The erotic untranslatable: the modern reception of Sanskrit love poetry in the West and in India
  • Maryam Sikander, Upstart Punches: Humour and Satire in Urdu Literature
  • Rasha Chatta, Marginality and Individuation: A Theoretical Approach to Abla Farhoud and Arab Migrant Literature
  • Simon Leese, (Re)producing Arabic Literature in 18th and 19th Century North India
  • Yan Jia, Translating Distant Neighbours: China-India Literary Relations 1950-2015


For help in contacting SOAS academics and advice on services to business and the community, please contact SOAS Enterprise on +44(0)20 7898 4837 or email
For all press and media enquiries please call +44 (0)20 7898 4135 or email

Available for
Regional Expertise
  • South Asia
Country Expertise


Authored Books

Orsini, Francesca (2009) Print and Pleasure: Popular literature and entertaining fictions in colonial north India. New Delhi: Permanent Black.

Orsini, Francesca (2002) The Hindi Public Sphere 1920-1940. Language and Literature in the Age of Nationalism. Oxford University Press.


Orsini, Francesca (2016) 'The Social History of a Genre: Kathas across Languages in Early Modern North India'. Medieval History Journal. [Forthcoming]

Orsini, Francesca (2015) 'Whose Amnesia? Literary Modernity in Multilingual South Asia'. The Cambridge Journal of Postcolonial Literary Inquiry, (2) 2, pp 266-272.

Orsini, Francesca (2015) 'The Multilingual Local in World Literature'. Comparative Literature, (67) 4, pp 345-374.

Orsini, Francesca (2015) 'Dil Maange more: Cultural contexts of Hinglish in contemporary India'. African Studies. [Inpress]

Orsini, Francesca (2015) 'Booklets and Sants: Religious Publics and Literary History'. South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies, (38) 3, pp 435-449.

Orsini, Francesca (2012) 'How to do multilingual literary history? Lessons from fifteenth- and sixteenth-century north India'. Indian Economic and Social History Review, (49) 2, pp 225-246.

Orsini, Francesca (2006) 'Cannons and Rubber boats: Oriana Fallaci and the 'Clash of Civilizations''. Interventions International Journal of Postcolonial Studies, (8) 3, pp 444-460.

Orsini, Francesca (2005) 'A Review Symposium'. Indian Economic and Social History Review, (42).

Orsini, Francesca (2002) 'India in the Mirror of World Fiction'. New Left Review 13, pp 75-88.

Edited Books

Orsini, Francesca and Butler Schofield, Katherine, (eds.), (2015) Tellings and Texts: Music, Literature and Performance in North India. Cambridge, UK: Open Books.

Orsini, Francesca and Sheikh, Samira, (eds.), (2014) After Timur Left: Culture and Circulation in Fifteenth-Century North India. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.

Orsini, Francesca, (ed.), (2013) The History of the Book in South Asia. London: Ashgate. (History of the Book in the East).

Orsini, Francesca, (ed.), (2010) Before the Divide: Hindi and Urdu literary culture. New Delhi: Orient Blackswan.

Orsini, Francesca, (ed.), (2006) Love in South Asia: a cultural history. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (University of Cambridge Oriental Publications).

Book Chapters

Orsini, Francesca (2017) 'Reading Together: Hindi, Urdu, and English Village Novels'. Indian Literature and the World: Multilingualism, Translation, and the Public Sphere. London: Palsgrave Macmillan, pp 61-85.

Orsini, Francesca (2014) '“Krishna is the truth of man”: Mir ʿAbdul Wahid Bilgrami’s Haqaʾiq-i Hindi / Indian truths and the circulation of Dhrupad and Bisnupad'. In: Busch, Allison and de Bruijn, Thomas, (eds.), Culture and Circulation: Literature in motion in early modern India. Leiden: Brill, pp 222-246.

Orsini, Francesca (2014) 'Inflected Kathas: Sufis and Krishna Bhaktas in Awadh'. In: Dalmia, Vasudha and Faruqui, Munis, (eds.), Religious Interactions in Mughal India. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, pp 195-232.

Orsini, Francesca (2014) 'Traces of a multilingual world: Hindavi in Persian texts'. In: Orsini, Francesca and Sheikh, Samira, (eds.), After Timur Left: Culture and Circulation in fifteenth-century north India. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, pp 411-444.

Orsini, Francesca (2010) '“Krishna is the Truth of Man” Mir ‘Abdul Wahid Bilgrami's Haqā’iq-i Hindī (Indian Truths) and the circulation of dhrupad and bishnupad'. In: Busch, Allison and de Bruijn, Thomas, (eds.), Culture and Circulation. Leiden: Brill. [Forthcoming]

Orsini, Francesca (2006) 'Love Letters'. In: Orsini, F., (ed.), Love in South Asia. A Cultural History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp 228-258.

Orsini, Francesca (2004) 'Detective Novels. A Commercial Genre in Nineteenth-Century North India'. In: Blackburn, S. and Dalmia, V., (eds.), India's Literary History. Essays on the Nineteenth Century. Delhi: Permanent Black, pp 435-482.

Orsini, Francesca (2004) 'The Reticent Autobiographer. Mahadevi Varma's Writings'. In: Arnold, D. and Blackburn, S., (eds.), Telling Lives in India. Biography, Autobiography, and Life History.. Delhi / Bangalore: Permanent Black, pp 54-82.

Orsini, Francesca (2004) 'Introduction'. In: Rai, Alok, (ed.), Oxford India Premchand. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, pp 1-14.

Orsini, Francesca (2004) 'Pandits, Printers and Others: Publishing in nineteenth-century Benares'. In: Gupta, Abhijit and Chakravorty, Swapan, (eds.), Print Areas: Book history in India. New Delhi: Permanent Black, pp 103-138.


This list was last generated on Tuesday, 26th September 2017, 04:36 Europe/London.