SOAS University of London

South Asia Section, School of Languages, Cultures & Linguistics

Professor Francesca Orsini

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


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

Professor of Hindi and South Asian Literature

SOAS South Asia Institute

Academic Staff, SOAS South Asia Institute

Centre for Cultural, Literary and Postcolonial Studies (CCLPS)


Centre for the Study of Pakistan

Academic Staff, Centre for the Study of Pakistan

Centre of Jaina Studies

Member, Centre of Jaina Studies

REF Steering Group

Academic Representative

Professor Francesca Orsini
Email address:
+ 44(0)20 7898 4242
SOAS University of London
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I am a literary historian working primarily with Hindi and Urdu materials and interested in exploring how multilingualism worked and continues to work within the literary cultures of South Asia. After a BA in Hindi from Venice University in Italy, I studied in Delhi at the Central Institute of Hindi and Jawaharlal Nehru University before coming to SOAS for my PhD. For my dissertation, I worked on the Hindi literary sphere of the 1920s and 1930s and the contrast between the ebullience of literary and social experimentation in journals, including women’s journals, and the canonization of “pure” Hindi and moral-patriotic Hindi literature in education (The Hindi Public Sphere, 2002, Hindi tr. 2010).

I then got interested in book history and worked on commercial publishing in Hindi and Urdu in the nineteenth century (Print and Pleasure, 2009), which interestingly saw a proliferation of “oral-literate” genres printed in both Hindi and Urdu scripts just as modern rigid language ideologies consolidated.

Back at SOAS after teaching for several years at Cambridge, I ran a research project on "North Indian Literary Culture and History" (funded by the AHRC) that sought to rethink the history of early modern north Indian literature from a sustained multilingual perspective. We began by reconsidering the fifteenth-century, the little-studied period before the Mughals (After Timur Left, co-edited with Samira Sheikh, 2014). Another focus was performance, songs and story-telling (Tellings and Texts, co-edited with Katherine Schofield 2015). But I am also interested in contemporary literature and popular culture, and a recent project (with Ravikant at SARAI/CSDS) explored the cultural and social dimensions of “Hinglish”, Hindi-English language mixing in media and everyday life.

Currently I am finishing a book on the multilingual literary history of Awadh from the 15c to the early-20c. I am also leading the project “Multilingual locals and significant geographies: for a new approach to world literature” (MULOSIGE, funded by the European Research Council), which seeks to propose an alternative, located and multilingual, approach to world literature, from the perspective of three regional sites – north India, the Maghreb, and the Horn of Africa – in the colonial and postcolonial periods and the contemporary globalizing moment.

I am interested in the worldliness of literature both as it inhabits and intervenes in the world, and also in the imaginative worlds literature creates. I am interested in supervising original projects on literature in South Asia that take up new questions, new materials or approaches, and in literary comparisons beyond India and Europe. There are few places in the world where such projects can be undertaken, and SOAS is one of them.

I am a fellow of the British Academy and member of Steering Committee of the British Comparative Literature Association and of the Institute of World Literature. In 2013-14 I was a Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University. I have also had visiting positions at Columbia University and the University of Pennsylvania.

Inaugural Lecture

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


Modules Taught
PhD Students supervised
  • Akanksha Mehta, Negotiating Space on the 'Right': The everyday politics of Hindu Nationalist and Zionist settler women in India and Israel-Palestine
  • Ayele Kebede Roba, Voices in/from the Margins: Marginalisation and Resistance in Novels in Oromo and Amharic (Ethiopia)
  • David Landau, Working title - National narratives and the (re)production of Minority: Minor Literature in Hindi
  • Florence Shahabi, Sayyid Bahodine Majrouh: an intellectual biography
  • Guanchen Lai , Speaking from the village: modes of writing about the village in contemporary Hindi fiction
  • Hana Sandhu, Rewriting the ‘failed state’: anticolonial imaginaries and epistemic violence in the Congo
  • Jack Clift, Historical fiction and historical imagination in Hindi and Urdu literature
  • July Blalack, Travel Inside and Outside: Maghribi Resistance as a Literary Force
  • Kanupriya Dhingra, Daryaganj's Parallel Book History
  • 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
  • Raahi Adhya, The Fantastic World of the Bengali 'Roopkotha'—Gendering the Creation of a Popular Literary Genre in 19th and Early 20th Century Bengal (working title)
  • Rakesh Sengupta, An Archaeology of Screenwriting in Early Indian Cinema (1930s-1950s)
  • Rasha Chatta, Marginality and Individuation: A Theoretical Approach to Abla Farhoud and Arab Migrant Literature


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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 (2020) 'From Eastern Love to Eastern Song: Re-translating Asian Poetry'. Comparative Critical Studies, (17) 2, pp 183-203.

Orsini, Francesca (2019) 'Between Qasbas and Cities: Language Shifts and Literary Continuities in North India in the Long Eighteenth Century'. Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, (39) 1, pp 68-81.

Orsini, Francesca and Marzagora, Sara and Laachir, Karima (2019) 'Multilingual locals and textual circulation before colonialism'. Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, (39) 1, pp 63-67.

Laachir, Karima and Marzagora, Sara and Orsini, Francesca (2018) 'Multilingual locals and significant geographies: For a ground-up and located approach to world literature'. Modern Languages Open, (1) 19, pp 1-8.

Laachir, Karima and Marzagora, Sara and Orsini, Francesca (2018) 'Significant Geographies: in lieu of world literature'. Journal of World Literature, (3) 3, pp 290-310.

Orsini, Francesca (2017) 'The Social History of a Genre: Kathas across Languages in Early Modern North India'. The Medieval History Journal, (20) 1, pp 1-37.

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

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

Orsini, Francesca (2015) 'Dil Maange more: Cultural contexts of Hinglish in contemporary India'. African Studies, (74) 2, pp 199-220.

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 (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 or Journals

Marzagora, Sara and Orsini, Francesca and Laachir, Karima, (eds.), (2019) Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, vol. 39, no. 1 - special issue on Multilingual Locals and Textual Circulation Before Colonialism. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

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

Francesca, Orsini (2020) 'Poetic traffic in a multilingual literary culture: Equivalence, parallel aesthetics, and language-stretching’'. Prismatic Translation. London: Legenda, pp 51-71.

Dwyer, Rachel and Ashton, Helen (2019) 'I do fatafat constipation with goras in tiptop gora English: Hinglish and English accents and language in Jab tak hai jaan (2012)'. In: Orsini, Francesca, (ed.), Hinglish. Hyderabad: Orient Blackswan. [Forthcoming]

Orsini, Francesca (2018) 'Mysteries of the Indian Jungle: Emilio Salgari's orientalist adventures'. L’Inde et l’Italie: Rencontres intellectuelles, politiques et artistiques. Paris: Editions EHESS.

Orsini, Francesca (2018) 'Na Turk, na Hindu: Shared language, accents and located meanings'. In: Kothari, Rita, (ed.), A Multilingual Nation: Translation and Language Dynamic in India. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.

Orsini, Francesca (2017) 'Reading Together: Hindi, Urdu, and English Village Novels'. In: Ciocca, R. and Srivastava, N., (eds.), Indian Literature and the World: Multilingualism, Translation, and the Public Sphere. London: Palgrave Macmillan, pp 61-85.

Orsini, Francesca and Butler Schofield, Katherine (2015) 'Introduction'. In: Orsini, Francesca and Butler Schofield, Katherine, (eds.), Tellings and Texts: Music, Literature and Performance in North India.. Cambridge, UK: Open Books, pp 1-30.

Orsini, Francesca (2015) 'Texts and Tellings: Kathas in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries'. In: Orsini, Francesca and Butler Schofield, Katherine, (eds.), Tellings and Texts: Music, Literature and Performance in North India.. Cambridge, UK: Open Books, pp 327-358.

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

Orsini, Francesca and Sheikh, Samira (2014) 'Introduction'. In: Sheikh, Samira and Orsini, Francesca, (eds.), After Timur Left: Culture and Circulation in Fifteenth-Century North India. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, pp 1-44.

Orsini, Francesca (2014) '“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 : literature in motion in early modern India. Leiden: Brill, pp 222-246.

Orsini, Francesca (2013) '‘Decreed out of existence: Multilingual India and World Literature’'. In: Parks, Tim and Zuccato, Edoardo, (eds.), Towards a Global Literature/Verso uni letteratura globalizzata. Milan: marcos y marcos, pp 37-46.

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) '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.

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

Orsini, Francesca (2000) 'Rāshtrīy śiksā banām hindīsāhitya’ (National education vs Hindi literature)'. In: Agraval, Purushottam and Kumar, S., (eds.), Hindī naī cāl men ḍhalī. New Delhi: Deshkal Prajashan, pp 38-55.


This list was last generated on Wednesday, 2nd December 2020, 00:33 Europe/London.