Bengali (Bangla) at the University of Chicago
About Bengali (aka Bangla) language
Bengali (aka Bangla) is spoken in northeastern India and Bangladesh by over 200 million speakers, and thus ranks 6th in number of native speakers in the world. It is linguistically related to Sanskrit and has had a rich history as a literary language since the close of the first millennium. The history of Bengali is marked by the diversity of the cultures that took part in its formation. It is at the crossroads of eastern, South, and Southeastern Asia, and Bengali culture was immensely enriched by those cosmopolitan encounters. Therefore learning Bengali is an invitation to learn more about Asia, specifically about South Asia’s encounter with the world.
In South Asia, Bengali literature became emblematic of Indian literature as a whole through the success of its poets and novelists. Bengali intellectuals were the first to import literary forms such as the novel and sonnet in India. Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) was the first non-western author to be awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1913. His art and philosophy deeply influenced artists and intellectuals worldwide. Medieval Bengali literature is also one of the richest of the subcontinent. It became the medium of many religious traditions (Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam) and it was in dialog with several other literary traditions (Sanskrit, Persian, Hindi…). Today Bengali literature remains a creative domain as shown by the works of poets, novelists, essayists, and scholars living in India, Bangladesh and other countries in the world. Bengali creative expression is not limited to the written word. There exists a rich and vibrant tradition of performance in Bengali, primarily theater, music, and cinema. Bengali directors like Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak, Mrinal Sen, Aparna Sen, and Rituparno Ghosh have enriched the cinematic medium in no small measure while the theater of Shambhu Mitra, Sisir Kumar Bhaduri, and Utpal Dutt remain important influences to theater lovers all over India. The musical compositions of Kazi Nazrul Islam, Dwijendralal Ray, and Rabindranath Tagore and the Bengal School of Art are central features of modern India’s cultural efflorescence.
Bengali at SALC
The Bengali program at SALC has a long history of teaching and research with figures like Edward C. Dimock and Clinton B. Seely . Today the program is led by Thibaut d’Hubert and Mandira Bhaduri, in collaboration with Rochona Majumdar, Dipesh Chakrabarty, and a dynamic group of graduate students. It offers a wide array of teachings from the basic introduction to the language and its beautiful script for practical use, to the study of material from all periods. There are also Bengali language and culture events organized at the U of C to provide students with occasions to practice and learn about Bengali outside the classroom. Advanced students are also encouraged to follow and participate in the intellectual life of the Bengali speaking world and emphasis is put on composition of scholarly essays in the language.
Lecturer Mandira Bhaduri (1st and 2nd years)
Assistant Professor Thibaut d’Hubert (3rd, 4th years and advanced)
Dipesh Chakrabarty and Rochona Majumdar offer a wide array of non-language courses that pertain to the history and culture of Bengal. Both work with texts, both literary and visual, and supervise doctoral projects on Bengal.
1st year Bangla (Monday, Wednesday, Friday, 11:30 am. – 12:30 pm)
2nd. year Bangla (Monday, Wednesday, Friday, 12:30 – 1:20 pm)
3rd and 4th year Bangla (See with the instructor)
Bengali placement exam:
Students’ response to the Bengali program:
--Ishan Chakrabarti, graduate student, SALC
--Ahona Panda, graduate student, SALC
--Aleksandar Uskokov, graduate student, SALC
--Nabanjan Maitra, graduate student, Divinity School
--Leopold L. Eisenlohr, M.A. student, Divinity School
Recent Bengali-related events at the U of C
- Performing the Bengal Borderlands
- Catherine Masud at U of C
- The Norman Cutler Conference on South Asian Literature
- Tagore Conference
Who should I approach if I would like to do research on Bengal?
You should approach Thibaut d’Hubert, Rochona Majumdar and Dipesh Chakrabarty.
Who should I contact regarding admission process?
Please contact the Department Secretary: Alicia Czaplewski, Office: Foster Hall 212, firstname.lastname@example.org
Can I audit a class?
No. SALC does not permit auditors in any of the department’s language classes. Please register for the class.
What if I have a conflict on one or more of the days, can I still take the class?
In that case, contact Professor Thibaut d’Hubert for 3rd and 4th year and advanced, and Lecturer Mandira Bhaduri for 1st and 2nd year Bengali.