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Abstract

This essay engages critically with the theoretical investment that the eminent Indian historian Ranajit Guha makes in his reading of an early prose classic of Bengali literature – Hootum Pyanchar Naksha. For Guha, Hootum exemplifies the contrasting ways in which time was experienced in metropolitan London and in colonial Calcutta. I, on the other hand, work with the reference that Hootum makes to the subtitle of Charles Dickens's first published work to prise open certain visual traditions of articulating the city that developed in England through the 18th and 19th centuries. Focusing, thus, on the history of genres, I break out of the conventional postcolonial binaries and try to conceptualize the relationship between visual and literary representations of the metropolitan and colonial city as a complex process of multiple negotiations: of borrowings and erasures, and displacements and citations – that unfold within a single developing and always mutating field.