My principal research interest lies in heterodox political and religious writings /movements of early modern England, especially those encountered during the tumultuous two decades of the English Civil War from 1640 through 1660. I explore the connections between the hermeneutical-interpretive traditions of literature of mid-seventeenth century England and the public, political nature of those writings. I try to advance the scope of such studies by undertaking a historical survey of sectarian and agrarian radical movements in late medieval/early modern Europe, by placing the English radical reformers within such a context. Quite often, proponents of these sects advanced theories of radical community based on human dignity and egalitarianism—daring standard doctrines of the reformed religion and royalist/parliamentarian doxa of accommodation. I scrutinize these claims. I am particularly interested in critical humanism and antinomian/heretic strands in literature, in exhilaration and horror, in developing proportion and a baroque heightening and undermining of such forms. Like Parchment in the Fire: Literature and Radicalism in the English Civil War (Routledge, NY and London, 2006) investigates these interests. At this moment, I am working on two projects: one on Thomas Hobbes’ post-restoration tracts and polemics, looking especially into the religious underpinnings of his dualist materialism. The other is a fresh look into the writings of the Cambridge Platonists: Ralph Cudworth, Benjamin Whichcote, and Henry More and their younger followers like George Rust and Anne Conway.
A wider objective has been to conduct a philosophical and historical inquiry into the nature of religious faith in peasants and middling sorts and an exploration of the English radical reformation in relation to contemporary communitarian ideals and movements. Taking early modern political and cultural debates as baseline, I explore the relationship between three distinct political ideals in cultural-literary readings: classical republicanism, liberalism and varieties of egalitarianism. This diachronic and comparative interest in both classical humanism and the messianic brings me into contemporary Indian debates beginning late nineteenth century. I am right now engaged in a book length study of heterodox strands in modern Indian thought and their relationship to moderate mainstream liberalism.
Areas of interest/research: Early Modern Literature and Culture, Literature and Political Thought, Literary Theory.
Courses taught: 1. Poetics and Politics in Early Modern England. 2. Seventeenth-century Drama. 3. Heterodoxy: The Career of a Concept. 4. Elizabethan Lyrics and John Milton.
Honours, awards, appointments:
a) Brown University International Research Institute Alumni, 2009 onwards
b) Grant –in-Aid, Folger Institute, Centre for the History of British Political Thought, Washington DC
c) State of New York, Excellence in Teaching Award, 2002-2003
d) State University of New York Scholarship, 1999-2002
e) SUNY Dean’s Dissertation Fellowship, 2003-2004
f) Visiting Fellow, Centre for Advanced Studies, Department of English Jadavpur University, Spring 2007
Chakravarty, Prasanta (edt. 2014), Sharpnel Minima: Essays from Humanities Underground (Chicago and Kolkatta: University of Chicago and Seagull, India)
Chakravarty, Prasanta (2006), Like Parchment in the Fire: Literature and Radicalism in the English Civil War (New York and London: Routledge)
Chakravarty, Prasanta, If This Be Heresy: Essays in Literature and Political Philosophy (forthcoming)
Chakravarty, Prasanta, “Radical Liberalism and the Nature of Liberty in John Milton’s Late Political Overtures.” (Journal of Contemporary Thought, 27, Summer 2008)
Chakravarty, Prasanta, “The Civic and the Ludic: A Dialogue on Ethics, Politics and Democracy in West Bengal.” Beyond Agriculture and Industry, Ed. Anup Kumar Dhar and Suman Sen Sharma (Springer)