Rabindranath Tagore on the Lecture Circuit: Steamship Routes and the Currency of Ideas

Retracing the twelve transcontinental lecture circuits undertaken by the Indian poet and intellectual Rabindranath Tagore incites a number of questions: How did early twentieth-century lecture circuits facilitate the long distance circulation and currency of ideas? In what ways did steamship routes, like the Japanese steamers on which Tagore traveled, dictate the sites along these circuits? More broadly, how did the physical and imaginative impetus for movement on the lecture circuit alter the transmission of ideas? In critically examining the lecture circuit, this part of our presentation explores how certain forms of intellectual and cultural production were monetized and privileged by successful lecture companies like the New York-based Pond Lyceum Bureau. Yet, this project also attends to the ways Tagore and other intellectuals frequently reimagined and deployed the lecture circuit as a highly visible platform for alternative, even radical agendas.