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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

I FEP Question Answers on Novel

Dear FEP 08-11 Students, please post your questions and answers in the comment section of this blog.

However, it is important that you give the complete URL of the internet source you have referred to to find the answer. In case of a book, give the complete title, author's names, place of publication, publisher's name and year of publication.

For better idea so citing/referencing please enter 'bibliography' in the search box above and find my write up on that.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Questions on the novel

Following are the questions IBA (FEP)students asked me on the novel in about 45 minutes. Of course they are going to find answers for their own question! It's really an intriguing list.

1. Who wrote the first novel? Where? When? Why?
2. When did the first novel come to existence?
3. Why do they call novel a novel?
4. What is the purpose of a novel?
5. Why do we have to study it?
6. Characteristics of a novel.
7. What are the different types of novels?
8. What is the relevance of novel?
9. What is the difference between a short story and a novel?
10. Why do we have different editions of a novel?
11. Structure of the novel.
12. Why is novel a popular genre?
13. Who are the target audience of a novel?
14. Why did the genre survive?
15. What makes a novel a classic?
16. Why do novels drag the narrative?
17. Why should we critically analyze a novel?
18. How to critically analyse a novel?
19. Which is the first most famous novel?
20. Why is detective fiction famous?
21. Limitations of the novel genre.
22. Were novels meant to entertain?
23. What is the length of a novel - min/max?
24. Why are novels so melodramatic?
25. What are the uses of a novel?
26. What motivates the novelist to write a novel?
27. How to write a novel?
28. Which is the longest novel in the world?
29. Which is the first bestseller in the world?
30. Has novel evolved?
31. What are the topics on which novels are written ?
32. Relation between print culture and the novel.
33. How does one interpret the depth of a novel?
34. Should you have antagonist at all in a novel ?
35. Why do people write novels?
36. Why do only the novels from England become famous?
37. What kinds of novels are popular?
38. How many novels have been written till date?
39. How far do novels help us understand an age?
40. When did novel become a hyped genre ?
41. Which is the worst-rated novel?
42. Which is the first novel written by an Indian?
43. Etymology of the word novel.
44. Most controversial novel.
45. Difference between an epic and novel.
46. When did interdisciplinary novel arise?
47. What are the different styles of writing a novel?
48. Do we approve novels made into movies?
49. What role imagination plays in writing a novel?
50. Politics of rating a novel.
51. Subject of a novel.
52. How do novels become bestsellers?
53. Role of novel in social movement and awareness?
54. Impact of novel on society.
55. Can you analyze author's personality by reading a novel?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Suggested reading list

Note: Abey has been asking me to put up a list of books that i wish my students read. The following are some of the titles i suggest. Will add some more slowly.

Critical texts
Plato – Republic
Aristotle – On Poetics
Foucault – History of Sexuality 1 & 2
Foucault –Discipline and Punish
Lacan – Ecretis
Barthes – Mythologies
Marx - German Ideology
Stanislavski – An Actor Prepares
Stuart Hall -
Raymond Williams -
Ashis Nandy – Intimate Enemy
Partha Chatterjee – Nation and its discontents
Louis Althusser - Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses: Notes Toward an Investigation
Marshall Mcluhan - Understanding Media
Daniel Chandler - Semiotics for Beginners

Euripides - Medea
Aristophanes - Frogs
Sophocles - Oedipus Rex
Ibsen - A Doll’s House


Eco - Name of the Rose
Italo Calvino -
Marquez -
Rushdie – Midnights Children
Amitav Ghosh – See of Poppies

I will be in the library ....

In the beginning of the year I had mentioned that I would be available in the department from 08.30 to 09.00 am on working days. It's nearly two months and I have hardly had anyone meeting me to consult during this period. It seems to me that we do not have a practice of meeting teachers to discuss ideas or texts, other than meeting them to give vent to angst, for personal attention or submission of assigned works. Hence, I have decided not to waste my time in the department and head straight to the library. Those of you who wish to see me can have a look in the dept. If i am not found there, I will either be in classroom or library.

However, two more channels are still open for you - the brown hard-bound book on my table and the email.

Claude Levi-Strauss on a structuralist approach to Oedipus the King

  • The Structural Study of Myth – Levis-strauss
  • Gives insight into Sophocles’ play
  • Interaction bw linguistics, anthropology, and literature
  • Basic problem of contradiction in myth
    • In a myth anything can happen
    • No logic no continuity
    • Any characteristic can be attributed to any subject
    • But there is similarity in the myths collected in different regions throughout the world
  • Ancient philosophers and language
    • Definite sounds related to definite meaning
    • But differ across language
  • Saussure – relations among units of sounds and not units of sound produces meaning
  • Carl Jung’s attempt to find meaning in basic units of myth (archetypes) similar to ancient philosophers
  • Saussure - language
    • Unchanging elements - grammar
    • Changing elements – sequence of words
    • Synchronic and diachronic
  • Myth expresses meaning both
    • diachronically (
    • synchronically (part of larger myth)
  • Similar to a sentence
    • Jack hates Jill
    • Jill hates Jack
  • Levis-Strauss – basic elements of myth are not isolated relations but “bundles of such relations”
  • To read a myth properly need to pay attention to the story as it proceeds and to relations within, btwn, among stories
  • Need to see wh happens before and after the story
    • Cadmus – Europa –Zeus – Delphic oracle – city – Thebes – kills Ares the god of war – saws teeth – Spartois spring up – flings a stone – they kill each other – Son Polydorus fathers Oedipus
    • Oedipus’ sons - Etocles kills Polynieces – denied burial – sister Antigone give funeral – buried alive
  • All relations in one column exhibit a common feature
  • I column – overemphasized blood relations More intimate than they should be
  • II column – (inverted) Underrating blood relations
  • III Column – monsters being slain
  • IV Column – difficulties in walking straight and standing upright
  • Relations btwn and among columns
    • I & II logical contrast
    • III 0- killing monsters – dragons associated with the earth – a dragon must be slain before men can be born from earth – sphinx will not permit men to live
  • Livi- Strauss – Basic origin of human life addressed by many cultures
  • Vegetable springs from earth – decays and back into earth – human bodies
  • Judeo-Christian culture – man from clay
  • Today people are born from union of two
  • III- monsters are overcome by men – denial of the origin of humans from the earth
  • Myth therefore includes both aspect of human origin of life
  • Myths that show humans springing from earth all over the world also talk of initial difficulty of walking
  • IV column affirms individual origin in the earth
  • III denies it
  • Original problem – born from one or born from two?
  • Born from different or born from same
  • Earlier and later versions of myth
  • Both are not true – coz myth made of all its variants
  • Freud’s concept of “Oedipus Complex” - latest variation of the myth itself – child trying to overvalue one parent against the other – born of one or two
  • Levi-Struss shows issues around and in the play
  • Also shows myth as dramatic - both aspects of human expression are less concerned with delivering the message than dramatizing the intractable questions about the meaning of human life.
  • Therefore Lev-Struass – another myth

'Structuralism and Literary Criticism' - Gerard Genette

Following is a note sent by Adarsh of III Year PSEng on the essay:

Ideas Dropped

Gerard Genette tries to establish differences between the following:

Bricoleur : makes use of things that are not meant for the purpose.
Engineer : makes use of things that are meant for the purpose.

Art critic : will not use a painting in the process of criticism of art.
Literary critic : only person to use the same thing (literature or writing) in the process of literary criticism.

Writer : questions the world/universe which is nothing but a 'sign' to him.
Critic : questions literature. The work, which is a sign for the writer is meaning for the critic; the view of the world is sign for the critic and meaning for the writer.
Thus, Structuralism is a method with literature as it's object. The essay tries to find the principles through which Structuralism could reach it's 'object' and thus offer itself as the 'fruitful' method (as compared to Formalism)

Genette establishes the difference between Formalism and Structuralism by citing limitations of the former and the importance of the latter.

Limitations of Formalism :

1. Only worried about word/sound/sentence. The sentence would thus be the largest form that Formalism is concerned with.
2. Unlike Structuralism, it only concerns itself with the 'codes' and not the 'messages.'
3. Content for them is not the concern.
4. Formalism treats literature as a dialect.

Importance of Structuralism :

1. Establishes the relation between the form and the message. It is concerned with the message too i.e, the bone structure.
2. Semantic phenomenon i.e, it attacks the meanings.
3. Larger unities of discourse. (systems)
System of Forms - Code
System of Meanings - Meaning
4. Study of structures wherever they occur.

Genette goes on to say that, Structuralism tries to conceive structures rather than perceive them. In other words, they think they are discovering, but are actually inventing.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Certificate Course in Existentialism

A few words regarding the course...
  • The classes are held every Saturday from 2 to 5 pm in Room 102 which is on the first floor of Main Block, Christ College
  • A short break of 15 minutes is given at about 3.30 pm
  • After the classes you can join Kurian at the kiosk over a cup of tea for an informal, free-wheeling discussion around Philosophy. Bring-your-own-tea.
  • Please be in the class in time both for the class and post-break session
  • Please be regular
  • There is an evaluation at the end of the course to award credits (for Christ Colleges students) and certificates. The course participants have a choice of choosing the manner of evaluation which could be a paper or a viva voce or a performance or any other means with the prior permission of the course teacher. It can also be a combination of these methods.
  • A handout consisting of key points on the lectures/discussion is already distributed in the first class held last Saturday. Those who were not there in the last class may collect it from me in person.
  • For any clarification please free to email me.
  • If you wish to meet me in person I am usually available in Room 107, First Floor, Main Block between 8.30 and 9am.
  • You can obtain membership of DVK library which is one of the finest libraries for Philosophy in Asia. You can directly approach the DVK library or get in touch with Kurian or me to know the process of application for membership there.
  • Christ College library too has a small collection of books on Philosophy. It also has secondary works on some of the philosophers we are studying.
  • Ravi has mooted the idea of having a blog on existentialism for the group. Kanasu has volunteered to manage/moderate it. Her email id is: kanasihi at gmail dot com I wish this initiative goes a long way.
  • Kurian's following books are available with me if you wish to go through them.
    • Process: Implications and Applications
    • God-talk Reconstructed: An Introduction to Philosophy of God
    • God of Love: A Neoclassical Inquiry
  • I will make them available in the college library within a week or so
  • If you wish to buy them at at 40% discount whose cover price in rupee is 120, 120, and 150 respectively, you may either contact Kurian or me.
  • All the best. I am sure this course will set you on newer and diverse intellectual journeys.

Monday, July 07, 2008

MA English - Literary Criticism Syllabus

Department of Media Studies

Christ College (Autonomous), Bangalore

Subject: MA in English with Communication Studies Credits: 4

Paper Title: Western Aesthetics (Plato to New Critics) Total Hours: 60

Paper Code: MEL133 Max Marks: 100

The selection provides a comprehensive account of intellectual traditions and critical movements from Plato to the New Critics.


· To explore the various currents, pressures, and directions in contemporary criticism as aspects of the cultural present and as an ongoing conversation with intellectual precursors and earlier traditions of literary study.

· To enable readers to build their own sense of the map of modern literary critical practice.

Module I 20 hrs

Concepts of Criticism and Aesthetic Origins:

Mimesis: Ancient Greek Literary Theory


Fiction and falsehood

The audience


Expressivity: The Romantic Theory of Authorship






Interpretation: Hermeneutics

The defence of non-theoretical understanding

Art and truth

Do texts have ‘objective’ meanings?

Gadamer’s Defence of Reading as Freedom

Value: Criticisms, Canons, and Evaluation

The origin of canons

The test of time: reputation and value

For and against literary value judgements

The containment of literature and the preservation of value

Postmodernism and the retreat from value

Module II 20 hrs

Criticism and Critical Practices in the Twentieth Century:

Literature and the Academy

Criticism incorporated

A brief prehistory

Modernism and the purification of criticism

Criticism decentred

I.A. Richards

Intellectual contexts: Cambridge philosophy

The meaning of meaning

Principles of literary criticism

Practical criticism

Critical legacies

T.S. Eliot and the Idea of Tradition

‘Tradition and the Individual Talent’ - then and now

F.H. Bradley – the historical sense

Impersonality – the closet Romantic

Literary and socio-political hierarchies

Legacies: theory

Legacies: poetry

Anthropology and/as Myth in Modern Criticism

‘Myth’ and ‘reason’

Varieties of Modernist mythopoeia

Literary anthropology

Structuralism and the break up of Modernist mythopoeia

Myth and the marvelous

F.R. Leavis: Criticism and Culture

Leavis’ cultural criticism

Leavis and scientific management

Leavis’ literary criticism

Marxist Aesthetics

Marx before Marxism

Art, authorship, ideology

Base and superstructure

Marxism, realism, typicality

Art, antiquity, and modernity

Marxism since Marx

Module III 20 hrs

William Empson: From Verbal Analysis to Cultural Criticism

Verbal analysis

Cultural criticism

Contra clerisies: moral criticism

The example of Empson

The New Criticism


Methods and characteristics

Influence and legacy

Testing pattern





No. of Questions in each Sections



No. of Questions to be answered



Marks for each question



Maximum marks for each Section



Total Marks : 50





No. of Questions in each Sections



No. of Questions to be answered



Marks for each question



Maximum marks for each Section



Total Marks : 100

Required Texts:

  1. Literary Theory and Criticism An Oxford Guide; Ed. Patricia Waugh
  2. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism; Ed. Vincent B. Leitch

The Rise of English - Some pointers for MA English students

  • The Roles of Mathew Arnold, F R Leavis and TS Eliot in shaping Englsih literary studies in England
  • Arnold's relationship with the rising middle class
  • The romantic recourse to and obsesion symbol and the consequent loss
  • Religion and literature as similar in terms of ideology
  • The conception of literature disseminated by Scrutiny
  • Conception of Practical criticism
  • Conception of new criticism
  • Historical conditions that necessitated the birth of new criticism in the US
  • Notion of ogranic society
  • Our Leavisian legacy
  • The pedagogic narrative of literary studies

Feel free to add more pointers in the comment section below