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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Winter School in Philosophy Announcement

Winter School in Philosophy
(December 30, 2008 – January 10, 2009)
Organized by
Department of Humanities and Social Sciences
Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati
in association with
Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla


Understanding the nature of Reality, Knowledge and Value

It is often felt that teaching a course in ‘Introductory Philosophy’ is far more difficult than teaching a course on a specific philosophical area at a relatively higher level. The ‘introductory’ nature of Philosophy is not elementary in nature. Indeed, there is not ‘elementary’ philosophy with which one can begin as a way of introducing the student to Philosophy. Philosophy is, by nature, intrinsically ‘deep’ right from the beginning. The pool of philosophy is deep all over, with no shallow banks. Any enduring academic experience of teaching Philosophy surely testifies to this claim.

If a teacher has to introduce Philosophy as a specific discipline in an under-graduate class, how would he or she go about doing that? Are there basic chapters of a typical text to start with, in the way there are in other disciplines like Physics and Economics and Biology? Even if certain basic chapters are touched upon, how basic are the contents of those topics or concepts? It seems that the so-called ‘basics’ of Philosophy are far too dense in meaning to help the student make a smooth and easy entry into the subject.

It is almost pointless to begin the discourse with the etymological meaning of ‘Philosophy’, e.g. ‘Love of Wisdom’. After all, the term ‘wisdom’ itself is not too clear or free from ambiguity. Besides, wisdom is not what the teacher is going to teach in a professional academic discourse of Philosophy. The teacher would therefore do well to think of a more ‘practical’ and ‘relevant’ way of accompanying the student in the journey of Philosophy.

Perhaps the best strategy is to begin with the illustration of the central samples of philosophical discussion that have traditionally been the occupation of philosophers. Here the move would require making use of the traditional classification of Philosophy into three broad categories of discourse: Metaphysics or the Theory of Reality; Epistemology or the Theory of Knowledge; Axiology or Value Theory. The introductory discourse of Philosophy ought to take up the principal concerns of these three sectors.

The two-week long WINTER SCHOOL IN PHILOSOPHY is conceived as an interactive workshop for young philosophy teachers and doctoral students, who will be instructed by a team of experts on how to deliver effectively introductory lectures in the classroom. Attention is to be drawn specially towards the role of being a teacher of philosophy inculcating philosophical knowledge to beginners in Philosophy. But the teacher himself or herself needs to be sufficiently clear about the way one ought to unfold the conceptual story of Philosophy. That unfolding is to follow the principal issues and arguments available in the discussions of metaphysics, epistemology and axiology.

Metaphysical issues relate to the question of being, whether it is the “Being of God, the World, or the Self”. There are traditional “Arguments for the existence of God: Especially the Ontological Argument”, arguments of “Realism or Idealism about the existence of the World”, and both “Substance-essentialist and Anti-substantivist arguments regarding the existence of the Self”. Furthermore, there are subsidiary metaphysical questions concerning “Mind-Body Dualism”, “Causality, Determinism and freedom of the Will”, and about “Universals and Particulars”.

Epistemological issues that prominently figure in discussion include the “Platonic Definition of Knowledge and the Gettier Problem”, “Perceptual Knowledge”, “A Priori Knowledge”, “Internalist and Externalist theories of Epistemic Justification”, and the general “Problem of Skepticism”.

Axiological questions basically concern Ethics and Aesthetics. Some major issues include “Morality and Egoism/Altruism”, “Moral relativism/Absolutism”, Moral Theories like “Eudaimonism, Utilitarianism and Deontology”, “Virtue Ethics”, and the rise of “Applied Ethics”. Aesthetic problems related to questions about the “Ontology of Art”, “Aesthetic Detachment”, theories of “Artistic Representation/Expression/Form”, and the “Value of Art in Human Culture”.

The Winter School will consist of discussions on a chosen set of topics that relate to these three branches of Philosophy. It is presumed that a basic understanding of Philosophy as an intellectual discourse is an understanding of the principal problem of metaphysics, epistemology and value theory. This understanding is supposed to be uniform and well-integrated, so that a teacher of Philosophy is capable of rendering that understanding in a format which conduces to a systematic and coherent grasp of the subject.

Emphasis will be laid on thematic discussion and understanding of Philosophy rather than a historical understanding. Reference to history of philosophy would be subservient to thematic relevance. The Indian/Western division of Philosophy would be circumvented by an attempt to tackle a given problem from different angles.

It is most important to realize that the young mind of the student is quite likely to be puzzled by the kind of questions that arise in Philosophy. That is because of the unique peculiarity of the discourse. The teacher must therefore be able to explain why at all such peculiar problems arise, and how they inevitably arise given human rational inquisitiveness. The Winter School will take special care to alert the participants to the utmost need of grasping the rationale of philosophical questions.

It is expected that the two weeks of rigorous philosophical training and interactive exercise of reflection will create enough confidence in the mind of the young teacher/scholar of Philosophy. Towards the final stage of the School, some particular sessions will be exclusively devoted to the demonstration of teaching by the participants. This exercise will be accompanied by regular written assignments on relevant issues.

It is hoped that the result of this exercise in the Winter School will eventually be a rough working paper that synoptically describes a fairly standard programme of ‘A Classroom Introduction to philosophy’. The urgency of such an outcome cannot be denied at least for one reason. Philosophy is certainly unlike other academic discourses because of its peculiar nature. The ‘justification’ of Philosophy is often demanded in view of its apparently ‘impractical’ and abstract character. A young philosopher therefore must be well-versed in the arguments that lend justification to the philosophical enterprise. And the ‘arguments for justification’ must be amenable to their grasp at the introductory level.

It is known that the patterns of courses/papers taught in different Universities are not always the same, and not all Universities have Semester-system method of teaching. But the Winter School programme is catered to a generality of pattern that would be compatible with these variations. In other words, a participant duly trained in the course of these two weeks can be reasonably expected to play a better role in inculcating philosophical ideas in any pattern in which he or she is supposed to adjust to in his or her home-institution.

On the whole, the Winter School programme is supposed to have a tutorial flavour. In this respect, it is supposed to be rather different from the usual Refresher Courses in Philosophy. The level of interaction is supposed to be much greater, and constant attention is to be maintained towards improving the analytical teaching potential of the participant.

The Winter School, to be hosted by Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati, in association with Indian Institute of Advance Study, Shimla, will invite young lecturers (preferably within 40 years of age) of Colleges and Universities, including a few Ph D scholars. Prospective participants will be selected on the basis of their curriculum vitae and a three-hundred word write-up explaining their intention to participate in this programme. Out of 30 participants, 20 will be from the North-Eastern region, and the rest from the other parts of the country. The Head of the Department of the respective College/University Department/Institute Department will be asked to recommend the person who would like to apply for participation. It is expected that the participants will take due leave (duty leave or whatever) from their respective institutions for the entire period of two weeks. Incomplete attendance is strongly discouraged, as discontinuation will adversely affect the purpose of the whole programme. Every participant completing the entire course of the Winter School will be provided with a certificate of being trained in the programme.

Participants are allowed to claim II tier air-conditioned return fare by rail for their journey from the place of work to Guwahati and back, plus charges of local transportation by taxi/auto/bus etc. Free accommodation will be provided to the participants on a twin-sharing basis in the Guest House of IIT Guwahati. Local hospitality will be free all along. For detail write to:

Dr. Archana Barua/Dr.V.Prabhu,
Course Coordinator: Winter School in Philosophy,
Department of Humanities and Social Sciences,
Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati,
Guwahati – 781039.

‘Surfing internet alters functioning of brain’

Following article is from Times of India 29 Oct 2008. To veiw it on TOI Click here

‘Surfing internet alters functioning of brain’

Canberra: The internet is not just changing the way people live but altering the way our brains work with a neuroscientist arguing that this is an evolutionary change which will put the tech-savvy at the top of the new social order.

Gary Small, a neuroscientist at UCLA in California who specializes in brain function, has found through studies that Internet searching and text messaging has made brains more adept at filtering information and making snap decisions.But while technology can accelerate learning and boost creativity it can have drawbacks as it can create internet addicts whose only friends are virtual and has sparked a dramatic rise in Attention Deficit Disorder diagnoses.

Small, however, argues that the people who will come out on top in the next generation will be those with a mixture of technological and social skills.“We’re seeing an evolutionary change. The people in the next generation who are really going to have the edge are the ones who master the technological skills and also face-to-face skills,” Small said in a telephone interview.

“They will know when the best response to an email or instant message is to talk rather than sit and continue to email.”AGENCIES

39th International Film Festival of India Announcement

39th International Film Festival of India Announcement. For details click here or visit

Tender for Production of Films by Govt of India - Reproduced from Collective Chaos group mail

No. 15/2/2007-FDP


1.The Chief Producer, Films Division, on behalf of the President of India, invites sealed tender from producers on contract basis for production of films as follows:-

2. I. Films of 30 seconds to 2 minutes duration in Eastman Colour in 35mm format conveying social message(s) on the following subjects, for release in theatres and telecast on different channels / media. (i.)Social Justice. (ii). Health & Family Welfare (iii).Women & Child Development (iv) Panchayat Raj (v).Environment (vi)Agriculture & rural development (vii)Promotion of tourism (viii)Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (ix) Road safety (x)Civic Sense (xi)Organ donation (xii)Water shortage (save water) / Water Harvesting (xiii)HIV & AIDs (xiv)Dowry & Child Marriage (xv)Communal harmony and National Integration (xvi)Global warming (xvii)Child labour (xviii)Social Evils (xix)Anti Terrorism (xx)Social Unrest (xxi)Crime against Women etc.

3.II. DOCUMENTARY FILMS ( 26/52 Minutes duration in Digital format ) for telecast on TV channels on the following subjects:-

4. (i)Agriculture (Animal husbandry/farming/forestry/Horticulture/Misc) (ii)Archaeology & Monuments (iii)Health, Community development & Co-operation (iv)Cottage Industry (v) Crafts (vi)Art & Culture (vii) Food & Festivals (viii)Tourism (ix)Natural Resources (x)Trade & Commerce (xi)Social Welfare (xii) Rehabilitation &Employment (xiii)Geography & Travel (xiv)Education & Youth activities (xv)History/ Freedom Struggle (xvi)Famous Personalities etc. (xvii) Subjects pertaining Jammu & Kashmir and North Eastern States etc.

5. The details of forms/particulars/terms & conditions are available in our website or can be collected from Films Division, Mumbai. Tel.No.23510461/Fax: 2351 3655/23511008/2351 5308. The proposal complete in all respect to be submitted to Chief Producer, Films Division, Mumbai latest by 5/11/08. Applicants residing in North East, Jammu & Kashmir, Andaman Nicobar Islands, Lakshdeep Islands, Daman & Diu may submit their applications by (last date + 15 days).

Chief Producer

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Experiments in and outcomes of this blog

Following is the tentative and random list of experiments i have done on this blog and the known outcome.

If you think you have any information to add that might build this list please put it in the comment section.

Will be happy if you can comment on how this blog has been useful to you, that will help me.

This is being put together for an institutional presentation on experiments in this blog.

Some of the experiments tried with the blog

1. CIA 2/3 submission on the blog. One of the reasons was to save use of paper . Led to students commenting on other’s write-ups thus leading to exciting peer review and discussion. Tried it with a class strength of 98 (BCom., 2006) BBM 2005)
2. Put up supporting material and links to online resource for students on poems and novels on topics under discussion in the class
3. Scripts of films in discussion
4. Encourage students to ask questions online, as there is less time in class, plus an anonymity
5. CIA announcements, model questions papers, course plans, certificate course announcements
6. Details of courses, talks in and around Bangalore
7. National level and other seminar announcements.
8. Fellowship details
9. links to material around international events namely Man Booker Prize announcements, Nobel prize
10. Formal Student feedback to plan future classes
11. Other course announcements
12. Announcement of programme. Students have taken admission coming to know only through the blog
13. Use it as a space to publish my own academic and other write-ups
14. Publication of chat sessions
15. Links to online academic journals – refereed and non-referred
16. Links to online resources
17. Provides, documentation and archive of a lot of activities

1. Platform for students to carry interactions online.
2. out-of-class support though links and discussion-space/board
3. Anonymity helps students to ask questions which otherwise they would not
4. Far greater interaction over the net than class.
5. Those that do not interact in class interact online.
6. Helps me keep in touch with students.
7. Helps other teachers for institutions across India.
8. Motivation to students to start their own blogs
9. Allow peer discussion

Writing Workshop @ Dharmaram Vidya Kshetram

I conducted a two-day writing workshop for philosophy students of Dharmaram Vidya Kshetram on 27 and 28 Oct 2008. During the workshop 16 students wrote poems, short stories, features, conducted and wrote interviewnews reports and letters to the editor and also individually brought out model newspapers. I enjoyed working with the participants. Quite a passionate bunch. Grateful to Shaji, Benny, Simmy, Biston, and the participants for the experience.

Following is the copy of the schedule

Writing Workshop
DVK, Bangalore

27 – 28 October 2008

Workshop Facilitator: Anil Pinto, Christ University, Bangalore

Day 1
09.30 to 10.30 Session 1: Introduction, What do I look for? Writing as thinking, creativity, paragraph writing
10.30 to 10.45 Tea Break
10.45 to 12.45 Session 2 Writing poem, short story, feature, news report, letter to the editor
12.45 to 01.45 Lunch Break
01.45 to 02.00 Calisthenics
02.00 to 03.15 Session 3 Doing and writing interview
03.15 to 03.30 Tea Break
03.30 to 04.30 Session 4 Semiotics, and death of the author

(Homework: Preparing the blog. Redoing the write ups based on review of models. Give a write up on the gaps found and insights)

Day 2
09.30 to 10.30 Session 1 Paragraph writing, common errors, news report
10.30 to 10.45 Tea Break
10.45 to 12.45 Session 2 Features of a feature, short story, poem, interview, letter to the editor
12.45 to 01.45 Lunch Break
01.45 to 02.00 Calisthenics
02.00 to 03.15 Session 3 Reworking the write ups, preparation of a wall paper (pair work)
03.15 to 03.30 Tea Break
03.30 to 04.30 Session 4 Reworking the write ups, preparation of a wall paper (pair work),
04.00 to 04.15 Feedback
04.15 to 04.30 Conclusion

Monday, October 27, 2008

National Conference on Communication and Soft Skills from Academia and Corporate Perspectives

National Conference on Communication and Soft Skills from Academia and Corporate Perspectives

January 5-6, 2009
Organized by
Department of Mathematics and Humanities
Centre for Management Studies
Warangal – 506 021. (A.P.)

In recent years, the sweeping changes of globalization and industrialization have impacted several fields including education and the echoes are heard in many spheres and countries. Consequently, the approaches to teaching in the academia and training in the industry have changed as well. The need for a new perspective of communication and the growing necessity to show more and varied set of soft skills in workplace has, therefore, become a matter of urgent concern for all educators and managers and industry executives. In this context, teachers have to cope with the change in the perception of the
learners and to take a close look at the new roles of teachers in the light of the enormous importance being given to soft skills. They need to focus on these areas.

This conference provides a platform for teachers in engineering, of various disciplines, and management colleges and, for those professionals working in industry and media. They get the opportunity to reflect on topics related to communication and soft skills from the perspective of teachers and industry executives and present papers on topics of interest to them.

Major Areas of Interest
• Oral and Written Skills
• Listening and Taking notes
• Reading Skills
• Self-management
• Change management
Team Building
• Leadership
• Conflict Resolution
• Stress and Time Management
• Etiquette

Papers related to any other area related to the title of the conference are also invited.

Call for Papers:
Papers on original and unpublished work are invited in the above mentioned areas. Full papers should be sent only by e-mail in MS word document form (A4 size, single column, 12 point, Times New Roman, Single line spacing) with an abstract of 150 words. The abstracts & final paper of not more than 4 pages should be sent along with soft copy to the Coordinator indicating the names of the authors with address of corresponding author. The E-Mail attachment is also accepted provided the registration fee is paid by due date.

Registration and Fee Particulars
For publication of papers in the conference proceedings, at least one of the authors have to register. A registration fee of Rs.700/- in the form of a Demand Draft favoring “Director (TEQIP), NIT Warangal” payable at Warangal on any nationalized bank should reach the Coordinator on or before November
20, 2008.

Important Dates:
Abstracts along with D.D. for Registration fees: November 20, 2008 Submission of full and final text of Paper: December 02, 2008

Accommodation will be provided to participants at / near NITW campus. Boarding (sic)charges are included in the registration fee. However, no TA/DA is payable to the participants.

Address for Correspondence:
Dr.D..S.Kesava Rao
Professor of English
Dept. of Maths.&Humanities
NIT, Warangal,A.P. 506021
Telephone No: (0870) 2462822 ( O )
Mobile No: 9849358621

Friday, October 24, 2008

Talk on 'An Aesthetics of Erasure' by Sadanand Menon- Sent by Ammu Joseph

Open Space Fellowships - Sent by Ammu Joseph

Open Space Fellowships:

Nurturing civil society leadership and action

Open Space is a civil society and youth outreach initiative based in
Pune. OS encourages dialogue, debate and citizens action around social
justice and development issues by engaging urban middle class
citizens– particularly youth -- through films, literature, art,
music, college festivals, lectures, workshops etc.

We are now taking the OS process to other cities through the Open
Space fellowships. On offer are full-time fellowships for a period of
12 months each to be awarded to social entrepreneurs in cities other
than Pune.

We are looking for individuals who are well-informed on – and
committed to -- social justice and development issues, with a
background in the social sciences/human rights/development/media or
allied fields. The Fellows should be dynamic, energetic, resourceful
and good at communications, moderating discussions, training and
capacity-building. A passion for the arts and ideas is required,
since OS programmes and processes centre around popular culture,
literature, cinema etc. Fellows should be well-networked with CSOs,
educational institutions and community groups in their own city.

We're looking for applications from state capitals and the
mini-metros, though applications from the five major metropolitan
cities will also be considered if they focus on unique outreach
processes and suburban and fringe areas of their cities.

Over the 12-month period, several regular networks, partnerships,
processes, activities and forums should have been initiated and
publicised under the fellowship that should continue to operate and
be strengthened on a voluntary basis by citizens after the 12-month

Applicants for the fellowship are invited to send in their CVs and a
detailed concept note expanding on 1) their suitability for, and
interest in, these Fellowships; 2) the social justice/development
issues most integral to their cities which they would like to work on
in the course of this fellowship; 3) strategies they would employ for
outreach, including likely partners and networks in their cities.

Open Space fellowships will be awarded to individuals preferably
below the age of 40.

The fellowship carries a monthly honorarium of Rs 20,000, inclusive
of communication and conveyance costs incurred by the Fellows.

Log on to
for a detailed note on the fellowships and to find out more about
Open Space. Then email your applications, before October 31, 2008, to and cc them to

Open Space is an initiative of the Centre for Communication and
Development Studies, Pune, a social change resource centre that uses
communications to strengthen civil society and citizens' action for
social justice, human rights, sustainable development and accountable
governance. CCDS also manages
, India's popular and credible online resource base on social
justice and development issues. For more information on CCDS and Open
Space log on to


Open Space
301, Kanchanjunga Building, Kanchan Gully
Off Law College Road,
Pune 411 004
Telephone: 020-26852845/30222156

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Blog utilisation

On Aug 30 I put a counter on my blog to see how many visit the blog. In the last 53 days total visits are 7,033. That's almost 132 clicks per day. Out of which 3,959 (about 4,000) are unique clicks.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

ISem OE 'An Essay on the Theatre' Oliver Goldsmith extract

Following is the quotation in French found in the essay 'An Essay on the Theatre' by Oliver Goldsmith

"Le comique, ennemi des soupirs et des pleurs, N'admet point dans ses vers de tragiques douleurs."

Following is the translation of the above quotation by Dr Mallika from the Dept of French, Christ University.

"The comic, enemy of sighs and tears, does not admit/allow tragic sorrow in its verses at all."

(I thank Dr Mallika for the translation and Abey from IFEP for reminding me)

Friday, October 17, 2008

Theatre and Arts Appreciation Course @ Rangashankara

I strongly recommend the following course.

Ranga Shankara Theatre Festival ‘08

Theatre and Arts Appreciation Course

The Ranga Shankara Theatre Festival ‘08 will include the second edition of its very successful Theatre and Arts Appreciation Course, designed on the lines of the well-known Culture Course at Neenasam, Heggodu.

The Course, launched at the Ranga Shankara Theatre Festival ‘07, provides a unique opportunity to learn the essence of theatre and arts appreciation by developing new ways “seeing and listening”. Last year’s course was a resounding success, with participants from various walks of life – from students to professors, software professionals to bankers - participating enthusiastically in the highly interactive sessions. The likes of Satyadev Dubey, Girish Karnad, UR Anantamurthy, Ratan Thiyam, KV Akshara, Prakash Belwadi, etc. spent time with the participants discussing their craft.

Renowned culture critic Sadanand Menon will spearhead the Theatre and Arts Appreciation Course ‘08. A well-known writer on critical issues of politics and culture, Sadanand Menon is also a photographer and stage light designer. He has served as the Arts Editor for The Economic Times.

The Course will examine and discuss theatre, cinema, dance, photography and music over six days (spread over two weekends) through lectures, film screenings, plays, as well as interaction with directors and actors. The Course will thus look at, and analyse the formal structures of various works of art as well as consider them in the context of the historical period and cultural framework in which they were produced.

The course is open to public in the age group of 16 to 40 years. The course fee is Rs. 2000 (for six days; the fee includes lectures, film screenings and tickets to plays). A discount of Rs.1000 is being offered to students.

Application available at Ranga Shankara. Please visit the theatre, call on 26493982 or write to us on Last date for registrations is 20 October 2008.

Details of the Course

Dates of the Course
(6 days) 31 Oct to 2 Nov AND 7 Nov – 9 Nov (9.30 am – 6.00 pm on all days)
Course Fee Rs. 2000; Student discount of Rs. 1000 offered.
Venue Will be in and around Ranga Shankara; Will be communicated later
Medium of instruction English
Last day for applying 20 October 2008
Mode of application Please send your resume to Ranga Shankara will get in touch with you to confirm your registration. Registrations are also open at Ranga Shankara (36/2, 8th Cross, JP Nagar II Phase, Bangalore 78; from 9.30 am – 6.00 pm) till 20 October 2008
Contact Ranga Shankara office, 26493982

Sunday, October 12, 2008

III Sem JPEng English classes - Suggestions, please

Dear III Sem JPEnglishites (2008)
I am informed by the dept that I am to teach you English next semester too.

I have been thinking as to how to go about the next semester classes. Your suggestions on this for next semester will be useful for me to come up with a method that will help you hone your skills/build on your existing knowledge/skills.

Your suggestion could reflect the following
  • How do you want Perspectives to be dealt in the class
  • What kind of method do you want?
  • Are there ares in language (listening, speaking, reading, writing, critical thinking) or communication that you wish inputs and training?
  • Any other issue you wish our classes engage with.
You may post your suggestions here or email them to me at ajpinto42 at gmail dot com

Friday, October 10, 2008

V Semester Literary Theory and Criticism End Sem exam clarificatoins

Adarsh called me to clarify a few point questihons troubling him and his friends. Here are the clarifications.
1. The first essay of Psychoanalytic criticism is very much there for exam.
2. There would be no questions asking you to apply structuralism to a single piece. (If you can't figure out why you haven't understood structuralism!). Instead questions might be asked on the piece of Levi-Stauss' discussion of Oedipus myth
3. You will not be given any piece to do a decontructive or post structuralist analysis. Instead questions might be asked on the last piece in post structuralism.

Do spread the word around to beat the ....

I Semester Optional English End Semester Model Question Paper

End Semester Examination 2008

I Semester B.A.

Optional English

Course Code: OEN 131 Time: 3 Hours

Max Marks: 100

Model Question Paper

Section A

I. Answer any 5 of the following: (5x5=25)

  1. What are the characteristics of Metaphysical poetry?
  2. What supernatural elements does Pope use in “Rape of the Lock”.
  3. Compare and contrast the settings and language of Blake’s “The Lamb’ and “The Tyger”.
  4. What are the images of Egypt that Shelly describes through “Ozymandias”?
  5. What is comedy of manners?
  6. What are the different stations of life that a person could choose to live in that Robinson Crusoe’s father speaks about?
  7. What are the salient features of Elizabethan theatre?

II. Section B

Answer any 3 of the following in 250-300 words. (3x10=30)

1. How is Milton's invocation in Paradise Lost different from the invocation in classical Greek and Latin epics?

2. Analyze the role of the supernatural elements in Macbeth. How do they help in the progress of the play?

3. How does Addison comment on the economic conditions of young men in England through his essay “The Character of Will Wimble”?

4. The conflicts of marriage for love and marriage for property is one of the primary themes of Northanger Abbey. Discuss.

III. Section C

Answer any 3 of the following in 350-400 words (3x15=45)

1. Attempt a critical appreciation of Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan”.

2. Discuss the features of Shakespearean tragedy with reference to Macbeth.

3. What is Gothic fiction? Explain how Northanger Abbey is a satire on the Gothic novel.

4. Discuss The Way of the World as a comedy of manners.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Sudhir Kakkar on 'Parenting Violence'

Following is one of the most fascinating articles I read in Times of India recently.

Teach your children that compassion is above justice
In the opening piece, celebrated psycho-analyst Sudhir Kakar says we need to free ourselves from the ancient curse of humankind

Violence, we must admit, is as Indian as aam ka achar, as American as apple pie, as Japanese as sushi rolls. Odd as it may sound, the two biggest causes of violence all over the world, identified by psychologists such as Roy Baumeister, are the two we admire as positive qualities and encourage in our children: high self-esteem and moral idealism. On the collective level, we give high self-esteem, the narcissism of a community, the high sounding name of izzat, honour, and justify any number of acts of cruelty and murderous violence in its name. But there is even a greater source of violence that bedevils our individual and collective lives: moral idealism.

Once you believe that your violence is a means to a moral end, the floodgates to brutality are opened. As long as the perpetrator of violence maintains his moral commitment, to his faith, to his religious community, to the oppressed, or whatever else is the ‘cause’, he rarely displays guilt or shame for his murderous actions, something which is not true of the same actions as a member of other kinds of groups. We know that most major atrocities of the last century, and I have no doubt the trend will continue in the present one, were carried out by men believing they were creating utopias or defending their faith or idealised community from attack. Idealism is dangerous because it is inevitably accompanied by the belief that the end justifies the means. If you are fighting for God, for the oppressed or your religious community, then what matters is the outcome, not the path. Once you feel you have a moral mandate, you care much less for rules and legalities; the quest for ‘justice’ tends to be contemptuous of the notion of fairness.

Unfortunately, there have been eloquent voices that have defended violence in service of justice. In her Reflections on Violence, the philosopher Hannah Arendt writes “...under certain circumstances violence, which is to act without argument or speech and without reckoning with consequences, is the only possibility of setting the scales of justice right again...In this sense, rage and the violence that sometimes, not always, goes with it, belong to the ‘natural’ emotions, and to cure man of them would mean nothing less than to dehumanise or emasculate him’’. (Arendt on Violence)

The problem with this position is that such ‘hot’ violence inevitably turns into a ‘cold’ carnage characterised by planning and calculation. Moreover, violence that begins with a clear purpose acquires a life of its own, fulfilling obscure wishes more than its consciously stated goals. It begins to exercise a dangerous fascination, a “terrible beauty’’ from which too we cannot avert our eyes. We get a glimpse of this fascination in many kinds of collective violence, especially of the revolutionary kind. This violence has been described by Franz Fanon, in his The Wretched of the Earth, as one that “binds men together as a whole, since each individual forms a violent link in a great chain, a part of the great organism of violence which has surged
upwards’’. He might well have been speaking of the orgasm of violence.

No, what we need is a blanket rejection of violence, no matter what the cause. Justice is extremely important but we need to hold and teach our children that the value of compassion is above that of justice. When Gandhiji, in contrast to revolutionaries of the left and right, insisted on the priority of means over ends, he was intuitively aware of the malignant violence inherent in the other position.

What can we do? In the short term, there is no alternative to a firm resolve of the state that violence, no matter what the stated cause, will not be permitted. We know, for instance, that in ethnic/communal riots there is a window of about 24 hours in which the tension between the opposing groups is very high but violent acts have not yet taken place. Firm police action in this crucial time period can prevent the outbreak of violence which will otherwise spiral out of control. How to isolate responsible police officers from political interference in this 24-hour period (switching off all mobile contact?) is an issue needing urgent attention. In the longer term, we need to focus our educational efforts on emphasising the value of compassion, of which fairness and tolerance are important constituents, as much as of justice, of re-dedicating ourselves to the priority of means over ends. This is not an idealistic choice but is based on our evolutionary reality as human beings. We need to awaken our natural human compassion to counteract our perhaps equally natural propensity to violence and not just cede the battleground to the latter.

Indeed, compassion is as natural as violence. We now know from experiments using brain imaging that watching the suffering of someone who appears to be a victim of violence, activates a similar ‘pain network’ in our brains, the so-called ‘mirror neurons’. Showing the sufferings of victims of terror attacks or other forms of collective violence, as part of our educational curriculum in schools and colleges is an obvious next step in the long term combating of violence. We need to use all our available knowledge on social violence to begin freeing ourselves from this ancient curse of humankind.

(Times of India. 2 Oct 2008, Page 16)

Here is another one from The Hindu on workplace violence

(P.S.:In the last three years that I have been experimenting with blogs in education, I have kept the 'personal' and matters 'unrelated' to curricula out of this space. This is the first time that I am posting an article 'unrelated' to formal curricula that I engage with. It's an indication of some of the fundamental questions arising in me about teaching and education, more on this sometime....)

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

My Replies

I am glad to see that this blogspace is put to good use. While I appreciate your questions, due to my other academic work I am unable to respond immediately. I wish to deffer all my responses till 13. Hope that is fine.

In the mean time others can respond to the questions directed towards me in this blog.

All the best for your practicals and theory exams.


Saturday, October 04, 2008

'Way of the World' and other material

Aishwarya has asked for material on 'Way of the World'
Here is what I found. May be some of you should check for annotated version in the library as well.

1. Good ol' Wiki!
2. Pink Monkey. For better effect do not click on the links but click on next button at the bottom of the page
3. From Answers.Com
4. From Faculty.Goucher!

Many of the poems and at least one of the essays are available with annotations (i.e. explanations of words and meanings!) in the Macmillan edition on various poets in the library. There is a book called 'Explorations' which was the textbook for Optional English a few years ago when the institution was under Bangalore university. You will find it in one the last rows of the UG English racks. It has material for many of your poems and at least one Essay. I think it's on Will Wimble.


Friday, October 03, 2008

Literary Theory questions - FEP and PSEng

III year FEP and PSEng students may post their questions here and also try to answer/respond to the questions of other discussants.

In this blog I have posted on postmodernism, feminism and related topics in the past two years. Those of you who wish to have a peak into them can type the keyword/s in the search box left-hand-top corner of this blog.