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Thursday, July 23, 2009

mapping the essay

Mapping the Essay:
• Implied order – Parole/Langue
• Diachronic – chorological period of time
Synchronic – specific time.

Contribution of Saussure
• Implied order
• Linguistics signs

Impact of Saussure’ Idea on other fields and scholars:
a) Roman Jakobson – Formalist
b) Claude Levi-Strauss – began to see culture like language/ marriage as a form of communication.
c) Vladimir Propp – narrative in search of missing centres/ implied orders in myths.
d) Ronald Barthes – applies to the semiological dimension of literature and culture.
e) Tzvetan Todorov – study in narrative.
f) Michel Foucault – developed the idea of discourse, of discourse formation and language formation on assumption.

Ferdinand de Saussure was an early twentieth century Swiss linguist. Throughout his lifetime, Saussure did not write much he died in 1913. In 1916 his students published his class notes “Course in General Linguistics” thereby giving rise to linguistics. Saussure with his work changed the course of twentieth century social sciences, influencing almost all the thinkers of that time directly or indirectly. Earlier English was studied historically it was Saussure who came up with the notion of descriptive linguistics who looked at the use of language in the present context rather than in the past. He epitomised the arbitrary nature of language wherein the insider outsider outlook comprised language to be an implied order. Implied order in the form of language existed in the unconscious which manifested itself through utterance. Thereby what we speak is only parole and langue is the abstract manifestation of language. Noam Chomsky also spoke in similar ways. He gave a divide between competence and performance. Competence he said comes culturally and without any knowledge. This is the basic biological component and is inherent. What we learn is only performance. The last aspect that was touched upon in class today was the idea of linguistic signs- semiotics. According to Saussure language was a sign system, to him signified was the image and signifier was the sound image.

II Year MA Mid Semester Assignment

Do an action research on the topic assigned to you.

Music in Academics

Thomas George

Research in Undergraduate Space

Journalism in academics, and its relevance.

Problems faced by international students in Christ University

Space for Visual culture in UG syllabus

Problems faced by non English medium students in Christ University

Education Scenario in Karnataka

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Textbooks - A Curse of Higher Education

Following is a response to the news report that appeared in Times of India on 20 July 2009 in the Education Supplement regarding the introduction of course pack (Reading-based Approach) in Political Science at the UG level in Delhi University.

Bhatia Surabhi. 'DU’s political science now reading-based' Times of India 20 July 2009. Click here for the article.

I am quite impressed with the Delhi University (DU) move of introducing course pack (reading -based approach) at the UG level for political science.

One of the fundamental problems with textbooks is that they present knowledge as closed. Instead of presenting knowledge as evolving or disciplinary knowledge as a contested area, textbooks present the finality of ideas/knowledge/discourses. The existence of textbooks at the higher education defeats the purpose of Humboldian idea of university, around which the present university structure has evolved, and based on which it justifies its existence. Further, the strong presence of textbooks brings higher education in general, and UG space in particular, under the high school culture where the finality of the teacher in the realm of knowledge prevails and not the production of knowledge.

While the textbooks retain teacher's hold over the students in a classroom and outside, they create a closure of any intellectual curiosity. Considering this I must say, textbooks are a curse of higher education.

I hope that this new initiative is not defeated in the usual argument of 'poor' learners put forth by the teaching community, which is more of a facade to consolidate their existing positions, rather than a real concern either for the students or to the profession.

While I hope and wish that the model is emulated by other disciplines at DU (if they haven't), and other universities in rest of India, I also hope that in emerging universities, teaching community and the administration make qualitative moves towards course-pack based teaching-learning at least in social sciences and humanities.

with full of optimism,


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

III Semester MA English Research and Writing Heuristics CIA 2

Attempt a semiotic study of Girish Karnad’s play assigned to you. You may finalise your own topic/title around the play assigned. If you wish you may do a semiotic study of the translation of the play to the language you are most familiar with. In which case please inform me in advance and during the submission of your research paper, attach a copy of the translation.

You will be evaluated based on understanding of semiotics, research competence displayed, and overall performance. Should you wish to incorporate any other criteria do let me know. Please ensure that you are making an argument in your research paper.

You will have to submit the paper in hard copy, printed back to back, and email a soft copy to me. Format: A4 paper, 14 font size, 1 ½ line spaced, font- Times New Roman. While the hard copies will be bound and made available in the library for general reference, the soft copies will be uploaded to this blog and scribd.

Date of submission will be decided mutually during my lecture hour tomorrow.

Plays Assigned

· Tuglaq (Jijo, Priyadarshini)

· Hayavadana (Joe, Payal, Swathi)

· Bali: The Sacrifice (Aditi, Tomy)

· Naga-Mandala (Anjali, Sarjoo, Sunita)

· Tale-Danda (Anju, Saima)

· The Fire and the Rain (Fancy, Shreyasi)

· The Dreams of Tipu Sultan (Gorgia, Yashaswini)

· Flowers (Harita, Thammanoon, Samji)

· Broken Image (Jolsna, Sayori)

· Wedding Album (Levin, Priya)

· Yayathi (Namitha)

· Semiotic study of the self-translation of Naga-Mandala (Rashmi)

All the plays are available in Collected Plays: Volume One and Collected Plays: Volume Two by Girish Karnad, except for Wedding Album which is printed separately. The copies can be found in the library.

All the best

Saturday, July 18, 2009

A Death of an innocent misconception

Class Note, 15th July, 09 (I M.A English)
A discussion on Plato’s REPUBLIC had barely ensued, when with the customary tendency to float away that comes with being a man of many thoughts, Mr. Pinto typically steered us from poor Plato and into the field of Psychology. Opinions were exchanged about that discipline, judgments were made (some fair some not) and then a question was raised trying to connect Psychology, the study of the mind, to Literature.
“Don’t we, as Literature students, also study various texts with the hope of understanding the mind of the author behind the text?”
In response, there was a laugh from the man of Literature himself. Not unkind laughter but more like an “I’m sorry, but I’m going to now slowly and systematically disabuse you of all your sweet notions” sort of laugh.
Exit: Plato’s ‘Republic’
Enter: ‘Death of the Author” – Roland Barthes.
Barthes made famous the notion of doing away with the Author, the idea of the text as a site of free play or pleasure, and differences such as those between ‘work’ and ‘text’, and ‘writerly’ and ‘readerly’ works of art. The idea that it is not the Author who is primary but the reader.
He talks of the problem of the subject, insisting on viewing an author or persona as a grammatical rather than a psychological subject. The well known formulation of this problem occurs in ‘Death of the Author’ (1968), a phrase which has come to be associated with both Barthes and structuralism just as the phrase ‘God is dead’ had been attributed (accurately/ inaccurately) to Nietzsche (it had first occurred in Hegel’s ‘Phenomenology’???).

Barthes begins the essay by quoting a sentence from Balzac’s novella ‘Sarra Sine’: ‘This was woman herself, with her sudden fears, her irrational whims, her instinctive worries, her impetuous boldness, her fussings, and her delicious sensibility.’
He throws open the question, who is the speaker of the words? Is it the hero of the story, or Balzac himself drawing on his experience of women? Or is he professing literary notions of feminity? Or is it universal wisdom?

His answer is that we can never know because “writing is the destruction of every voice, of every point of origin. Writing is that neutral, composite, oblique space where our subject slips away, the negative where all identity is lost, starting with the very identity of the body writing.”
Even in the present, says Barthes, our studies of Literature and Literary history are “tyrannically centered on the author.” The newer modes of criticism (by which he presumably means phenomenological and psychoanalytical criticism), he claims, have often consolidated this obsession. Recently many writers have challenged this centrality of the author. Mallarme recognized that it is “language which speaks, not the author.”

At this point, a small experiment was conducted in class. We were asked to take a blank sheet of paper and follow Mr. Pinto’s instructions carefully and write a poem (or just about any thought that came into the head). We were asked not to think and just go with the flow of our thoughts. When he instructed us to write the first line, we were to write it and move on to writing the second line only when he said so. Like this we jotted down our thoughts in twenty lines and discovered that even though our initial lines seemed a little constructed and structured (it was inevitable that some of us would cheat and not follow the instruction of ‘don’t think too much’), as we were writing the last 12 lines or so, it was indeed our language which was guiding us into writing and not our preconceived thoughts, ideas or plans of writing according to a theme/ purpose/ objective.

Proof of this is in the impromptu writing of Rungkan, ‘Apple’, of my class. This is what she composed during our experiment and it is dedicated by her to Mr. Pinto:

There is a man who comes
Nothing in hands, but books
And knowledge in brain
He is neither mad nor bad
He asked me to write
Something that he named it ‘poem’
I took my pen jolt down something strange and meaningless
Nothing I understood what he said
He is not mad but I’m running mad
Because I know nothing about writing
That he said and claimed as ‘poem’
Stanza, octave, and rhythm all these I have learnt
But I don’t know where to start
And how to end
So I start making fun of myself
Writing this poem…
First time in my life ‘English Poem’
Is it a poem? I still know nothing
Whether it is poem or not
Then he stops before my poem starts…
( :) Surely, this deserves an applause?)
The removal of the author transforms the modern text. Previously, the author was conceived as the past of his own book, the preexisting cause and explanation. In contrast, the modern scriptor is born simultaneously with the text…there is no other time than that of the enunciation and every text is eternally written HERE and NOW.

Hence we can no longer think of writing in the classical ways, as recording, representing, or depicting. Rather, writing is a “performative” act in which “the enunciation has no other content (contains no other proposition) than the act by which it is uttered – something like the I DECLARE of Kings or the I SING of very ancient poets.”

In writing, the modern scriptor traces a field with no origin, or at least one which has “no other origin than language itself, language which ceaselessly calls into question all origins.” What’s more, a text can no longer be viewed as releasing in a linear fashion a single ‘theological’ meaning, as the message of the “Author-God”. Rather, it is a multi dimensional space in which a variety of writings, none of them original, blend and clash. The writer has only the power to mix writings.

The demise of the author spells the demise of criticism: deciphering a text becomes a futile endeavor: “To give a text an author is to impose a limit on that text, to furnish it with a final signified, to close the writing.”

Barthes concludes by pointing out that the multiplicity of writing – its drawing from various cultures and styles – is focused and unified in one place: the Reader (not the Author). A text’s unity lies not in its origin but in its destination.

Yet, Barthes cautions that the humanism we have rejected via removal of the author should not be reintroduced through any conception of the reader as a personal and complete entity. The reader of which Barthes speaks is a reader “without history, biography, psychology; he is simply that SOMEONE who holds together in a single field all the traces by which the written text is constituted.” In other words, the reader, like the author, is a function of the text. In this sense, the birth of the Reader must be at the cost of the death of the Author.

Friday, July 17, 2009

WikiWars - conference based international event on the Wikipedia, February 2010

Call for Participation; 12th, 13th January, 2010, Bangalore

Event One for the Critical Point of View Reader

CPOV (Critical Point of View) Context: The Wikipedia has emerged as the de facto global reference of dynamic knowledge. Different stakeholders – Wikipedians, users, academics, researchers, gurus of Web 2.0, publishing houses and governments have entered into fierce debates and discussions about what the rise of Wikipedia and Wiki cultures means and how they influence the information societies we live in. The Wikipedia itself has been at the centre of much controversy, pivoted around questions of accuracy, anonymity, vandalism, expertise and authority.

The Centre for Internet and Society (Bangalore, India) and the Institute of Network Cultures (Amsterdam, Netherlands) are working together to produce a critical Reader on Wikipedia and to build a Wikipedia Knowledge Network. Under the rubric CPOV, we propose two events that bring together different perspectives, approaches, experiences and stories that critically explore different questions and concerns around Wikipedia. The proceeds from these two events will result in a Reader that consolidates critical points of view about Wikipedia.

WikiWars Conference: The first conference to be held in Bangalore, called WikiWars, invites participation from users, scholars, academics, practitioners, artists and other cultural workers, to share their experiences, ideas, experiments, innovations, applications and stories about Wikipedia. The WikiWars conference embodies the spirit that guides an open encyclopaedia like the Wikipedia, by referring to the edit battles that users enter into over topics that have many points of view. WikiWars also refers to the contradictory positions adopted by different stakeholders on the various issues of credibility, authority, verifiability and truth-telling, on the Wikipedia. This conference calls for diverse and varied knowledges to come together in a critical dialogic space that informs and augments our understanding of the Wikipedia.

Conference Themes: The possible themes and areas for presentations (projects, experiences, experiments, stories or documentation) can include but are not limited to:

  • Wiki Theory: Endorse, question/contest or delineate the theoretical approaches and view points on the Wikipedia
  • Wikipedia and Critique of Western Knowledge Production: The predominance of textual or linguistic cultures, post-western knowledge production systems, and indigenous knowledge systems
  • Wiki Art: Art that uses Wikipedia models, structures or data to explore and expand the practice of Wikipedia project; and accounts that document Wikipedia based art practices or debates
  • Designing Debate: Suggestions, innovations, critiques and ideas that focus on the design and form of the Wikipedia, to explore the claims of neutrality, objectivity, emergent hierarchy, control and authenticity on the Wikipedia
  • Critique of Free and Open: Areas like Wikipedia governance, economic practices of and around Wikipedia, and the nature of freedom in usage, production and participation on the Wikipedia
  • Global Politics of Exclusion: Exploring questions of non-western material inclusion, language, connectedness, oral histories, women, non-geeks, and alternative material that cannot be documented on Wikipedia etc.
  • The Place of Resistance: Space of resistance and dissent in the Wikipedia, structures that allow for alternative voices, experiences and ideas
  • Wikipedia and Education: Wikipedia usage in classrooms as a teaching resource, and its effect on pedagogy, the role of Wikipedia in the knowledge production sector, and mobilisation of academic communities around the Wikipedia

For detailed information on each theme, please go to

Who Should Apply: The conference in Bangalore aims to bring together an interesting mix of diverse voices from different cultures, geo-political spaces, and context-based practices from around the world, to start consolidating the approaches, experiences, and impact of the Wikipedia:

  1. Students and Wikipedia users who belong to different local chapters or have editorial/contribution experiences on the Wikipedia,
  2. Academics and publishers who are exploring the changes caused by Wikipedia, both in classroom pedagogy and in knowledge production systems,
  3. Researchers and theoreticians, practitioners and proponents, artists and social activists, who are interested in Wikipedia cultures and their socio-political conditions, should be attending this conference.

How To Apply: To apply for the conference, please send the following information by email to by the 31st of August, 2009. 1. A note of interest (450 - 700 words) detailing your ideas and possible contribution 2. Your updated resume 3. A sample of your work (term papers, published articles, peer-reviewed papers, books, art-projects, social intervention projects etc.)

Conference time-line:

Last Date for submitting Note of Interest and Funding options – 31st August, 2009

Announcement of short-listed proposals – 21st September, 2009.

Sharing of Detailed Proposals with all participants – 15th December, 2009

Announcement of Conference Schedule and Logistics – 30th December 2009

Online Registration for non-presenting participants – 3rd January 2010

Conference Dates – 12th, 13th January 2010

Travel support: Travel support is available for some of the conference participants (national and international). The selected participants will be provided with the basic travel and accommodation costs for the duration of the conference from their home-countries/cities to travel to Bangalore for the conference. If you are applying for travel support, please indicate clearly in your “Note of Interest” any of these three options: 1. Full travel support required. 2. Partial travel support required with estimate. 3. Travel support not required. Travel support will be provided by the conference organisers on a case-by-case basis.

Conference Organisers: Sunil Abraham ( and Nishant Shah ( ), Centre for Internet and Society, Bangalore. If there are any queries regarding the WikiWars conference please write to us.

Research and Editorial Team: Geert Lovink and Sabine Niederer (Amsterdam), Nathaniel Tkacz (Melbourne), Johanna Niesyto (Siegen), Sunil Abraham and Nishant Shah (Bangalore).

Monday, July 13, 2009

Summer Course: Film and the Historical Imagination

Course instructor: Ranjani Mazumdar, Associate Professor, Cinema Studies,
School of Arts & Aesthetics, JNU

July 27 – August 7, 2009


The JB MRC invites applications from graduate students, media researchers and practitioners for a two-week long theory course titled “Film and the Historical Imagination”

Course Description:
Film is an archive of sensations, of emotions, of images and of sounds. As a powerful recorder of life and its events, Film lends itself to organizing not just historical knowledge but also commenting on the nature of historical narration. This two week introductory course on Film and the Historical Imagination will map the specific ways in which history and ideas about the past get constructed through the medium of cinema. Issues related to questions of evidence, memory, historical catastrophe, nostalgia, myth and heritage will be discussed and analyzed in relation to world cinema. The course is structured in the form of five illustrated lectures, followed by five full length screenings. The course will conclude with a round table discussion with all participants. A set of key essays will be provided in the form of a reader. The sessions would be held from 11 am to 5 pm every alternate day of the week, excluding weekends.

Ranjani Mazumdar is Associate Professor of Cinema Studies at the School of Arts and Aesthetics at Jawaharlal Nehru University. Her publications and films focus on urban cultures, popular cinema, gender and the cinematic city. She is the author of Bombay Cinema: Archive of the City which was co published by the University of Minnesota Press and Permanent Black, 2007. She is currently co-authoring a book on the Contemporary Film Industry. Her current research interests include the cinema of the 1960s, Globalization and Film Culture, and Film and History.

To apply: Send your CV and a brief statement (500 words max) outlining your interest in attending the course to<> or to the Course Coordinator, JB MRC, AJK MCRC, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi 110025.
• Last date for applications: July 23, 2009
• Course commencement date: July 27, 2009

Selected applicants will be charged Rs. 650/- as the course fee

Historical Biographical and Moral Philosophical approach

( The Following is lectures notes by Mr. Pinto - P.S.ENG-III)

In the words of Mr. Pinto, literature does not teach us anything. If, for instance, an individual take up psychology she can become a psychologist or if one is engaged in the field of sociology he can become a sociologist, literature is the only subject wherein an individual cannot be an expert. For example, literature will not teach us how to write a poem. All literature does is engage us in a textual analysis. Our unconscious is accustomed towards textual analysis and hence our engagement in the classroom with the various texts is nothing but a textual analysis of the text. This was Mr. Pinto’s reply to all those who didn’t have a text in the class.

Mr. Pinto wanted us to cultivate an interest in
1. Logic

2. Few schools of philosophy- Socratic school of philosophy

3. The works of Plato, Aristotle, Hobbes, Khant, Engel and Foucault.

In today’s’ class Mr. Pinto commented on the historical biographical approach and Moral philosophical approach. He took up the word “text” and analyzed it for us. He said textile and textual drew similar ideas. Just as textile is a mixture of various elements, text/ual is also quite similar. A text, like textile, is woven together giving us a definite pattern of writing. Mr. Pinto highlighted the limitations of language by saying that one cannot go beyond the structure of the text. He said that there can be constant replays, modification and difference in perception of the text but all this can take place only within the boundaries of the structure of the text. He said that with a close engagement with the text we can see through it. We cannot accuse the writer based on one notion of the text it is important to take into account the authenticity of the text. The versions that come to us might not always be the original publication but rather the edited versions or editions. For e.g. In Andrew Marvell’s “To his Coy Mistress” instead of “dew” the first edition of the poem had “glue”. Shakespeare’s works’ that we have read is also not the original version but rather edited versions of his work.
The term Genre is a French word that divides the text into various segments. A text may have various genres ranging from poems, essays, short stories and novels. In similar ways poem is also divided into various genres. A poem can be ballad, sonnets, villanelle, the elegy, the ode, the sestina, the haiku and the dramatic monologue. The Elegy harbours the pattern of lamentation; the Ode uses the Pindaric pattern and haiku is a celebration of wisdom which delays understanding.
Haiku combines form, content and language in a meaningful yet compact form. Mr Pinto quoted

“O wonder marvel,
I cut woods,
I drew water from the well.”
These lines have been written by a Buddhist monk after getting enlightened. Though he witnessed change within him, life does not after enlightenment. The monk’s perception towards life may be different after enlightenment but he still had to cut wood and draw water from the well.

Historical biographies concern itself with the emphasis on super structure and the biography of the poet. It was in the seventeenth century that Andrew Marvell wrote “To his Hoy Mistress”. The social setup in that particular time was highly puritan. Renaissance had influenced classical learning and hence Logic. Logic is the formal and systematic study of principle of valid inference and correct reasoning. The term logic is very precise and very particular with the use of languages. For example the opposite of white is non-white and not black or green. The Physical world is structured in such a way there is only an existence of zero and one. To his Coy Mistress is an argument towards a school of thought of puritans and the structure. The argument was a reflection of the writing process removed from traditional conceptions of time and a discourse on the urgency of creating written material within human time frames with the presentation of written material as a celebration of life. This pattern of writing did not reflect the poet’s personal emotions but rather a comment on the structure of the society. Thus the weaving of the text was only a pattern to say something.

Taking a moral philosophical approach towards reading “To his Coy Mistress” Mr. Pinto said that the poem is not of sexual imagery but of time. Mr. Pinto also says that to have clarity in idea one must read philosophy. Andrew Marvell systematically reasoned with his desired object about the futility of delaying their interlude when the hours available to them were limited. Metaphysical writers viewed poetry as an intellectual exercise, an opportunity to develop ideas in a logical, argumentative structure; for them, the object of poetry was not to serve as an outlet for an effusion of emotional sentiments. If one approaches "To a Coy Mistress" as a discussion of the pressures which time placed upon a writer, Marvel's apostrophe took on an ironic twist. He used his analytical skills to coax his writing to manifest his intended desires, providing a playful look at the connection between a man and his work. Complicating this relationship was the necessity of negotiating under the terms and constraints of an outside third party: time.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

A Peek at Plato

Mr. Pinto’s Class Note – 10th July, 09.

(Scene: It’s 5 minutes to the end of Mr. Pinto’s class and he hasn’t yet arrived; busy with an extended interview-meeting. Just when we were all trudging along outside to enjoy a lazy day at the campus, he’s in our class in a flash. There’s an explosion of energy and in just about 10 minutes, he gives us a mine of information. By all rights we should have been groaning and saying nasty things about him, for first making us wait, and then making us stay those extra 10 minutes. But the palpable energy being exchanged in those ten minutes was, to everyone’s good fortune, mutually relished. Besides, it was obvious we had rescued him from what appeared at that time to be brain atrophy. So who cares about those extra 10 minutes when we were briefly heroes?!?)

‘Adeimantus, you and I are not making up stories at the moment; we are founding a community.’

[379, Republic, Book II]

Whether he had known at that time his impact on the future generations of thinkers or not, there is no disputing that the Greek Philosopher Plato laid the foundations of Western Philosophy. He gave initial formulation to the most basic questions and problems (which will be discussed in the next few postings) of Western thought. Literary critics throughout the ages have returned again and again to the classical themes set down by Plato and it would scarcely be an exaggeration to say that history of criticism cannot properly be understood without some of Plato’s key ancient texts, especially since they have exerted such a seminal influence on the discourse of criticism in the ages to come.

A lot of speculation is drawn about the personal details of Plato, only natural considering his popularity. Even his name is being speculated about. Plato or Aristocles, after his grandfather? We know that his birth was roughly around 427/428 B.C and his death, 347/348 B.C. He came from an old Athenian family, said to have played a prominent part in Athenian politics. So it’s interesting that he chose philosophy over politics as his way of curing the ills of society.

An old story says Dionysius sold Plato as a slave and his friends and uncles bought him and set him free. He then became a student of Socrates and later founded the ACADEMY. The Academy was the first school of philosophy and is acknowledged as the first university of the world. At the entrance of the Academy was written:

‘Those who don’t know geometry do not enter this portal.’

This doesn’t just refer to the significant role of mathematics in philosophy and a philosopher’s life but also the importance of abstract thinking required of a philosopher. The little that is known about the Academy is that it was a public gymnasium and that Plato didn’t charge fees for his lessons. It is unlikely that Plato’s school had many of the institutional features of a modern university, so all those who’d like to visualize Plato in his Academy as a sort of Father Vice Chancellor at Christ University, kindly cease thinking along that line of thought.

One known public lecture of Plato’s on ‘The Good’ was said to be a fiasco because the audience came to hear about probably the good life and Plato talked about mathematics.

Plato was the first thinker to demarcate philosophy as a subject, as a distinct way of thinking about, and relating to, a wide range of issues and problems. Philosophy in this sense is still taught and learned in schools and universities today. To put it succinctly, we’re still tackling the questions and problems laid down by Plato in this very 21st Century and that sums up the significance of Plato’s theories in our lives.

[References: Mr. Pinto; A History of Literary Criticism and Theory – M. A. R Habib; PLATO – A Very Short Introduction, Julia Annas]

Friday, July 10, 2009

Emergence of English as a Subject of Study

(Mr. Pinto’s Class Note – 8th July ‘09)
(Notes contributed by Panom and Divya)
The 3 reasons for English becoming a subject of study were: to consolidate declining feudal power; Imperialism; Military/ totalitarian purposes.

Before examining the above mentioned areas, let’s address the interesting question of When Did Literature Emerge?

Invention of the printing press (1453) by John (Johannes) Gutenberg coincided with the gradual removal of the monopoly that the clergy held over literacy. This shift in monopoly was made possible largely due to urbanization and industrialization. We saw that the onus on the primary sector (agriculture) was slowly diminishing and secondary sector (Industries) took off. What has to be noted is that this industrialization became possible due to colonization.

With the advent of industrialization, there was a need for more clerks and book keepers etc. who naturally needed to be taught and educated in order to increase their efficiency. Earlier, the tradition of education was mainly a seminary one (Wordsworth, Shelly, Keats etc.) and was limited to the age old institutions of Oxford and Cambridge. With the concept of division of labor and regulated work hours, it allowed for a certain novelty called ‘free time’ which was not seen before. Until then there weren’t any regulated work hours like the 8 hour concept we see in the 20th century. In fact, there was a large percentage of children being employed as workers as well and exploited for their ability to work long hours. (References were made by Mr. Pinto to William Blake’s THE CHIMNEY SWEEPER) In this new found free time people naturally turned to reading. Free grammar schools with scholarships began to appear; a lot many workers pooled their resources and hired teachers to teach their children in evening schools. They started reading and studying Romances (full of wars, heroes, knights etc.)

There became an increasing need to ‘know’ more and learn more, even if they happened to be practical pieces of information such as instances of the happenings around them. They started ‘telling stories’ to know more which gave birth to two things – Journalism; Literature.

The ‘Novel’ took off as it was a way of telling “something new”, like a new story that converted incidents into a narrative. The colonials contributed to this ‘novel’ or storytelling. (Mr. Pinto made references to the chapter ‘Defoe’s England’ in G. M. Trevelyan’s ENGLISH SOCIAL HISTORY) Defoe himself had perfected the art of the reporter; even his novels such as Robinson Crusoe and Moll Flanders are imaginary ‘reports’ of daily life. For Defoe was one of the first who saw the old world through a pair of sharp modern eyes.

(Note: By the 19th Century, all experiments regarding the novel had already been exhausted – with perhaps the exception of the Stream Of Consciousness which came about in the 20th Century.) (FYI: Observers would notice that the 19th Century wrote and read far more number of novels than the 20th Century ever saw.)
So many forces played a role in what we today call “reading habits or reading culture”. All this and also the theories of evolution (those existing even before Darwin’s conception) created a huge change in social structure which saw the rise and seemingly inevitable decline in feudal power.

Consolidation of this power in the 19th Century was done in the form of literature. It was used as a political tool and also a source. Literature in a sense addresses all structures of society; the working class, the middle class and the elite. This therefore explains its success as a tool. From Eagleton’s essay The Rise of English, we see how Literature was first introduced as a subject of study to mechanical engineers to bring about ‘morality’. Later, it was studied extensively by women at Oxford, perhaps because they were discouraged from studying the sciences. It was a social construct of expectation and opportunity allotting.

Imperialism being the second reason for English becoming a subject of study saw its works being implemented wherever the English went when they had to consolidate their power. “Flag follows the trade” – the classic imperialistic principle. Literature was introduced to the middle classes and texts were carefully selected and doled out, ensuring that the English stamped their power and superiority over the colonies. On retrospect, it seems like such an obvious design. We saw it happen in Africa by the English, French and Germans. We also saw it in Latin countries as well as India by the British.

Military purposes and totalitarian control were the third reason for English becoming a subject of study. Cleary a strategic move and language typically was introduced to consolidate power and subdue confusion. We saw it happen with India as well where Hindi was introduced after independence in an attempt to unify the nation. Similarly, Britain introduced English Literature to do the same.