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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Cultural Studies and Cynicism

My course has technically come to the end. All the classes are over, except for one, and now, I have only the dissertation left. Over the last few weeks, I have been feeling a slight uneasiness towards the discipline of Cultural Studies. I will try to establish why.

The USP of Cultural Studies is that is under constant critique, that it critiques itself, and the world, constantly, at every moment, instant and oppurtunity. This is a good thing, because a closure means an end; a definite and certain end to critique, analysis and therefore, an end to challenging existing norms of production of knowledge and power. This is also necessary, because himan society can never reach a point of complete and unhindered Utopia where everyone has what they want and are content, and perfectly happy, constituting a perfectly happy planet!

However, there are moments of triumph; moments that deserve celebration. There are moments of achievement, when something theory has been striving for for so long has actually been percieved and given importance in practice. Take the establishment of the field of Cultural Studies itself, for example. It did not suddenly crop up into the world and begin existing in a benign and easy manner. It had to face much struggle, and much opposition from people who thought otherwise (or didn't think at all) and fight for its existence, before it was accepted as a discipline or a field, whatever the technical name one might attribute to it. But the fact that such a discipline is able to sit comfortably within a system, and critique that system from within is hardly acknowledged or celebrated today. Yes, it is another move towards the ideal, and we are getting there, but not yet... It is in persistent unrest. Critique is unrest. Critique is temporary, becuase once the thing that is critiqued changes, the new thing can be critiqued, and so on...

Sometimes, I feel like this unrest can even turn into cynicism. I know it isn't. I know that it is not the intention. But it is critiquing to the point of dissilusionment. At the end, (if there is an end at all), it doesn't allow any lend itself to an absolute answer, because it is so scared of the fact that it can lead to a different domination by a different kind of power, which can be dangerous, and therefore, unhealthy for the system. So, I feel like I'm stuck in this whirlwind of critiques, with no way out, with the structure of the discipline itself restricting it from looking for an end, in this mess and chaos, with no way out, and with no answers. Dissilusioning to the point of cynical. Don't know where to go from here.

Monday, March 29, 2010

4th FEP- Radio question paper pattern

Section A - 3 out of 4 (10 mks each)
1. DJ Script/ Magazine programme
2. Radio Documentary/ Interview
3. Radio drama/ Talk
4. News

Section B- 2 out of 3 (5 mks each)
1. 2 theory questions
2. PSA/Ad

Section C- 5 outof 7 (2 mks each)
Refer terms I posted!
All the best :)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

4TH FEP-Radio Section C questions

Radio Glossary
· Actuality: live recording of a real event, sounds recorded on location
· Ad lib: unscripted announcement, off-the-cuff remark
· Anchor: person acting as the main presenter in a programme involving several components.
· Back –announcement: where the names and details of an interview or record are given immediately after the item.
· Back –timing: the process of timing a live programme backwards from its intended closing time to ensure it ends on time.
· Byte: a string of 8, 16, 32 or more binary electrical pulses or bits representing a specific piece of data
· Cd: compact disc. Digital recording and playback medium.
· Copy: written material offered for broadcasting e.g news copy, advertising copy.
· Cue: the prearranged signal to begin – visual light or gesture. Verbal. Musical or scripted words
· Cue, in and out: the first and last words (effects or music) of a programme or item.
· Cume: cumulating audience measurement.
· DAT: digital audio tape. Sound recording and playback system in digital mode using small tape cassette and rotating heads – as in a video recorder.
· Dry run: programme rehearsal, especially drama not necessarily in the studio and without music, effect or movement to mic.
· Log: written record of station output. Can also be recorded audio.
· Multi-tracking: two or more audio tarcks are recorded separately and subsequently mixed for the final result.
· Package: edited programme or insert offered complete with links ready for transmission
· Pick – up: gramophone record reproducing components which convert the mechanical variations into electrical energy.
· Post-echo: the immediate repeating at lowlevel of sounds replayed from a tape recording.
· PPL: phonographic performance ltd. Organization of british record manufactuers to control performance and usage rights.
· Prefade: the facility for hearing and measuring a source before opening its fader, generally on a studio mixing desk.
· Promo: on-air promotion of station or programme.
· Reach: term used in audience measurement describing the total number of different listeners to a station or service within a specified period. Most often expressed as a percentage of the potential audience. Weekly reach.
· Running order: list of programme items and timings in their chronological sequence.
· Sibilance: an emphasis on the‘s’ sounds in speech. May be accentuated or reduced by type and position of microphone.
· Slug: short identifying title given to a short item, particularly a news insert. Also catchline
· Spot fx: practical sound effects created live in the studio
· Sweep: the process of audience survey for a particular station or service within a given time scale.
· Traffic: station department responsible for scheduling and billing commericial advertising.
· Trail: broadcast items advertising forthcoming programme. On- air promotion or promo.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Essay- Australian Literature and Candian Comparison

A short summary made by Abhaya ma'am.
The Field

Highlights the similarities between Canada and Australia
Both are English – language, culture, politics- dominated nations
Indigenous cultures have been ignored
British dominance has given way to the dominance of US

Ian Willison points out the similarities between North America and Australia; these nine points are important – from here the writers trace other books that compare formation of Australian and Canadian cultures; as they discuss these books they summarize the points the books make. This part explains the critical legacy Diana Brydon and Helen Tiffin inherit. They also say how and why they move from the already established critical stance.

The questions that get answered in these paragraphs

Why Australia and Canada should be studied together?
Common elements between Canada and Australia

Problems of Critical Stance: Locating the Critic

This section is little complicated because arguments of critics from Australia and Canada are combined. So read carefully.

Primarily, the understanding/construction of ‘home’ is highlighted
A transplanted culture wants to create a home in the image of earlier home in a different geographical location; the topography comes in the way of recreation
Colonial enterprise, which is run for the benefit of the others, does not allow any development.
(Shift from sense of home to finding home in literature and how this search for home through writing has shaped the national literature in Canada and Australia)

In such a scenario how do writers negotiate to develop their sense of style, genres
Home does not just refer to sense of belonging; what they inherited as literature, style, genres…

Nationalist position – argues that the writers should anchor themselves in their sense of place; interpret the world from that position; should not mimic the English literature

Internationalist position – assumes a universal stance; exposure to the best that has been produced will enable the colonial writer to write well – the assumption is best comes from the ‘west’ – the writer will position himself outside his own provincial culture

After indicating these two positions the writers list out the important writers from both the countries who belong to which group.
Locations in Time and Space: Literary History and Geography

This section focus on the anglo-centric images and symbols that Canada and Australia inherit and how this legacy affect the writing. Premises for writing of literary histories are considered for discussion

The Postcolonial Context

The problems both the countries face as they struggle for Self-definition – finding real Australia/Canada in the ‘wild’, ‘bush’, ‘outback’ instead of city – still both are urban societies


Canada’s efforts to differentiate oneself from the US

Australia and the implication of its geographical location.

4th Semester Post colonial Literatures paper portions

1. This Southern Land of Ours
3. The House Left in English
4. On the Borders
5. Cry of the Hillborn
6. In the Secular Night
7. Come Thunder
8. Cry of birth
9. New York

Play- The Summer of the Seventeenth Doll

Novel- Arrow of God
1. Introduction to post- colonial literatures
2. Australian Canadian Comaprison
3. Towards a National Culture

Summer of the Seventeeth Doll- Ray Lawler

Arrow of God- Chinua Achebe

A summary of the novel (chapter wise). Hope it is useful!

Friday, March 19, 2010

MPhil Media Studies: RMS236 Research Methods in Media Studies Course Plan

Course Introduction: This course will hone the reading, writing and analytical skills of the participants. Teaching methods would include lectures, presentations, and workshops. The course will also involve intensive reading and writing exercises.

Course Objectives
• To introduce the participants to the various research methods in media studies.
• To equip students with the skill of analysis
• To hone research writing skills

Session 1: Notions of Research
Session 2: Visual Methodologies
Session 3: Ethnographic Methods
Session 4: Interviewing
Session 5: Proposal Writing
Session 6: Proposal Analysis
Session 7: Proposal Analysis
Session 8: Exposition, Compare and Contrast
Session 9: Cause and Effect; Argument
Session 10: Discourse Analysis
Session 11: Oral History as a Research Method
Session 12: Archival Methods
Session 13: Research on Audiences
Session 14: Research on Institutions
Session 15: Quantitative Methods
Session 16: Designing Quantitative Research
Session 17: Research on Texts
Session 18: Researching Messages: Rhetorical, Cultural,
Session 19: : Researching Messages: Psychoanalytic, Feminist, Queer
Session 20: Researching Media Industries

• Each session is of two hours duration.
• Writing sessions will draw upon the work of MAR Habib in research writing. The sessions will follow workshop methodology

CIA I – A short research paper of about five pages on a topic of your choice.
CIA II - Presentation and report based on sessions
CIA III – Presentation and report based on sessions

Note: The reports should summarise the presentation and discussion in respective seminars. The reports should strictly adhere to standard academic writing formats.

Bertrand, Ina and Peter Hughes. Media Research Methods: Audiences, Institutions, and Texts. New York: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2005.
Gibaldi, Joseph. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. 6th ed. New Delhi: East-West Press. 2004.
Gibaldi, Joseph. MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing. 3rd ed. New York: Modern Language Association, 2008.
Griffin, Gabriele. ed. Research Methods for English Studies. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2005.
Ott, Brian L. and Robert L. Mack. Critical Media Studies: An Introduction. Oxford: Wiley Blackwell, 2010.
Priest, Susanna Horning. Doing Media Research: An Introduction. 2 ed. Los Angeles: Sage, 2010.
Somekh, Bridget and Cathy Lewin. eds. Research Methods in Social Sciences. New Delhi: Sage/Vistaar, 2005.
The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. 5th ed. New York: American Psychological Association. 2001.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Semiotic Significance of Alter Ego in Girish Karnad’s “Broken Images”

Semiotics is the study of signs. It involves studying representations and the processes involved in representational practices. Semiotics represents everything which has meaning within a culture. When we analyse a text on the basis of semiotics our “initial analytical task is to identify the signs within the text and the codes within which these signs have meaning.”1 The codes may be specific codes, non-specific codes, and mixed codes. Semiotic analysis also focused on the structural analysis like syntagmatic and paradigmatic analysis. Another significant aspect of semiotics is intertextuality, which means to identify the relation to one text with the historical significance, where this text applied before etc. Theatricality is the next major concern in semiotic analysis. Theatricality is how the audience feel the acting as their’s own experiences. It can be through body politics of the actor, power of communication or art, visual or written representation, social acts etc. In other words we can be said it as method of exaggeration. “Finally you need to discuss the ideological functions of the signs in the text and of the text as a whole. What sort of reality does the text construct and how does it do so? How does it seek to naturalize its own perspectives? What assumptions does it make about its readers?”2

Girish Karnard’s monologue Broken Images takes up a debate, the politics of language in Indian literary culture, specifically in relation to the respective claims of the modern Indian language and English. This we can see as in the stream of social semiotics, because it is mainly focused on the writers who attempts to write in both languages, vernacular and in English also. In this novel Manjula Nayak ia appreciated for her achievement for writing a novel in English. She in the beginning of the play speaks the two major questions about the writers who were writing both in vernacular language and in English also. She says that the English novel

“that transforms her into the Literary Phenomenon of the Decade, the breakthrough arouses admiration, but also dismay and resentment that she has ‘betrayed’ Kannada for the sake fame, fortune and a vastly expanded audience. Manjula’s conversation with her own television image soon reveals that she is an impostor who has passed off her dead Malini’s novel as her own. The switch to English, hailed as an inspired act of self-fashioning on the author’s part, turns out in reality to be an act of dishonesty, desperation, and cowardice, the implication being that the material lure of English as a medium can only lead the Indian – language author to prostitute herself.”(xxvii)3

This may be implication for the title Broken Images. Her ‘image’ in one level well appreciated. But in her actual life she steeled her sister’s work. So she is having a ‘broken image’ throughout the play.

Girish Karnard’s Broken Images explores the dilemma of Indian writers who choose to write in English. When we analyse the play in the light of semiotics, we can see the different approaches of semiotics through out the play. This monologue it self stands as a syntagm. “A syntagm is a collection of interrelated parts. The parts and relationships that comprise the system are distinguished from the rest of the world (or the environment) by a boundary”.4 The different paradigms used to make the syntagm are the title, Broken Images. It is a sign which signifies dilemma of Indian writers who choose to write in English, and signified is Manjula the protagonist. Again Manjula itself is another paradigm. She signifies the inner conflicts of writers, who were appreciated for others work. Here it is important because the novel which she written is actually her sister’s. The ‘image’ is again a sign which signifies the inner consciousness of a writer and the signified is again Manjula.

Another important aspect of semiotics which is prevailed in Broken Images is rhetorical tropes or figures of speech. In this play we can see Manjula stands as a metaphor for all those writers limited to their native language (Kannada), not out of responsibility, but due to lack of choice. The image of Malini, her sister projects the Indian English writer who is ostracised for his stupendous success because the native writer (Manjula) has to settle for second place. Given an opportunity, Manjula steals Malini’s work in English, though she pretends to be addicted to the Kannada language. The sisters’ rapport with Pramod (Manjula’s husband) symbolises their bond with their motherland. Manjula is with him out of the matrimonial ties of responsibility, and fails to live up to her responsibilities of a wife, as Pramod continuously pines for attention. “Finally, the image on the screen becomes real in comparison to the deceptive human being on the other side. The image of Manjula morphs into Malini at a climatic juncture in the play.”5

When we consider the ‘codes’ of semiotics, specific, non-specific, and mixed codes, the opening of the play itself is described through codes. Codes are interpretive frameworks which are used by both producers and interpreters of texts. The description of the television studio, the red bulb, and different television sets etc. are example for space related codes. The description of Manjula Nayak, her gestures, etc. stands for actor related codes. This actor related code that is Manjula undergoes transformations and we can see that this code produces different texts which in turn modifies the code. This is clear when in the middle and then throughout the play, Manjula speaks about her inner conflicts which the ‘image’ calls as Freudian Unconscious6 is another concept in semiotics called intertextuality.

Poly-functionality is another major concern in the play. The ‘image’ in the play stands for many other things. It may be for Manjula who now wrote in English which was originally her sister’s work. Image may be for Manjula’s years of revenge for her sister Malini. Another symbol of image is her stolen identity of her sister. Another symbol of image is “the age-old conflict between writing in one’s own language and a foreign language, through the objective correlative of the writer’s confrontation with her own image”.7

When we consider the theatricality of the play, there are good examples. Theatricality is how the audience feel the acting as their’s own experiences. It can be through body politics of the actor, power of communication or art, visual or written representation, social acts etc. In other words we can be said it as method of exaggeration. In Broken Images, body politics can be seen how a vernacular writer expresses her views about the modern technology. How she says about her husbands relation with Malini. Most importantly to show Manula’s inner consciousness Karnard used the technique, to create a character which is her image itself. This theatricality we can see when the image asks about her husband’s relation with Malini. Then Manjula becomes very angry to ‘image’. ‘Image’ calls it as Freudian Unconscious. This mention we can consider as the concept called intertextuality in semiotic analysis.

Broken Images is enriched with the semiotic constructions. The larger syntagm ‘broken image’ is made of paradigms like Manjula, ‘Image’ etc. The signs in the play for the writer to echo that those who write in their mother tongue also do accept royalties and trade their creativity, rather than wield the pen for social service. The ‘image’ in the play stands for the identity crisis of the writers who were writing both in vernacular language and also in English. This is the syntagm of the play.


Karnard, Girish. Collected Plays.vol. 2. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2009.

Identity Crisis in Broken Images, by Girish Karnard.

as on 29 Aug. 2009.

M K., Rukhya. Girish Karnard’s Broken Images. as on 29 Aug. 2009.

Girish Karnad's 'A Heap of Broken Images’. 7 Sep 2008 as on 29 Aug. 2009.

A Heap Of Broken Images – Girish Karnad. Tuesday, 01 January 2008, as on 29 Aug. 2009.

Dharwadker, Aparna Bhargava, Diaspora, Nation, and the Failure of Home: Two Contemporary Indian Plays.Theatre Journal - Volume 50, Number 1, March 1998, pp. 71-94. as on 29 Aug.2009.

Saussure, Ferdinand de. Coursr in General Linguistics. Wade Baslrin. Trs. New York: Mc Graw- Hill. 1959

Semiotic Analysis of Girish Karnad’s "Tale Danda"

This paper is written by Anju John (2009)
Semiotics is a systematic “study of signs and signifying practices”1. Umberto Eco, states that “semiotics is concerned with everything that can be taken as a sign” (Eco 1976, 7)2. Semiotics is not just study of what we refer to as ‘signs’ in everyday speech, it also about anything which ‘stands for’ something else. In a semiotic sense, words, images, sounds, gestures and objects all form signs. Saussure believes that ‘semiology’ was ‘a science which studies the role of signs as part of social life’. But for Charles Peirce “a sign... is something which stands to somebody for something in some respect or capacity” (Peirce 1931-58, 2.228)3. He declared that ‘every thought is a sign’ (Peirce 1931-58). Contemporary semioticians study signs not in isolation but as part of semiotic ‘sign systems’ (such as a medium or genre). They study how meanings are made through signs (Sturrock 1986, 22).

Semiotics is often employed in the analysis of texts. A text is an “assemblage of signs (such as words, images, sounds and gestures) constructed (and interpreted) with reference to the conventions associated with a genre and in a particular medium of communication. Through this essay, a semiotical analysis of Girish Karnad’s Tale-Danda is done. The main purpose of the study is to unravel the paradigms that lie in the play. The paradigms then can be grouped together to form a larger syntagm. It is a conscious effort to derive meaning from a complex interplay of codes, signs and conventions that lie within the text.

Tale-Danda follows the historical narrative in which the ‘present’ is understood by returning to the ‘past’. The playwright has taken the theme for his play from the history. It tells the story of Basavanna, a poet and social transformer who is believed to have lived in 12th century in Kalyan (present Karnataka). Tale-Danda “goes back in time to uncover the history of the majority religion [Hinduism] turning against itself.”4(Collected Plays, emphasis mine, p.p.x). The play focuses on the hierarchical structure in the caste system in Hinduism. The play unveils the various paradigms that can be connected together to form a complex syntagm. “Syntagms are created by the linking of signifiers from paradigm sets which are chosen on the basis of whether they are conventionally regarded as appropriate or may be required by some rule system (e.g. grammar).”5 This essay thus looks for the hidden paradigms that form the part of the underlying structure and the syntagm it creates. The play itself is considered here as a syntagmatic statement. Moreover the historical narrative which Karnad has used in the play itself is a syntagmatic structure. Synatagmatic analysis of the lay mainly focuses on “the importance of part-whole relationships: Saussure stressed that ‘the whole depends on the parts, and the parts depend on the whole’ (Saussure 1983, 126; Saussure 1974, 128).”6

Tale-Danda is written in 1989 in the backdrop of Mandir-Mandal conflict in India. Thus we can say that the play is a syntagmatic exposition of the Mandal and Mandir controversies of 1980s. But before coming to this conclusion it is necessary to analyze the various factors that help to form this statement. It is necessary to identify and analyze the underlying paradigms in the play. A paradigm is a set of associated signifiers or signified which are all members of some defining category, but in which each is significantly different. The first paradigm that is considered here is the title of the play itself. The title Tale- Danda is a symbolic sign that signifies a larger whole. Larger meaning can be evolved from the name itself. The literal translation of Tale is head and Danda means punishment. So it means ‘paying with your head’. There are probably more painful/less ways of killing. And yet, one way that seems to have found favour over the ages, especially when a certain kind of person needs to be executed, is Tale-Danda. You think with your head, worse still, you dare to feel with your head. And that’s why it must be chopped. It splits not only the body into two, but the entire human self, pride and existence. Now, if we look at the title with reference to the story in the play and the social scenario in which the play is written we can see that they are very closely connected. The concept of ‘paying with your head’ is clearly visible in both the situations. The victims in both places are the common people who are being used for the needs of those in the power. The commoners (Sharanas) in the play are being used according to the whims of Basavanna and others. Sharanas opposed idolatry, rejected temple worship, upheld equality of sexes, and condemned the caste system .But event took a violent turn when they acted on their beliefs and a brahmin girl married a ‘low caste’ boy. The movement ended in bloodshed. Similarly, the common people are again the guinea pigs in the Mandir- Mandal controversies of 1980s. They are exploited as a result of religious fanaticism and political upheaval.

The second paradigm that is of prime importance in the play is Basavanna, a Brahmin poet-priest of Kalyan. Moreover the intertextuality is very clear here. It goes back into the history of Kalyan (present Karnataka). Basavanna was a social reformer who revolted against the religion and caste practices in the 12th century. Basavanna advocated “a new way of life wherein the divine experience was the center of life giving equal opportunity to all aspirants regardless of the gender, caste, and social status.”7 He wanted the entire world to be with only one religion, where there will be no partiality among the people. He did not advise to believe in god, instead he advised to believe in themselves. Most of the people from different religion and caste converted into his Lingayat8 religion during his period. He accepted madigas (untouchables during that period) into Lingayat religion and became the revolutionist. Basavanna conveyed the principles of religion in the language of the people, Kannada, which thus became the best means and medium of carrying conviction to them. He educated the mass through his Vachanas. Thus the century gave rise not only to a new religion but also a new form of literature (Vachana literature) which later became an asset to the Kannada literature itself. Basavanna is not just a historical character for Karnad. The important question for us to engage with is ‘why Basavanna’. The answer to this question is clear if we read the play in the light of Mandal-Mandir controversy9. Thus Basavanna is an indexical sign which leads us to a larger reality. Basavanna could not save any of his disciples from the bloodshed followed by the intercaste marriage. He was caught in the structure of the caste system and could not make the society to come out of it. Similarly the people and the political leaders of the present day society is caught in the holds of religious fanaticism by which many innocent people lose their lives in various parts of the country. Karnad through the play “seeks to enforce the identity between communal and caste violence, and to show that the effects of intra-religious conflict are very similar to those of inter-religious conflict.”10

Semiotic analysis mainly deals with how messages are formed and meanings are derived in a text. Meanings give shape and lend significance to our experience of reality. Various signs help us to derive the meaning. This is by analyzing the syntagmatic and paradigmatic relationships that are present in the text. Thus, in the essay we have identified and analyzed the various paradigms that lie within the play. The paradigms help to form the larger meaning that the play is the syntagmatic exposition of the Mandal- Mandir controversies of 1980s in India.


Karnad, Girish. Collected Plays. Vol. 2. New Delhi: OUP, 2009.
Chandler, Daniel. Semiotics for Beginners as on 27-08-09.
Chandler, Daniel. Semiotics for Beginners as on 27-08-09.
Chandler, Daniel. Semiotics for Beginners: Paradigms and Syntagms . as on 27-08-09.

Semiotics. as on 27-08-09

Semiotics as on 31-08-09.

Semiotics. HFCL Tutorial. as on 27-08-09.

Patil, My. Si. Who is Basavanna. As on 27-08-09.

What is Semiotics. as on 27-08-09.

The Semiotic Significance of ‘Mandala’ in Girish Karnad's Naga-Mandala

This paper is written by Sarjoo Shah.
Mandala is a sign, a symbol. Understanding of the mandala as a sign involves applying the rules of an appropriate, familiar code. A code reflects certain values, attitudes, beliefs, assumptions and practices of a particular culture and community; they can be traditional, ritualistic, social, etc. Thus, ‘mandala’ in the play ‘Naga-Mandala’ plays a distinct role of a sign, a symbol, a signifier, a representamen, that helps in the construction of meaning with the help of certain codes.

Mandala, briefly refers to a concentric diagram having spiritual and ritual significance in Indian and Buddhist traditions.1 It is not just an image, a physical entity. The word is derived from the Sanskrit language meaning something ‘having essence.’ It depicts an actual moment in time and can be used as a vehicle to explore art, science, religion, and life itself. According to Carl Jung a mandala symbolizes "a safe refuge of inner reconciliation and wholeness." It is "a synthesis of distinctive elements in a unified scheme representing the basic nature of existence."2

Thus, the symbol, sign of mandala signifies Karnad’s vision of theatre as a whole, unifying, complete experience. The setting and overall structure of the interrelated stories and plots, the symbolism offered by each one of them, the different narrative levels, the triangular relationships, and the triple ending can be visualised graphically as a mandala.3The way the playwright structures the play and presents and resolves the conflicts is analogous to the way a mandala imposes order over chaos and leads, with the help of concrete geometric structure, to a centre and resolution.

According to Bharata Muni’s ‘Natyashastra’, theatre is of divine origin having an intricate interweaving of all the three worlds - the celestial, the terrestrial, and the infernal - the supernatural, the human, and the subhuman. The play ‘Naga-Mandala’ also has the presence of all these elements. As Dolors puts it, ‘the mandala evokes the complexity of the cosmos and interweaves the three worlds.’4 The juxtaposition of the natural and cultural elements in the title ‘Naga-Mandala’ reflects the concept of mediation between nature and culture.

Mandala also reflects the binary between Hindu myths, rituals and philosophy and the play as a whole. The inherent meanings and interpretations of the play exist due to the presence of certain aspects of Hindu culture and tradition. The play’s meaningful existence is possible to the existence of the other. Mandala, a religious symbol, signifies this binary.

‘Mandala’ is not only a vehicle for the exploration of life; at times it becomes the metaphor for life itself. In the play, it becomes the metaphor for the life of an Indian woman. The shape of mandala comprises of two triangles, put together, one facing upward and the other downward. Thus this mandala can be seen as the play itself, with the three corners of one triangle depicting the three main characters of the play – the Naga, Rani, and Appanna, and the three corners of the other triangle depicting the three endings of the play, with Rani / the Indian woman forming the Centre. Different endings will show an Indian woman in different light.

The basic structure of the mandala will remain the same, in whichever way the corners of the mandala is shifted according to the ending. This is the syntagmatic structure of the play. The three different endings can be regarded as the paradigms of the play. In whichever direction the mandala structure or the three corners of the ending triangle are shifted, the Indian woman will still be at the centre. Different endings will give different interpretations about the condition of a woman in an Indian society. The first ending is the typical, conventional fairy-tale ending, wherein Rani’s chastity is accepted by her husband and she gets personified as the Goddess. In the second ending, the naga kills itself, as he cannot see Rani with someone else. The ending also depicts the loyalty of the Indian Wife. In both these endings, parallels can be drawn with the Indian myths of Sita’s Agni Pariksha and the concept of ‘Pati-vratya.’ However, according to the third ending, Rani saves cobra by hiding it in her hair, “the symbol of her wedded bliss.”5The third unconventional ending gave rise to many controversies as it runs in opposition to the socio-religious Indian belief system. Thus Satyadev Dubey considers Karnad to be “the only playwright in the history of Indian theatre to have treated adultery as normal and treated adulterous women sympathetically.”6

Mandala has the potential to create awareness among an individual about his/her own self, the society, and ultimately, about the purpose of his/her own life. It helps in attaining personal growth and creating wholeness. The psychoanalyst Carl Jung saw the mandala as "a representation of the unconscious self.7 The metamorphosis of Rani’s character, from a daughter, a wife, a mother, a goddess to a certain extent, is due to her own unconscious self. The Naga and Appanna are two forms of the same man, perceived differently by the wife. As Karnad himself suggests,

“The position of Rani in the story of Naga-Mandala, for instance, can be seen as a metaphor for the situation of a young girl in the bosom of a joint family where she sees her husband only in two unconnected roles – as a stranger during the day and as a lover at night. Inevitably, the pattern of relationships she is forced to weave from these disjointed encounters must be something of a fiction.”8

Thus, the naga-mandala signifies this fictional world of Rani, created unconsciously, to make sense of her life, gain awareness about her own self, and construct her identity. This again depicts the condition of an Indian woman.

To conclude, mandala represents wholeness, and can be seen as a model for the organizational structure of life itself--a cosmic diagram that can be understood through one’s relation with the world that extends both beyond and within one’s body and mind. Thus, the structure of the play, as well as the society and the metamorphosis of the character of Rani are intricately weaved together through the mandala in ‘Naga-Mandala.’


Abrams, M.H. A Glossary of Literary Terms. 8th ed. Wadsworth Cengage Learning. Delhi. 2005.

Chandler, Daniel. Semiotics: The Basics. 2nd ed. Routledge. 2007.

Collellmir, Dolors. Mythical Structure in Girish Karnad’s Naga-Mandala.

F.J. and Woodword, Karen. For a Semiotics of the Theatre. SubStance, Vol. 6, No. 18/19. Theater in France: Ten Years of Research (Dec. 1, 1977). University of Wisconsin Press. P.135-138.

< >.

Karnad, Girish. Collected Plays. Volume One. Oxford University Press. Delhi. 2005.

Prasad, Tarni. A Course in Linguistics. Prentice Hall of India Pvt. Ltd. New Delhi. 2008.

Rukhaya MK. Feminism in Girish Karnad’s “Nagamandala.” September, 2008.


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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A semiotic study of Girish Karnad's "Nagamandala

By Anjali Nambiar
What is Nagamandala?
Nagamandala is an elaborate and spectacular ritual of serpent worship at present found in Tulunadu, especially in Mangalore and Udupi districts. Nagamandala is also called hudiseve, mandlabhoga or mandlaseve by the Baidyas. But nagamandala is a term generally used by all to denote this form of worship.

The term nagamandala is a compound of two words: naga and mandala. Naga means serpent and mandala implies decorative pictorial drawings on the floor. The decorative drawing in this context means the drawing of the figure of serpent god in a prescribed form. Nagamandala depicts the divine union of male and female snakes.
Noted play writer Girish Karnad wrote a play titled Nagamandala in 1987-88. Like the ritual this also revolves around the union of a snake. However, here the union was not with another snake. Instead it was the union of a snake in the form of a human with another human. The play is based on two folk-tales that Karnad heard from his mentor A.K Ramanujan. The above paper will take a direction towards the idea of snake in the play and its various connected concepts to the Indian culture.

Nagamandala by Girish Karnad-
The play Nagamandala revolves around the character Rani. Rani is a young bride who is neglected by her indifferent and unfaithful husband, Appanna. Appanna spends most of his time with his concubine and comes home only for lunch. Rani is one of those typical wives who want to win her husband’s affection at any cost. In an attempt to do so, she decides to drug her husband with a love root, which she mixes in the curry. That curry is spilled on the nearby anthill and Naga, the King Cobra drinks it.

Naga, who can take the form of a human being, is enchanted with her and begins to visit her every night in the form of her husband. This changes Rani’s life completely as she starts to experience the good things in life though she never knows that the person with her is not her husband but the Naga.
One of these days, she gets pregnant and breaks the news to Appanna. He immediately accuses her for adultery and says that he has not fathered the child. The issue is referred to the village Panchayat. She is then asked to prove her fidelity by putting her hand in the snake burrow and taking a vow that she has not committed adultery. It is a popular belief that if any person lies holding the snake in their hand, they will be instantly killed by the snake God.

She does place her hand in the snake burrow and vows that she has never touched any male other than her husband and the Naga in the burrow. She is declared chaste by the village Panchayat. Later, Appanna accepts Rani and starts a new life together. Karnad gives a binary ending i.e. one were the snake is been killed by the villagers and another ending is of Rani after realizing everything helps the snake to live in her hair thereafter. This sort of a happy and a sad ending to the play is been given by Karnad which is been kept open for the readers to select and interpret.

Semiotic analysis-
One of the most important theories on which this research can get connected to is semiotics. This is concerned about signs. In general, it refers to everything that stands for something else. Here, signs can mean words, gestures, images and so on.
While speaking of semiotics, theories of two people, Ferdinand de Saussure and Charles Sanders Pierce become significantly important. Saussure held that semiotics was a science that studied the role of signs as part of social life. Saussure claimed that linguistics was a branch of this science.On the other hand for Charles Pierce, semiotics was a formal doctrine of signs which was closely related to logic. He was of the opinion that people think in terms of signs. Unless someone believes that one particular sign stands for something else that they have known, that sign has no value.

The Saussurean model:
Saussure offered two-part model of the sign (figure 1.1). Focusing on linguistic signs (such as words), he defined a sign as being composed of a ‘signifier’ and a ‘signified’. Contemporary commentators tend to describe the signifier as the form that the sign takes and the signified as the concept to which it refers. Saussure makes the distinction in these terms:
A linguistic sign is not a link between a thing and a name, but between a concept (signified) and the sound pattern (signifier). The sound pattern is not actually a sound; for a sound is something physical. A sound pattern is the hearer’s psychological impression of a sound, as given to him by the evidence of his senses. This sound pattern may be called a ‘material’ element only in that it is the representation of our sensory impressions. The second pattern may thus be distinguished from the other element associated with it in a linguistic sign. This other element is generally of a more abstract kind: the concept.
(Saussure 1983, 66)

For Saussure, both the signifier and the signified were purely ‘psychological’. Both were form rather than substance. Figure 1.2 may help to clarify this aspect of Saussure’s own model.

The Peircean model:
At around the same time as Saussure was formulating his model of the sign and of ‘semiology’, the philosopher and logician Charles Sanders Peirce formulated his own model of the sign, of ‘semiotic’ and of the taxonomies of signs. In contrast to Saussure’s model of the sign in the form of a ‘self-contained’ dyad’, Peirce offered a triadic (three-part) model:
1. The representation: the form which the sign takes (not necessarily material).
2. An interpretant: not an interpreter but rather the sense made of the sign.
3. An object: to which the sign refers.

A sign (in the form of representamen) is something which stands to something in some respect or capacity. It addresses somebody, that is, it creates in the mind of that person an equivalent sign, or perhaps a more developed sign. That sign which it creates I call the interpretant of the first sign. The sign stands for something, its object. It stands for that object, not in all respects, but in reference to a sort of idea, which I have sometimes called the ground of the representamen.
(Peirce 1931-58, 2.228)

The interaction between the representamen, the object and the interpretant is referred to by Peirce as ‘semiosis’.

Structural analysis-
Structural analysis is an important part of semiotics. It refers to the existing structural relations in a given semiotic system. Structural analysis is concerned identifying the constituent units in a system and the structural relations between them. These relations can be correlational, oppositional or logical.
An important part of structural analysis would be the understanding of the horizontal and vertical axes that exist in any system. Saussure pointed out that meaning would arise based on the difference in the signifiers, which can either be syntagmatic or paradigmatic in nature.

While syntagmatic relations are possibilities of combination, paradigmatic relations are functional contrasts- they involve differentiation . Temporally, syntagmatic relations refer intratextually to other signifiers co-present within the text, while paradigmatic relations refer intertextually to signifiers which are absent from the text. The ‘value’ of a sign is determined by both its paradigmatic and its syntagmatic relations. Syntagms and paradigms provide a structural context within which signs make sense.

Cultural code of naga in Nagamandala:
Cultural code works on the principle of shared world view. It exploits information that persists it one culture and uses it to the best of its ability. By using appropriate cultural codes a lot of decoding is made easier for the readers.
It throws light on the beliefs and superstitions that exist in that particular culture. For example, in that culture the snake is regarded as a sacred species. It is also feared by many and there is a saying that if one talks of the snake, the snake tends to appear immediately. The Snake primarily represents rebirth, death and mortality, due to its casting of its skin and being symbolically "reborn".
The best use of cultural code would be the snake ordeal that Rani performs in order to prove herself not guilty. Traditionally in that culture it is believed that to prove oneself not guilty one would either have to hold red hot bars of iron in the hand and plead innocence or perform the snake ordeal. Here Rani takes ordeal where she has to put her hand into the termite hill and pull out the snake. After which she has to prove her statement by promising in the snake’s name. It is a belief in that society that if that person has said the truth then the snake would bless that person, if not, it would bite the person which eventually led to the death of the person.

In Rani’s case the snake blesses her. Immediately the society divinizes her for her supreme powers and capacity and expresses guilt in putting her through the ordeal.

The play has made use of the snake effectively to bring out many massages. Unless and until the snake was personified, given a human form, the play would not have been able to get the message across. The snake here through its games and acts has given the rigid hero a new way of life. It has thrown light on the new relationship pattern and the importance of a wife and her love in a man’s life. It is through the snake which is worshiped for fertility that Rani conceived and it is this point on her life that brought a complete change. Snake led to effected lives of many and redefined many relations especially of Rani and Appana. To conclude, people especially the devotees, strongly believes that the ultimate results of nagamandala is nagamangala i.e. prosperity of the village, prosperity of the town and bless for all living beings.

1. Chandler Daniel ,Semiotics The Basics, Routledge, New york, 2003
2. Karanth Meenakshi, Nagamandala: the Entwininng and Untwining of Relations , 2007.
3. Karnad Girish, Naga-mandala : Play With A Cobra, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 1997.

Semiotic analysis of Girish Karnad’s “The Dreams of Tipu Sultan”

By Yashaswini Gowda

Semiotics is often employed in the analysis of texts (although it is far more than just a mode of textual analysis). Here it should perhaps be noted that a 'text' can exist in any medium and may be verbal, non-verbal, or both, despite the logocentric bias of this distinction. The term text usually refers to a message which has been recorded in some way (e.g. writing, audio- and video-recording) so that it is physically independent of its sender or receiver. A text is an assemblage of signs (such as words, images, sounds and/or gestures) constructed (and interpreted) with reference to the conventions associated with a genre and in a particular medium of communication.


Intertextuality refers to far more than the 'influences' of writers on each other. For structuralists, language has powers which not only exceed individual control but also determine subjectivity. Structuralists sought to counter what they saw as a deep-rooted bias in literary and aesthetic thought which emphasized the uniqueness of both texts and authors (Sturrock 1986, 87).

The story follows the last days as well as the historic moments in the life of the Ruler of Mysore Tipu Sultan through the eyes of an Indian court historian, Mir Hussain Ali Khan Kirmani and a British Oriental scholar, Colin Mackenzie.

The play is a take on the historical account about Tipu Sultan who fought against the British domination of India. The play is based on the following event in Indian history about the ruler Tipu Sultan and his enemity towards the British.

Historical Account:-

The English fought four Anglo-Mysore wars against Tipu Sultan to defeat him and gain control over the Mysore kingdom as Tipu did not agree to cede with the British demands like the Nizams and Marathas.

The British started their operations against Srirangapatna started early in 1792 A.D. The English army marched against the fort and arrived in the sight of the fortress on the l6th Feb. 1792 A.D. On the same night, the operations started and the English pushed Tipu's force to the fort and captured the island except the fort. Helplessly Tipu proposed the peace treaty and accepted the terms dictated by Lord Cornwallis. They signed the treaty on 23rd Feb. 1792 A.D. As per the treaty, Tipu agreed to surrender half of his territory to the English and pay three crores thirty lakhs of rupees as war indemnity to the English.

Since he could not pay war indemnity in full, he accepted to send his second and third sons namely Abdul Khaliq and Maiz-Uddin aged 10 and 8 respectively as hostages till he would pay the war indemnity. He paid the balance amount after two years and received his sons in 1794 A.D. at Devanahalli.

The efforts towards building allies:-

After the Third Mysore war, Tipu Sultan sent envoys to Persia, France and Afghanistan to seek help from them in fighting against the English. He contacted Napoleon Bonaparte also. Though he accepted to help Tipu against the English because of his failure against the English, he could not keep his word. He planned a holy war against the English along with Afghanistan. This failed because of the timely action of Wellesley.

Considering these strategies of Tipu Sultan, Wellesley wrote a letter to Tipu Sultan on 8th of Nov. 1798 A.D. complaining that Tipu was working against the treaty of Srirangapatna. And he suggested resolving the problems through discussion. Wellesley's suggestions were ignored by Tipu. And so the English declared a war against Tipu Sultan.

On 4th May, 1799 A.D. Srirangapatna was seized by the English after killing Tipu Sultan in the Fourth Mysore War.

Girish Karnad uses this historical account in his play “Dreams of Tipu Sultan” with the incorporation of the dream allegory to portray the downfall of Tipu Sultan and leaves the interpretations to the readers and audience.

Analysis of the dreams in the play:-

A dream vision is a literary genre, literary device or literary convention in which the narrator falls asleep and dreams. In the dream there is usually a guide, who imparts knowledge (often about religion or love) that the dreamer could not have learned otherwise. After waking, the narrator usually resolves to share this knowledge with other people.

The dream-vision convention was widely used in European literature from Latin times until the fifteenth century. If the dream vision includes a guide that is a speaking inanimate object, then it employs the trope of prosopopoeia.

Dream allegory –it is an allegorical tale presented in the narrative framework of a dream.

There are several components to each dream category:

1. Dreams from the physical body

  • Food
  • Health
  • Psychological

2. Dreams from the spiritual realm

  • Precognitive and future
  • New information or knowledge
  • The visit of a deceased or spirit.

Freud describes dreams in his work Interpretation of Dreams ,thus:

“The idea that the dream concerns itself chiefly with the future, whose form it surmises in advance- a relic of the prophetic significance with which dreams were once invested- now becomes the motive for translating into the future the meaning of the dream which has been found by means of symbolic interpretation.”

If one's first thoughts on this subject were consulted, several possible solutions might suggest themselves: for example, that during sleep one is incapable of finding an adequate expression for one's dream-thoughts. The analysis of certain dreams, however, compels us to offer another explanation.

Meanings of Dreams through their Symbols:-

The subconscious mind is a most remarkable mechanism when it comes to creating dreams. Most people find their dreams an unintelligible mix of hidden meanings of dreams and secret symbols because that is the intention on the subconscious mind. It wants no interference from the dreamer's input or meddling with any of its actions.

Girish Karnad in his play “The Dreams of Tipu Sultan” uses the concept of dreams to indicate the downfall of Tipu Sultan through his dreams. The dreams of Tipu can be interpreted as symbols or an indication which focuses on his downfall in the future and the Marathas as ‘women in a men’s garb’ i.e., as those who cannot save themselves from the clutches of the British.


Chandler, Daniel. Semiotics for Beginners, Web. 28 Aug. 2009.


Chandler, Daniel. Semiotics for Beginners, D.I.Y. Semiotic Analysis: Advice to My Own Students. Web. 28 Aug. 2009.


Freud, Sigmund. The interpretation of dreams.Web.28 Aug.2009.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

International Conference on The Architectures of Erotica:political, social, ritual

The School of Arts and Aesthetics, J N U
Annual Interdisciplinary Conference
November 10 – 13, 2010

Call for Papers:

What constitutes the erotic ? Why is it represented with such frequency in Indian cultural practices ? How do we interpret these practices? These have been questions central to Indian art history since the very inception of the discipline, presenting us with an opportunity now to trace the historiography of interpretations / constructions of erotica. This question is once again timely in the light of current censorship debates in which paintings, sculptures, films and performances have been put under a magnifying glass. The School of Arts and Aesthetics is organizing a conference to explore the erotic within the context of religious, ritual and secular practices from pre modern through to contemporary times. Our conference will address a broad canvas of culture by nvolving speakers from cinema studies, theatre and performance studies,
history, indology, anthropology and visual studies. In India the subject entered a non‐religious sphere in the Kamashastras at an early date. The multiple historical functions of erotic evocations in Indian arts need reiteration in our times. The mithuna or loving couple, for instance, was an auspicious symbol on the gateways of religious shrines, but it was equally a powerful talisman. As a mimetic substitute for a magico‐religious fertility ritual, it may have warded off foetus‐stealing demons. Elsewhere, it became a tool by which one community could poke fun at another on a temple wall, while it also was a symbolic metaphor connecting one architectural structure with another. It was said to help the earth endure the electrical shock of lightening even as it remained a coded Tantric message. Yet vacillating attitudes plague studies of Tantra; perhaps the only institutionalised space to consciously express erotic dirt and depravity, its scholarly readings remain mired in the promise of double‐entendres that speak of higher, subtler psychological and metaphysical truths to their initiates. Erotic metaphors abound also in the typecasting of different Nayikas and Nayakas in medieval literature that explore tropes ranging from the admiration of their bodies to their experience of the duality of pleasure / pain (frequently represented through biting scorpions and the ricking of thorns). Yet, there remains a serious lack in art‐history and studies n classical literature in excavating tropes typecasting the erotic male figure.

As a means of subversion on the other hand, erotic poetry became a powerful tool for religious Bhakti’s ecstatic and unmediated union with god. Painting followed poetry in imaging the minute details of Krisha and Radha’s love. Similarly, erotic union became a standard feature of stories recounted at edieval Indian Sufi shrines that were to become a subject of the earliest Indo‐
Islamic painted miniatures. The constructions of tropes on same‐sex love in South Asia has proved to be no small task for scholarship. Un‐mentioned, yet pervasive, the vacillating attitudes towards homosexuality in Indian art can finally be discussed in the light of growing academic interest in the field. Turning attention to non‐canonical artefacts like decorative objects, the framework of religion which is normally assumed to be a broad umbrella term may be fractured to shed light on specific cultural practices through a focus on the erotic in everyday life. Objects of fetish, food and annals of superstition and edicine provide both, fodder for titillating a partner or providing an aphrodisiac. Despite the pervasiveness of the erotic until pre‐colonial times, it must, no doubt, even in its own times have been received with both approval, indifference and even with opposition to it, just as scholarship has noted the complexity of both colonial and postcolonial attitudes to Indian erotica. Through the lens of historiography, we can shift the focus to retakes on 'tradition' to legitimize cultural politics. Central to the debate around eroticism is how it is implicated in the way the private and public domains are separated. Just as there are representations of the erotic, one can engage with the erotics of representation that not only subsumes gender, but also caste‐based hierarchies. Moreover, modernism's policing of boundaries between high versus low, classical versus folk, religious versus secular, etc. can also be contextualized within the discourse of eroticism and sexuality. Increasingly in he post‐modern world, therefore, the project of representation itself becomes suspect as grand narratives lose their credibility. Performance Studies allows us to shift the whole debate by looking through erotica rather than at it. The protagonists of erotic theatre and film permit a retake on the usual public scrutiny that leads to assumptions about their morality. Nowhere is this better played out than in representations of actresses; and by investigating nineteenth and twentieth century theatre, the biographies of actresses, dancers and singers and these women's performances we can try and explore the subject from the perspective of the providers of the public demand for erotica. A feminist study to reconcile sexuality and the female lifestyle with the professional demands of theatrical conventions on the one hand and the fulfilment stereotypes established by popular pornographic images can certainly prove illuminating. Not only does this lead to a study of the affects of pleasure, it does so in the terrain of the popular / societal. We an now ask what politically‐transformative means surface, how pleasure can move us, and how it can mobilize us towards feminist ends. The erotic turns into a force‐field as soon as it goes through the circuits of mass‐production, as seen with reference to major debates conducted on the question of sexual explicitness in the media. For the field of photography, film, television and new media, the erotic has been closely allied with the ‘reality effect’ central to mechanical reproduction (ever narrowing the gap between the irtual and real). The question of technology can thus no longer be separated from these discussions. The cinematic transformation of the body through gesture, fashion, dance, music and mise‐en‐scene creates an erotic sensorium that circulates further through discussions and programmes on the radio, television, magazines, the internet, billboards, and posters. This play with the senses through a powerful visual culture creates a sexualized public domain which has also seen a consolidation in the period after globalization. Globalization has brought with it anxiety about cultural identity that further foregrounds the urgency of addressing the question of eroticism in contemporary contexts. The medium transforms the very terms of representation in the age of mechanical reproduction where the erotic is no longer a matter of representation or performitivity or enactment but the ‘virtual’ is often somebody’s ‘real’, and legitimately thus, seeking representation publicly. Certainly, the contemporary cinema‐studies scholarship on pornography and gratuitous sexuality has widened the scholarly exploration of desire and its psychological readings . Virtual reality, on‐line dating and the reports of rape being committed in econd Life bring us to new questions of the experience of the erotic without the presence of the body. Similarly, state censorship is now central to the way film and television negotiate the cultural taboos of the public sphere and yet it is precisely when the unwritten taboo is crossed that the domain of the erotic enters a discourse on pornography. What is seen as artistic erotica by some is termed pornography by others. Ultimately these distinctions are based on aesthetic, moral and cultural choices / subjectivities and continue to be controversial. It is he aim of this conference to provoke discussion on the boundaries within which the erotic gets defined. Even before one can contend with matters concerning the erotic in India’s cultural practices openly in academic discussions, let alone their public perception, the database of the types and spaces for erotica in 21st century India has suddenly become so much more widespread that its interpretations in the present age must contend with the new face of erotica. Whereas the era of the video‐tape in the 1980s and 1990s proliferated western pornography to rural and urban India, new technologies via VCDs, DVDs, the net and mobile ion
phones allow for new means of soliciting and meeting partners, and animatadds a whole new dimension to porn. To consider the emplacement of the erotic in the cultural practices of India from ancient to contemporary times, we propose a four day conference from 10 13 November, 2010. Some of the possible panels / thematics that have been identified are as follows:

1. The Erotic Talisman
2.New studies in Tantra rotic: The Cult of the Devadasi,
3. Institutionalising a public space for the Tawaif
4. Courtly Literature and Erotic Aesthetics
5. Framing the Sacred Erotic: Bhakti and Sufi constructions and sanctions of the erotic Oriental Bodies to Goddesses in Calendar Prints and
6. From Colonial Fantasy and Cinema Icons
7. Fetishes and aphrodisiacs
8. Do we have a typology for an erotic male? dia
9. Erotica and the modernist gaze tica in In aze
10.The Historiography of same‐sex ero
11.Erotic performance and the cinematic g
12.Dance, Trance and the Erotic Ritual
13.Censorship, Provocation and Eroticism
14.Autobiography and Eroticism: Fashioning the Self art
15 .Femme Fatale: Exploring the Trope of the Erotic Tragedienne practice d red erotica
16.Psycho‐sexual readings of Erotica in Indian culturalan17.Constructions of altered sexualities and trans‐gende18. Marginalia: a sanctioned space for erotic and other alamkara‐

The proceedings of the conference will be published and a subvention towards the publication is already secured. Speakers at the conference must not have committed their papers elsewhere.
SPEAR is a three year (SEPTEMBER 2008 – SEPTEMBER 2011) project designed by the School of Arts and Aesthetics to create a model for the proliferation of education in three streams of the Arts – Visual Studies, Theatre and Performance Studies and Cinema Studies. Spear is designed as a comprehensive programme to ensure wider dissemination, collaboration, expansion and enrichment of education in the Arts. During the three years of the project, the School will build on its material resources, invite distinguished faculty, hold regular workshops and conferences, seek institutional collaborations for furthering research, organize public lectures and disburse competitive student fellowships. The objective of this programme is to accelerate the pace of Arts education through an intensive three year exercise which can subsequently turn into a model for other institutions to emulate. SPEAR is supported by the Tata Social Welfare Trust. This conference is held under its auspices.

Funding for the Conference:
A limited number of International and National airfares and maintenance allowances will be met by SPEAR. Should you wish to apply for these, please send your abstract and bio-data addressed ‘Architectures of Erotica’ to spearjnu AT gmail DOT com with a copy to jnuartpress AT gmail DOT com. Delegates who may already have avenues of funding available to them personally, from their institutions or other avenues, should inform: the Conference Coordinator, SPEAR, School of Arts and Aesthetics, JNU, New Delhi 67. This will, naturally, allow us to utilise our funds to support those delegates who may not have other avenues for funding.

International delegates can attend or present papers at the conference on a tourist Visa obtainable from your nearest Indian Embassy, Consulate or High Commission. We will provide you with the necessary letters of invitation to support your application.

Deadline for Submission of Abstracts:
Scholars interested in reading a 30 minute paper at the conference, must send a one-page (400 word max) abstract along with their CV by 1 June, 2010 at the address / e mail given below:

For any further queries, please contact:
Coordinator, SPEAR,
School of Arts and Aesthetics,
JNU, New Delhi 67;
spearjnu AT gmail DOT com

Friday, March 12, 2010

MA English Translation Studies

Please post your questions regarding the Translation Studies course here

MA English Culture and Disciplines Questions

Please post your questions regarding the Culture and Disciplines course here

Writing of the Introduction and Literature Review in a Research Proposal

What should go into the Introduction and Literature review of your Research proposal?
At first there was quite a difference in opinion in class where Pooja said the what of your research and why you're doing it should go into it, where as I said it should start with a brief background of your area of research and then go to talk about what is your domain and purpose, briefly.
We were then made to refer a standardised format where we learnt that a little bit of everything goes into the introduction!

The format is as follows

The synopsis is a brief out line (about four A-4 size pages or 1000 words is the maximum limit) of your future work.

TITLE: Should reflect the main purpose of the study. It is generally written after the whole synopsis has been written so that it is a true representative of the plan (i.e. the synopsis).

• As the name suggests the introduction introduces your work.
• It must clearly state the purpose of the study.
• Should contain brief background of the selected topic.
• It must identify the importance of study
• Should emphasize the relevance and justification of the study.
• If possible also mention the applicability of results.

• A comprehensive review of the current status of knowledge on the selected topic must be included.
• It should be a collective review and critique in the candidate's own words of various viewpoints.
• The review should be properly referenced.
• References should preferably be of the last five years, including some published in the recent past.
• However, older references can be cited provided they are relevant and historical.
• This should also include work published in recognized journals and in publications of various societies, as well as abstracts of meetings, conferences or seminars, websites etc.
• Data collected by others, whether published or unpublished, must be acknowledged whenever included.

HYPOTHESIS: A hypothesis is a statement showing expected relation between two variables.
RESEARCH QUESTIONS: A Research Question is a statement that identifies the phenomenon to be studied.
(The hypothesis or research question is optional. These may not be a part of your research proposal)

• Objective should start with an action verb and be sufficiently specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound (SMART). (Eg. To find, to measure…etc.)
• Objectives are statements of mentions.
• They inform the reader clearly what the researcher plans to do in his/her work.
• The must identify the variables involved in research.


• STUDY DESIGN: Mention the name of the appropriate study design.
• SETTING: Name and place where the research work is to be conducted.
• DURATION OF STUDY: How long will the study take with dates.
• SAMPLE SIZE: How many respondents will be included. If there are groups how many per group?
• SAMPLING TECHNIQUE: Type of sampling technique employed.
o Inclusion criteria: on what bases will respondents be inducted in the study.
o Exclusion criteria: On what bases will respondents be excluded from the study.
• DATA COLLECTION PROCEDURE: A detailed account of how the researcher will perform research; how s/he will measure the variable. It includes:
o Identification of the study variables
o Methods for collection of data
o Data collection tools (proforma/questionnaire)
• DATA ANALYSIS PROCEDURE: Relevant details naming software to be used, which descriptive statistics and which test of significance if and when required, specifying variables where it will be applied.

The timeline for your project. Look at the course schedule to keep your due dates in mind and set up certain milestones (by day or by week) that you will accomplish to keep yourself on track.

A brief outline of the parts of the paper

CONCLUSIONS: What will be the outcome of the study.

REFERENCES: A list of references contains details only of those works cited in the text.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: A bibliography lists sources not cited in the text but which are relevant to the subject and were used for background reading.

To sum the introduction up, you should introduce and ground your area of research in the Introduction.
Most importantly the Review of Literature is not just about quoting every scholar's work in your area of research. It is about building up an argument to establish that your work of study has not been done before, by locating fragments connected to your area of study in other works (and sometimes other fields).
You are basically to provide a 'backward history to your question,' by going back and referring various other works done in your area or field of research.
Certainly put us into perspective about the much misunderstood Literature Review.
Thank you :)

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Workshop on “Gender and Culture”

March 17 - 19, 2010

Centre for the Study of Culture and Society (CSCS), Bangalore

The workshop seeks to explore the range of analytic possibilities that a conjuncture such as “gender and culture” makes available. A series of questions follow from the very act of positing such a conjuncture: Is “gender and culture” a thematic or a problematic? How does it align with or differentiate itself from the “gender and …” (any other object or domain such as politics/law/science etc.) series? What does the split between the two mutually constitutive terms indicate? Does the conjuncture “gender and culture” enable the production of new objects of inquiry? Or does it make available new modes of inquiry? What methodological issues emerge from the introduction of such a conjuncture into research agendas? How does it impact existing knowledge frames? These are among some of the questions that the workshop will address even as it will clarify the diverse uses of the key terms.

Both terms of the conjuncture, i.e. “gender” and “culture,” have over the years and through continually shifting registers of intelligibility acquired popular recognition. While the genealogy of these two terms within the Indian context still needs to be mapped, the existing body of scholarly work has already demonstrated that their trajectories are closely linked. They are intimately connected through the fact that the elaboration of the conceptual content of any one of the terms has often necessitated invocation of the other. Not surprisingly therefore the terms also cross-referentially underpin two interdisciplinary formations within the Indian context: Women’s Studies and Cultural Studies. While the culture question has increasingly come to be a critical part of feminist theorizing, the gender question has not been acknowledged within Cultural Studies to the same extent; this in spite of the fact that pathbreaking feminist interventions were foundational in constituting the field of Cultural Studies within India. The dynamics vis-à-vis the concepts within these two fields of knowledge need to be further queried in order to understand the overlap and difference between how they have engaged with the notions gender and culture.

The cultural turn for gender theory in India was occasioned by the women’s movement marking a shift away from its earlier emphasis on and address to the State. The ground breaking anthology Recasting Woman (1989) consolidated the efforts to provide an understanding of gender in the Indian context by focusing on social and cultural processes within the colonial period. The articles included in Recasting Woman, together with subsequent critical work on the colonial and nationalist moments, provide important elaboration of how vital the task of conceptualizing notions of gender and culture was for the process of building a hegemonic understanding of the Indian nation.

While the significance of this momentous work is undeniable, the dynamics of the gender and culture conjuncture in the contemporary moment of post-nationalism and globalization still awaits examination. We could also ask the question, “Has the “woman-culture” combination that produced our national imagination earlier lost its relevance or has there been a reinvention of its use?” Addressing such a question will require us to pay closer attention to the several and heterogeneous articulations made at diverse sites that have a bearing on our present understanding of the gender-culture dyad. It is possible also that an investigation of the contemporary moment might require us to go beyond the usual and easy conflation made between, for instance, the use of “gender” on the one hand and women on the other.

Another emerging scenario is also of interest in the context of our consideration of “gender and culture.” Certain objects and domains (literary works or films and issues of sexuality for instance) through their closer alignment with conceptions of culture have thus far been the more obvious choice for asking questions about gender and culture. Increasingly, however, the conjuncture has been critical in redefining discussions in areas where culture was earlier invoked only in a cursory manner. The paradigm of “women, culture and development” (WCD) that has been proposed recently is one such example. This paradigm follows upon the earlier ones within development thought, i.e. “women in development” (WID), “women and development” (WAD) and “gender and development” (GAD). The development sector is but one among many others that are now positing the gender-culture question. The task of elaborating this question in domains that have thus far eschewed such formulations will require us to examine the conjuncture much more carefully before we begin to forge new tools for analyses relevant to the present moment.

The workshop on “Gender and Culture” will take place between March 17 & 19, 2010 at the Centre for Study of Culture and Society (CSCS), Bangalore and will be anchored by Dr. Rekha Pappu from the Gender Initiative, Higher Education Cell, Bangalore. A set of readings will be made available to the participants prior to the workshop. Each day of the workshop will focus on at least 2-3 key readings and will engage with the concepts, arguments and issues that emerge from the readings and are addressed to the objectives outlined above.

Interested M.Phil, Doctoral and Post-Doctoral researchers are welcome to participate in the workshop. Please write in/or send an e-mail by March 10, 2010 to the Convenor, Academic Committee at CSCS, Dr. Anup Dhar (anup at cscs dot res dot in) with copies marked to Rekha Pappu (rekhapappu at yahoo dot com) and Rakhi Ghoshal (rghoshal at cscs dot res dot in). Participants travelling from outside Bangalore will have to bear their own travel and accommodation expenses. The host institution will help them find accommodation.

Friday, March 05, 2010


The idea of breakdown of fine objects started with Physics starting with the breakdown of atoms into electrons, protons and neutrons followed by the breakdown of mind by Sigmund Freud and Wilhelm Maximilian Wundt. Breakdown of signs was also discussed in the class.
Semiotics is the study of sign processes. In today’s class we discussed semiotics as per the three people who contributed largely to the field of semiotics:

1. Ferdinand de Saussure: He was a Swiss linguist, and is widely considered to be one of the fathers of 20th-century linguistics and of semiotics. Course in General Linguistics was published in 1916 by former students Charles Bally and Albert Sechehaye on the basis of notes taken from Saussure's lectures in Paris. This work became popular for its innovative approach that Saussure applied in discussing linguistic phenomena.
According to Saussure’s theory a sign is of two types:


The signifier is the pointing finger, the word, the sound-image. A word is simply a jumble of letters. The pointing finger is not the star. It is in the interpretation of the signifier that meaning is created.


The signified is the concept, the meaning, the thing indicated by the signifier. It need not be a 'real object' but is some referent to which the signifier refers.

2. Charles Sanders Peirce: He was an American philosopher, logician, mathematician, and a scientist. He also spoke about the two orders of signs. First-order can be defined as the first level of pragmatic meaning that is drawn from an utterance. Second-Order is concerned with the connection between linguistic variables and the metapragmatic meanings that they encode. According to his theory of signs he divided sings into:

It is a pattern that physically resembles what it `stands for. Example: A picture of your face is an icon of you.

An Index is that which correlates A and B. Thus A implies or `points to' B. Example: Smoke indicates fire.

This is arbitrary. A symbol has no logical meaning between it and the object. Example: Flags are symbols which represent countries or organisations.

3. Roland Barthes: He was a French literary theorist, philosopher, critic, and semiotician. He spoke about Myths. Eg: Roses can be a symbol of love and passion and for Barthes this is Myth and it is not arbitrary. So does flags it is a myth as it is only a piece of cloth but it stands for a country and it is accepted world wide.

Film Semiotics
Christian Metz contributed to the field of film semiotics. He argued that “one might call ‘language’…any unity defined in terms of its matter of expression…Literary language, in this sense, is the set of messages whose matter of expression is writing; cinematic language is the set of messages whose matter of expression consists of five tracks or channels: moving photographic image, recorded phonetic sound, recorded noises, recorded musical sound, and writing…Thus cinema is a language in the sense that it is a ‘technico-sensorial unity’ graspable in perceptual experience”.

Semiotics can be used as a method, some examples are:
1.Bob Hodge and David Tripp employed empirical methods in their classic study of Children and Television (Hodge & Tripp 1986).
2.Studying films
3.Studying text
4.Study of Denotation and Connotation.

We ended the class by discussing how the practices of present day date back to the past and how religion is used with politics in India.

I must admit that these notes are referred from the net as I personally find semiotic studies very complicated.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Research Method - Interview

Today’s class was divided into two parts. The first 30 minutes was a combined class wherein the English Literature students were also present. The rest of the time was our usual class consisting of discussions.

In the first half, research proposals were discussed both for quantitative as well as qualitative methods.

The qualitative method has the following format:

Tentative Title
The context of the title for the research should be the same, it cant be changed later on into a completely different topic

What is your research about?

Literature Review
Based on previous work done on the same subject and questions that have been answered on it

Research Question
What answers are you looking for through this research?

Chapter Division
Depending on your study the chapters can be more in number and while giving the proposal a small introduction to each chapter is needed.

1. Introduction
2. Literature Review
3. Title that describes your analysis
4. Conclusion

For further explanation of a certain topic notes can be used.

Select Bibliography
Bibliography lists out the complete list of sources and matter that will be used in the study.

The quantitative method has the following format:

Tentative Title
Aim and Objective
Methodology and Limitation (The most important aspect of a quantitative study, the methods to be used to conduct the study need to be explained as well as the limitations)
Literature Review
Research Question
Chapter Division
1. Introduction
2. Literature Review
3. Title that describes your analysis
4. Conclusion
Select Bibliography

Different universities across India follow their own format for research proposal. Some examples can be found from the links mentioned below:

Our regular class was on the topic of interviews. The following points were discussed

• Conducting an interview (how, when, whom)
• Limitations of an interview
• Question format (open ended, close ended questions, direct and indirect interview)
• Format of the interview

Power relations determine how the interviews turns out to be. For Example-If the interviewee is present in the news studio then the interviewer is the one in power. If the interviewee is in one’s own house then the interviewee is in power. Post editing the final version reported or aired in the media is exactly the way the interviewer wants it to be. It is interviewer’s interview but unknowingly the interview is constructed. Interview is of two types: the modern and the post modern. While the above mentioned four points fall under a modern type of interviewer, the power relations fall under a post modern type where the interviewer is both self critical and self aware. The post modern interviewer is aware about the power relation in an interview and all the types of prejudices.

Limitations of an interview: Limitations can be ranging from personal point, regional or even nationality. An Indian doing a study on Indo Pak relations may find his nationality to be a limitation for an unbiased evaluation of the project.

Ethics to be followed in an interview method:
• Inform the interviewee on the reasons behind the interview
• Consent of the interviewee should be taken whether his voice can be recorded or not
• Consent of the interviewee is needed to mention the name of the source if needed
• Use data in the way its supposed to be used

Few examples of ethical situations that could arise during your interview:
• The interviewee should be assured of their own confidentiality.
• If the interviewee becomes distressed, the interview should be abandoned.
• The interviewee has the right not to answer a particular question or to terminate the interview altogether.
• It is crucial that you obtain informed consent before commencing the interview.
• If the interviewee asks for practical guidance or help, you must refer them to an appropriate organization or support centre. Do not allow yourself to be drawn into this type of discussion. If your interview concerns information of a particularly sensitive nature, it might be worth getting the details of relevant organizations beforehand, should you be asked.

The above discussed points on interview were taken from the book:
Griffin, Gabriele.ed. Research Methods For English Studies. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2005

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Definition of Politics

Politics is the study of decision making power (who has got it and who hasn't) from intersocial and societal level). When considered at smaller scales e.g, within a profession it is indistinguishable from applied ethics or specialist ethical codes.
At whatever scale politics is rather imperfect way that we actually do coordinate individual actions for mutual or (strictly personal gain). What distinguishes politics from ethical or merely social is a much debated question. Most theorist would acknowledge that to be political a process has to involve atleast use of some potential force or -politics is about conflict that is much more than theory and fashion. To win a political conflict always implies that one has taken power from one group of power to give it to another. Most would also acknowledge that political conflict can degrade to zero-sum games with little earned or settled by conflict other than, " who won and who lost".
Lenin said that politics was ,"who could do what to whom". As political scientist Harold Lasswell said," who gets what, when and how". It also concerns how we resolves moral conflicts that are sufficiently serious that they constitute the risk of social disruption- in which case committment to common process of arbitration or diplomacy tends to reduce violence- usually viewed as key goal of civilization. Bernard Key is the major theorist of this view and also of the idea that politics is itself simply," ethics done in public", where public institutions can agree, disagree, or intervene to achieve a desirable culmination or comprehensive result.
In addition to Government, journalist, religious groups, special interest gropus and economic system and condition may all have influence on decisions. Therefore, politics touches on all these subjects.
Authors of studies of politics have both reflected and influenced the political system of the world. Machiavalli wrote The Prince, an analysis of politics, in a amonarchy in, 1513, while living in a monarchy. Karl Marx and Fredrich Engel wrote, Communist Menifesto in 1848 which became one of the most influential work of twentieth Century.
Personally, I subscribe to Bernard Key's theory about politics, a view which subscribes to the process of fair decision making which aids in reducing/eliminating conflict, violence and hurt.