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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Humanist theory and Platonic legacies in literature


Humanism refers to the idea that we can understand or explain our world through rational enquiry. It rejects explanations based on the supernatural or divine forces. This idea became the basis for the development of science on the Western world.

Humanism inaugurates rational enquiry and rejects the supernatural or the realm of emotions. It was a response to the Dark Ages when people believed in religion unquestioningly. The hold of the Church was so strong that even the king had to bow down to its decisions. Gradually, people started questioning the teachings. Martin Luther King insisted on reading the Bible rather than following the interpretations of the priest. He argued that we must follow religion rationally. Many people started questioning the rigid ritualistic aspects of religion too. Even scientists like Galileo argue that one must read the book of nature.

Such ideas promote the growth of science and reinforce the belief in observation and rational analysis. It is in such a context that humanism emerges. With this, we also see a revival in the study of Classical Greek and Roman texts. We see the emergence of faith in human rather than divine.


Plato's ideas too, are rooted in the belief that reason or rational thought must be employed to make sense of the world. This assumption influences how he looks at art or representation (since the terms 'art' or 'literature' did not exist when Plato formulated his theories). Since, art or literature appeals to the audience's emotions rather than their reason, Plato considered it to be inferior method for understanding the 'truth'.

To understand Plato's view of literature, we must begin with his theory of forms. According to Plato, the world that we perceive around us, in a copy or reproduction of another realm, which is perfect. This is known as the world of the ideal. These forms of the ideal world are stable and unchanging. Plato used the term 'nature' to describe the world that we perceive through our senses. And, since nature is a copy of the Ideal, it is less perfect.

Ideal (Form) / Real

Nature / Physical World (copy)

Representation / Art (copy of the copy, so, twice removed from the original)

Plato further argues that art or the world of representation tries to copy 'nature' and therefore it is twice removed for the Ideal or reality. Art was therefore, a copy of the copy. Plato also argues that no artist has access to the ideal world. He explains this through his famous allegory of the cave.

This allegory describes individuals chained deep within the recesses of a cave. They are bound in such a way that vision is restricted and they can only see their shadows on the wall of the cave. Breaking free, one of the individuals escapes from the cave into the light of day. For the first time, this person sees the real world and returns to the cave with the message that the only things they have seen until now are shadows and appearances and that the real world awaits them if they are willing to struggle free of their bonds. The shadowy environment of the cave symbolizes for Plato the physical world of appearances. Escape into the sun-filled setting outside the cave symbolizes the transition to the real world the world of Forms, which is the proper object of knowledge. Plato further argues that it is only the philosopher who has access to this real world, because of a mind trained in rational enquiry.

Based on such a belief, Plato argues that art is to be banned since it gives a false picture of reality to the people. It can emotionally take control of a person and this makes it difficult to reach the ultimate reality. This idea, that all art has the potential to corrupt the mind, develops in Western philosophy and spreads to the rest of the world with colonialism. This idea further leads to the birth of the concept of censorship.


To understand Aristotle's views, we must begin by looking at how he looks at reality. Aristotle believes that reality resides in the changeable world of sense perceptions or, the physical, material world. He argues that the 'form' of Ideal can only exist in tangible examples of that form. So, it is only through individual examples of table, that we can understand the essence of a table, or 'table-ness'.

In addition, Aristotle believes that art does not imitate nature; rather, it gives an order to nature. This order is given by language, because it is only by naming abstract concepts (such as male and female; or animal and plant) that we can understand them. So, art complements nature.

Thus, while Plato is concerned with content of representation, Aristotle is concerned with the form. Plato's approach lead to the development of moral criticism while Aristotle's approach lead to the birth of genre criticism.

(This post is a compilation of all the lectures on Humanism.)

Pinto, Anil. Class Lecture. Introduction to Literary Theory. Christ University. Bangalore, India. 11 June - 21 June 2010.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Those who want to organise lectures/guest talks/interactions...

Attention: I year MA English, II Year JPEng and CEP, and III Year JPEng and PSEng students 

In case anyone of you is interested in arranging guest lectures, talks, interactions on topics related to the courses being taught by me I would be happy to give space for it. The resource persons could either come physically, or come online from any part of the globe of any age group or qualification. The only criterion is they should be resourceful in the topic you have chosen. 

Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Scholarly Research in Communication | Center for Social Media

Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Scholarly Research in Communication | Center for Social Media

Web 2.0 Applications

Web 2.0 Applications

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Gazes in Literature

Gazes in Literature / 19 June 2010 / 3rd Sem CEP

The aim of this session was to make aware the students of literature about the existence of 'gazes' within the realm of their studies.

A 'gaze' is different from a 'look', which is different from 'to see'. 'To see' would connote the physical sense or attribute of seeing; a 'look' would be to see with a particular purpose; a 'gaze' is a term with social connotations - it would be determined by prevalent social values. Simply put, it could mean similar to, but not completely the same as, 'in the perspective of'.

An example for a gaze would be the 'male gaze'. The 'male gaze' is when an individual (of any sex and gender) perceives the woman as a consumptive object.

Different academic disciplines have gazes. Mr Pinto argues with the case of the anthropological gaze. This gaze, which came along with its discipline in the colonial era, looks at communities with a coloniser-colonised binary perspective. He further argues that this becomes a common world view, with the coloniser and colonised being replaced by other power poles; for example, the city-village binary.

An understanding of this neccessitates revisiting the history of anthropology. Anthropology came along with colonisation, where the colonisers were curious to study the colonised. Interestingly, argues Mr Pinto, when one studies an other, the one is endowed with a position of higher power/knowledge. So when the colonisers studies the colonised, it was from their position of higher power that they went about it.

Anthropology has four branches:
- Archaeology
- Social anthropology
- Cultural anthropology
- Physical anthropology

The colonisers mainly dealt with physical anthropology where racial bodily differencs were studied, with the aim of perhaps discovering 'a perfect race'.

As mentioned earlier, a group of people studying an other is put in a position of higher power, thereby automatically producing a power structure with two players - the students, i.e. the colonisers, and the studied, the colonised.

The colonisers considered it their responsibility ('White man's burden' as Rudyard Kipling puts it) to impart their knowledge, technology, and thus modernity and development to the colonised lands. They were the bringers of the light. This is a gaze. The 'poor needs help from the rich'. And this binary gaze exists even today, in many different forms.

There are gazes in literature too. When we talk about feminist literature, or post-colonial literature, or Native-American literature, our gazes shift. Certain meanings, values and interpretations are associated with the work by virtue of our gaze.

The point of this argument is not that we do away with gazes. Rather, it is that we have to be aware of the presence of such gazes within the realm of literature, and be cautious of them. Perhaps even revisit these gazes, and question their form.

Coming back to the coloniser-colonised binary, it can be a problematic gaze. If we have an understanding of developed cityfolk trying to help undeveloped village communities, we have a vision which is slightly skewed in some place. But most of us are conditioned into this gaze through our many years in this world. A shifting of the binary does not help. An argument that since women have been exploited for centuries by men, a shifting of positions with women posited above men will solve the problem does not really hold ground. So what can be done? One solution, though not the best one, is to make the categories more inclusive and open. Another is to engage in love. But I lost track at this point, and further discussion is required to clarify certain points!


Pinto, Anil. "Gazes in literature". 19 June 2010. American Literature, 3rd semester BA CEP. Bangalore, India. Class Lecture.

(Notes by Mohan K. Pillai - post subject to author's bias and perspective)

Am. Lit- 2CEP- June 5th-7th

June 5, 2010


William Jones- translated Kalidasa to English

Lord Cornwallis- translated Manusmriti and Mahabharat to English



Beowulf- translated from Italian to English

Novel came to English through Spanish translation


1. Multi-cultural similarities between India and USA

2. History of translation

3. Super power status of USA

4. USA is a large English speaking nation, and as long as we study English Literature, we ought to study it from wherever it originates

5. Since English Literature travelled from UK to USA, studying American Literature provides a comprehensive and coherent study

6. Democratic spirit of USA

7. Post war Literature was predominantly American and very influential

8. Exploration and conquests

9. Globalisation and role of USA in world politics

10. Anything that is dominant must be engaged with


1. English has been a tool of oppression- Lord Macaulay, Masks of Conquest

2. English Literature as a discipline was taught in India much before England.

Courses in India were started by those on fellowship from US.

Indian Literature as a discipline, taught in 1980’s, much after American Literature was introduced

3. FBI policy to set up scholarships and fellowships. US defence, government and education are closely connected- MIT was control room for WW2 and inventor of major defence ideas. US set up library in Hyderabad.

4. Rule by the oppressor cannot be gun-rule, must be ideological- Musharrif

5. Is the sheer magnitude a good enough reason to study it?

Urdu- highest number of primary schools in Karnataka

Should one not learn one’s own culture first?

6. Tokenism, Co-opting

7. We are influenced more by Japanese(Haiku), Latin America, UK, French and Russian literature, than American

8. American Literature is not as progressive as we think- It mainly studies white male writers.

Therefore, did we get sucked into West Anglo Saxon Protestant Politics of American Literature?- Most American Literature is from North American, not the Catholics from the South.

9. US’s primary export is culture


· Obama didn’t mention the Red Indians in his first presidential address. But every hill in the US was named by the Indians. Present names of various places in US have aboriginal roots.

· Avatar- movie- talks about colonialistic personality of US

· Columbus- landed in 1492. Funded by Queen Isabella of Spain. (Now its race for moon. Explorer had to take notes and return and would not be credited until another person followed the same route and found the same place)

June 7, 2010




Buildings on graves


· Eureopeans were looking for Promised Land. They considered travel to America their Exodus.

· All of Shakespeare’s tragedies were about collapse of monarchy, restoration and hope. People were neurotic with the fear of the collapse.

· When society changes, fundamentalism is first result- Northern Ireland, South USA, Pakistan, Afganistan, Gaza

· New money was coming to Europe.

This led to a changing of class and social structres.

These insecurities expressed through religion, that too an idea religion.

Ideal religion emphasizes on past, rejects the present, and is based on texts.

Rejection of past makes them take their arguments elsewhere, hence colonialism.

Thus, Europeans travelled to America.

· New World was made similar to old- New England

· They identified with Adam and Eve-

· Genesis command to ‘go and rule over the world’ was the excuse to colonise. Hebrew word for the same is ‘raada’ meaning, to take care of

· US has breached every treaty with the Red Indians

· 1776- Independent from England

· 1880- Civil war. North and South split

Monday, June 21, 2010

II SEM BA EST Literary Theory Course Plan 2010 Revised

V Sem BA OEN531 Literary Theory  Course Plan 2010 Revised 
Click Here to Download

Anil: 1, 2, 4, 5, 7,
Padmakumar: 3, 6, 8

Renu: 1, 2, 4, 5, 7,
Anil: 3, 6, 8

Padmakumar: 1, 2, 4, 5, 7,
Renu: 3, 6, 8

National Seminar on The Linguistic and Literary Terrain of Translation

UGC Sponsored National Seminar on The Linguistic and Literary Terrain of Translation

Salesian College Sonada & Siliguri, Darjeeling, West Bengal

Dates: 30-31 July 2010

Click here for more information

Sunday, June 20, 2010

V Semester Literary theory class notes 3

12 June 2010
Notes by Anusha
The word authority comes from the word author. Author is the one who sanctions the meaning of his/her work. The work could be the constitution, Bible, or anything else.
Different approaches to study English were:
1. Historical- Biographical approach
2. Formalism
3. Textual analysis
4. Structuralism
5. Post structuralism

Feminism takes its methods, strategies from post structuralism.
‘Ism’ is a movement, a whole population looking at a particular way. It is a social movement. Like sciences; larger units broken into smaller units to study them, language also is broken into,
Literature is a unit and is studied through language.
Usually the structure of a word is looked for word is a sign. Sign is made up of
E.g.: A ‘Dog’ is a group of letters in a written form, but the word creates an image.
Vladimir Propp a Russian structuralist made a detailed study of folk tales from all over the world and noted that there are only 31 types of folk tales. The structure is only of 31 types and different tale are only reconstruction of it.

Structuralism can not be studied with a single work. Comparison is an important aspect and hence requires two works of the same author. This comparison paves way for universalisation of the findings.

Structuralism does not deal with the content but emphasizes on the structure.

Pinto, Anil. Class Lecture. Introduction to Literary Theory. Christ University. Bangalore, India. 12 June 2010

An Introduction to Western Aesthetics, MA Previous, 19th June, 2020, Saturday.

An introduction to key concepts of Western Aesthetics: 19th June 2010, Saturday for MA Previous.

Notes by: Sneha Sharon Mammen

The conception of the term 'west' in itself would be quite interesting. A class of twenty interpret it variously. 'West' as in the direction, evaluating in comparison to the other three directions (the East, North and South) which in turn could be qualified as the result of so many adventurous expeditions by navigators and explorers or may be Europe-the western front that is the term in the sense of geography. From this realm we could take it entirely to another shift altogether - the cultural, in terms of the western outlook/worldview, their perspective, open mindedness. Not to forget either the analysis in terms of economic, materialist standards which then makes the 'west' necessarily the first world nation keeping in mind their pace of economic growth, resources and urbanization.

However, this sort of an analysis is just a product of various interpretations that man can think of. 'West' to a particular individual would not be 'west' for another. In the definitive mapping of the globe, there is no particular 'west' for say, an Alaska. Therefore, we could gather so much as that, words are not so innocent. They carry within themselves loaded interpretations. Also, once an individual frames a word, the discourse too gets framed much to an extent that we start evaluating concepts keeping in mind the various binaries.

Also, a particular use of concept narrows down our range of evaluation. For example, if one talks of India, his level of analysis can only be grouped in terms of nations on the whole. Similarly, talking of Aryans would mean talking with respect to races. As also, 'Latin-American' further narrows and limits the scope of comparisons.

Precisely one cannot use words like 'globe', a 'planet', the 'earth' if he chooses to believe the world is flat. 'World' becomes the only selective usage in this case. Can we at this level say that to 'understand' something, we do not necessarily have to 'know' the larger picture.

As aforementioned, its quite common to talk in terms of binaries. The East is east just because it is not west or the fact that the term 'teacher' qualifies only because the term 'student' affirms such qualification and justifies it. Similarly, homosexuality is talked of because there exists in the picture heterosexuality. Therefore the simultaneous birth of conceptions. Apart from such framing which will in turn quite obviously facilitate re-framing, cultural imaginations are something which make different discourses possible.

The term 'aesthetics' brings to mind notions of balance, beauty, harmony, appeal, sensitivity, creativity,perceptions, judgement or even understanding. However, debating upon the origins and understanding of the term 'aesthetic' in itself, few would believe that it is a definitely dated concept.

'Aesthetic' comes from the Greek word 'aisthetikos' which means sensitive. This Greek term has been traced to have its origin further back in time, history and language in an imaginary language called the Proto Indo-European language or the PIE where it is understood as 'aisthemisthos' meaning to perceive. ( The commonalities between Greek, Latin and Sanskrit is thought of as coming down to us from a common parent of these languages, which is referred to as PIE.)

Immanuel Kant, a lesser pronounced name but the pioneer of the coined term 'aesthetics'. Aesthetics, as mentioned earlier could have emerged and is characterized as follows. One, it could have been a historical necessity and two, it has a definite philosophic pre-history.

Pinto, Anil. Class Lecture, Introduction to Western Aesthetics, Christ University. Bangalore, India.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

I MA English Students expectations

1. Allow contributions in your blog (Sure)
2. No assignment to be more than 20 pages (Sure)
3. Not more than one essay at a time to read (Sure)
4. Background to be provided on the essays/ topic discussed in class (Sure)
5. Give exam oriented questions and what is expected from students in the exams (Provided it is asked for after the completion of every unit)
6. Allow opinions to be shared before/ after lecture (Sure)
7. Connect essays discussed to literary theory (if any) (Sure)
8. Discussions to be held outside classroom (once in a while) (Left to the students to decide the venue with due reasons, why not the online space as well?)
9. Group Teaching- Mr. Pinto and Ms. Shobana together for more perspectives and variety in approaches. (Sure)

(Notes by Vandana)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

V Semester Literary theory class notes 2

11 June 2010


A study of anything in a university converts it into a discipline. The institution prescribes a set of writers and thinkers as the authentic thinkers and writers. There is first choice of names then the choice of texts and then the choice of methods.

After the choice of names there are only a select texts of that name that are prescribed. For example the most studied work of Marx is “capitol”, although there are many other works of his which might even be better which are not being studied.

John Donne was never a favourite until T.S. Eliot started writing. Eliot was a philosopher who wrote a powerful essay called, “metaphysical poets”. Eliot in his works put Shakespeare first then Donne then himself and then other writers. He completely ruled out Wordsworth from his choice of writers.
F.R Leavis was in the department of English at Cambridge. He drew two categories: one was the Great tradition, the other minor tradition.

All the writers that Eliot referred to were the Great traditions and others which he considered ‘small’, such as Emily Dickinson and Bronte sisters came under minor traditions.
Also since the past hundred years the English taught in India is the one prescribed by him and has yet not been challenged!

Now the problem that occurred was that the names that he considered small were actually great. For example in Shakespear’s time Christopher Marlow was equally famous.

Coming to methods, disciplines usually use the existing methods. For which they went to philosophy.
Hermeneutic is a school of philosophy which is the theory of interpretation. It was interpretation of primarily The Bible. They tried to read and understand what God said and what God meant when he said those words.

So the theory suggested that Author, like God, has produced something and, to put it in Mr. Pinto’s words, “you waste your lifetime trying to understand what he meant.”
This was also an effort of secularizing the method.

So the question asked constantly is, “What did the author perhaps mean when he wrote?”

And examinations are exactly a test of whether the screwing in of this question has been successful or not. It is a training to think in a particular way and to stop any creativity or thought process.
The next question is,

“How do I know what the author meant?”

Therefore to know what he/she really meant, their biographies were studied.

Was Shakespeare gay?

Start reading about his life

Start reading the text more closely

Make connections!

Then came the formalist approach. Form referring to and paying more attention to structure and discouraging history. Seeking an interpretation which has all its evidences in the text itself.
This was introduced by I.A. Richards who was the first H.O.D. of English in Cambridge at the age of 24 years!

He gave the same poem to two different classes say A and B. But with different names. To class A he gave the poem saying it is by someone called John, and to class B he gave the same poem informing that its by someone called Joan.

Now class A had very positive views of the poems appreciating its style and structure and so on. Whereas class B considered the poem not worthy of praise and discarded it as a poem with nothing to appreciate.

This experiment proved that the readers had connected the names to the sex of the poet and were hence biased.

Therefore Richard suggested that knowing the history of a writer can make you biased, which is why one must concentrate only on the text.
Both these methods continued to be dominant till 1950’s. After which comes “Structuralism” and changes literature and the way it is studied. Mr. Pinto is happy that it happened and promises to explain it in the next class.

Pinto, Anil. Class lecture. Introduction to Literary Theory. Christ University. Bangalore, India. 11 June 2010.

V Semester Literary theory class notes 1

07 JUNE 2010


People have been writing for many years, writings also referring to what cave men did on walls of their caves.

Anything that records human thought on a surface is writing, which also includes paintings. One example of pictorial writing is the Chinese script.

Till 19th century there was a separate category of writers. Before which there was nothing called ‘Literature’.

It was only in the 20th century that it became a discipline. And because it became a discipline it had to form boundaries and rules. It has to be defined under a category.

The need for English Literature was felt after the First World War. Primarily because of nationalist reasons, which had become a major concept. And hence things like passports and visas came into existence. Boundaries became more rigid than ever. And yet nations exist only in imagination.
People and government became strongly conscious of their identity.
This lead to the birth of Literature.

Till now throughout England only German writings and philosophies were studied in universities. Therefore it was impossible to generate hate towards Germany and a sense of nationalism and patriotism when the majority population loves and appreciates the works of German men.
For these reasons German works were displaced by English Literature. Hence Literature evolved on the death bed of philosophy. Literature borrows its tools from theology and philosophy.
However in the selection of texts there was a clear bias for the aristocracy and their writings. All the prescribed texts were from the higher class of the society. All the great ideas were a part of a marketing strategy.

Now some texts were treated as special and some not special. The one’s treated as special were prescribed and appreciated. However what made them special had no logic to it.

Pinto, Anil. Class lecture. Introduction to Literary Theory. Christ University. Bangalore, India. 07 June 2010.

Friday, June 11, 2010

American Literature Expectations of II year JPEng class

Following are the expectation from the American Literature paper that the students of II Year JPEng voiced. I have given my replies in the brackets. Thanks Sammitha Sreevatsa for noting them down and emailing.

- Opportunities for oral presentation based CIA (Time constraint may not allow)
-interactive sessions (Yes)
-detailed explanation (Considering that a BA is a higher education programme I intend to lecture around specific concerns pertaining to American literature in the Indian/Bangalore context. Hence, apart from necessary explanation which is crucial to understand the text, I may not go beyond. However, I am open to clarifying any doubt. ) 
-made simple (Sure)
-less theoretical (yes. The concerns will be located in the texts)
-space for self exploration (Sure. All for it.)
-Should be able us to relate to what's contemporary (Absolutely)
-Background/ contextual explanation (Sure)
-Plays given as much importance as poetry and stories (Ok)
-variety in approaches (Not suer as of now. Let's see how it unfolds)
-providing reference sources (sure, you can also collaborate)
-to be told whats expected from us exam point of view. (Sure)

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Useful resource to learn from Ivy league colleges

Here is the link to this site where a lot of top notch Ivy league college lectures on various topics are put up. This might help like a certificate course or can help you in supplementing your subject lectures. There are some interesting online courses too.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010



21-23 December 2010 at Lucknow

Advancement of the scientific study of language being the primary object of LSI,  ALL-INDIA CONFERENCE OF LINGUISTS (AICLs) are held annually for promoting dialogue and interaction among researchers in the field from India and abroad.  Papers (written in English or Hindi) are invited on substantial, original and unpublished research on all aspects of theoretical and applied Linguistics, with particular focus on languages and linguistic applications relevant to South Asia.
Contact: 32aicl at

For more details visit the site:

Prithviraj Thakur
Assistant Professor of English,
G.S. Science, Arts and Commerce College,

Phone:  (91) (09881721193)

National Conference on Methods, Materials and Techniques of Teaching English Language 24 - 25June 2010

National Conference on Methods, Materials and Techniques of Teaching English Language: Call for Papers

Dates:  24 - 25June 2010

Organized by the Department of English, Jagarlamudi Kuppuswamy-Choudary College, Guntur - 522 006, Andhra Pradesh, India

As the theme of seminar is intended to address many issues bearing on language teaching and learning, papers related to different areas of language teaching and learning are also invited. Original and well-documented papers may  be sent to the following address along with the registration fee of 250/-: Dr V. Pala Prasada Rao, 2-12-165; Stambalagaruvu (Po); Guntur; Pin Code: 522006.
Dr V Pala Prasada Rao <prasadarao.jkccollege at>