Tuesday, April 29, 2008

World Dance Day, 2008 celebrations across India

Celebration of dance
Commemorating the the birthday of dance reformer Jean-Goerges Noverre, April 29 is celebrated every year as International Dance Day. In the city, the celebrations for this year are being jointly hosted by West Bengal Dance Group Federation and West Bengal State Music Academy, with active support of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations. To mark the occasion, two contemporary dance workshops have already begun on April 20, in which young dancers from all over West Bengal are working under the guidance of choreographer Leng Poh Gee of Malaysia. To be inaugurated by well-known choreographers and dignitaries, the day-long celebrations slated for today will showcase scintillating dance presentations by a multitude of dance groups. The morning session (10 am - 1 pm) will commence with Remembering Sachin Shankar and Remembering Narendra Sharma, two short films, followed by choreographic presentations by various groups. The afternoon session (4 pm - 5 pm) features folk dances by a Santhal performing troupe and a Purulia Chhau dance troupe. The evening’s programme (6 pm - 9 pm) includes felicitation to Leng Poh Gee, two presentations by the participants of the workshops conducted by him and performances by dance groups.
Event: International Dance Day celebrations When: Today; 10 am onwards (day-long) Where: Rabindra Sadan

WORLD DANCE DAY April 29 at Janhabi Centre for Performing Arts, A7 New Gari Housing Cooperative Society, near Garia railway station; 5 pm - 7 pm: Janhabi Centre for Performing Arts celebrates International Dance Day with performances by Prarthana, Sariful and Madhuboni Chatterjee with her students of Janhabi and Prayasam, a civil society organisation working with underprivileged children. April 29 at Max Mueller Bhavan; 6.30 pm: Kolkata Sanved and World Dance Alliance (West Bengal), in collaboration with EZCC, present Dance in Outreach, focussing on the role of dance in changing the lives of the disadvantaged strata of society by moving beyond performance in mainstream creative outlets. Featuring work by young therapists/ choreographers/ dancers of Kolkata Sanved; Priti Patel’s long-standing work with cerebral palsy patients; Alokananda Roy’s work with inmates of correctional homes; and Suman Sarawgi’s work with the hearing impaired. The Telegraph, Front Page > Calcutta > Timeout Tuesday , April 29 , 2008

Tamil Isai Sangam: Bharatanatyam by N. Monica, Raja Muthiah Mandram, 6.30 p.m.
Yadharthaa: 30th anniversary and World Dance Day celebration, Madurai Kamaraj-Manonmaniam Sundaranar-Mother Teresa and Alagappa University Teachers’ Association, 6 Kakathoppu Street, 6.15 p.m. In Madurai Today Engagements - The Hindu Tuesday, Apr 29, 2008

Amma Arts & Cultural Academy: International Dance Day function, Hanumantharaya Grandhalayam, Gandhinagar, 6.30 p.m. onwards. In Vijayawada Today Engagements - The Hindu Tuesday, Apr 29, 2008

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Shh! Don't give away our secret!

6 Responses to “The Plain Truth, Please!
on April 23, 2008 at 7:02 am1 Shahar Ozeri
That’s why in an interview about academic writing and the broader culture Spivak referred to the book as a “defective form” because it moves at a slower speed than the broader culture in which efficiency is of the essence. This seems like a better metaphor than the notion of a bomb a mutual acquaintance of ours tends to insist upon. Accordingly, Spivak herself insists the book becomes oppositional, quite literally, it carves out a space in which we can think. So if we are to follow this logic then books are especially oppositional when they are obscure, difficult or “intentionally incomprehensible.” It would seem that difficult texts force us to surrender control, both of the difficult text at hand and of the conceptual apparatus that anchors our understanding of the world. Adorno, in his “Words From Abroad” is himself accused of obscurity by using foreign words, writes about this stuff (a theme you nicely point out throughout your post):
attempts at formulation that swim against the stream of the usual linguistic splashing in order to capture the intended matter precisely,and that take pains to fit complex conceptual relationships into the framework of syntax, arouse rage because they require effort.
So, ok, for one there is an aspect of cultural conditioning here, or, a cultural learning structure that clearly resists anything but a clear unambiguous presentation of ideas. The broader culture teaches us as readers to approach texts in a certain affective manner. Difficult texts challenge our affective disposition by introducing and even allowing for a new and different disposition; a disposition which sets its sights on something new, but also recognizes and critiques the disposition imposed on us by the broader culture. I think Deleuze/Guattari’s distinction between major (repeats a social structure of control by insisting on the use value of language as communicative) and minor language (language that “stutters,” but subtends the major language) would be germane here. Regardless, in negotiating difficult texts there is a sense of shock, but perhaps this shock can be mobilized as a positive, like a “cool, dude” (assuming our students talk like that). Maybe it’s better to pitch this stuff more affectively–so these texts become an affective interruption of the over regulated linguistic structures that govern thought. So, one of the questions then, towards this more affective line of thought is how we as teachers may be able to foster ways that allow students to experience an obscure or difficult text affectively, but in a positive (affective) way, rather than in a negative affective manner. As in: “holy shit, this hurts my tender brain, gives me a headache, it’s hard so it must be bullshit!” However, all of this is complicated more by the institutional setting in which we are working , e.g. a classroom within a broader college machine that tends to determine how such texts are experienced. So, to suggest that philosophy, theory, difficult fiction etc simply detaches itself not only with say, structure, but with “the establishment” is to as far as I can tell, risk festishizing and sentimentalizing a space that is already overconditioned, overcoded or in Deleuze’s terminology, territorialized.
Mikhail, didn’t we see a panel presentation about such things when affectivity was the hippest buzzword in cultural theory at that conference circa 2003–you know, the 18 hour drive…I could be wrong.
on April 23, 2008 at 9:19 am2 Mikhail Emelianov
That was a long drive, by far the longest drive on my life, but the conference was fun, wasn’t it? Despite the creepy house…
So, one of the questions then, towards this more affective line of thought is how we as teachers may be able to foster ways that allow students to experience an obscure or difficult text affectively, but in a positive (affective) way, rather than in a negative affective manner.
I think it’s what I was trying to say - how do I use a difficult text to create a kind of learning event that could come both from rational realization of certain connections between ideas and irrational engagement which would be affective. I think we can both agree that teaching isn’t all about lecturing or reading or exposition of texts as commentary - there’s a certain educational event that, when it does take place, affects both the students and the instructor. I think this is what everyone who ever taught knows: sometimes it is good to teach a difficult text to be able to engage it from a perspective of a commentator and not just as a reader. I think difficult texts allow us to achieve at least two things: a) show the smart-asses that they are not as smart as they think because they “get” Plato (education through gradual but consistent humiliation), and b) raise the level of discourse from simple “S is P” to a kind of philosophical discussion that we as teachers would enjoy (education through raising the expectations and thus making sure that those who “make it” will learn a great deal).
on April 23, 2008 at 9:39 am3 Shahar Ozeri
That was a fun conference, in fact, we actually made friends at the conference despite you dressing like a Mormon! By the way, I had completely forgot about the house and all the creepy religious iconography that saturated it! And we got a parking ticket in front of the house to boot–more confirmation that God hates us.
on April 23, 2008 at 9:45 am4 Mikhail Emelianov
Technically, Shahar, God only hates you because you refused to go to church with the nice Christian folks claiming to be - what was it? - Jewish!
on April 23, 2008 at 9:52 am5 Shahar Ozeri
Perhaps, and I certainly would have appealed to my status as Jew, but as I remember it I don’t think they even asked me, I’m beyond help! I think they asked you right in front of me, but I don’t recall you jumping at any chance to attend church then or….ever! Face it, you’re just as screwed as me, Mikhail!
That phrase Homer uses to describe Flanders on The Simpsons kept coming to mind that weekend, viz., Churchy Le Femme.
on April 24, 2008 at 8:46 pm6 Style « Larval Subjects .
[...] 25, 2008 Style Posted by larvalsubjects under Politics, Writing Perverse Egalitarianism has an interesting post up on “difficult books”. A taste: I have been thinking along [...]

Friday, February 8, 2008 Do Continental Philosophers Have Arguments? Posted by Roman Altshuler at 10:19 PM Labels: 16 comments:

Troy Polidori said...
Do you think that Wittgenstein's notion of escaping oneself from the bewitchment of language is similar to your idea here? A philosophical problem has the form: I don't know my way about. Could we call this philosophical therapy?
February 9, 2008 4:14 PM
Roman Altshuler said...
There is certainly some similarity here, but I'm suggesting something different from philosophical therapy. The goal of therapy as I understand it, roughly, is to explain the problem away; it is to show that, once some basic terms are understood, there isn't really a problem there at all. I am suggesting, on the other hand, an approach on which one doesn't explain the problem away, but finds it to be expressive of a deeper problem. This kind of therapy doesn't make the problem go away; it shows the problem to be a symptom of a deeper illness, one might say. This is an approach on which philosophy does not solve problems, and also doesn't do away with them. It places them within a wider context, a larger narrative.
February 9, 2008 6:08 PM
Reinis Ivanovs said...
meh, I don't know who's saying that they don't make any arguments, but I know that people are saying that they make less of them, and the ones that they do make are much more muddled
February 10, 2008 2:50 AM
Anonymous said...
I have a radical suggestion: Both continental and analytical philosophers are chiefly interested in signaling that they are smart, or at least--whether they realize it or not—they spend a great deal of time laboring toward this effect. The difference in their styles is mainly a function of the fact that in America "smartness" is associated with a crisper, more explicit style of argumentation than in Europe, hence the differences in style.--M's Bro
February 10, 2008 2:35 PM
Roman Altshuler said...
Shh! Don't give away our secret! (You forgot to mention that in Europe, smartness may also be associated with knowing a lot of names and even some of the work associated with those names, having at least some [literary] style to one's writing, and not repeating things that at least ten articles have already said in the same year...; in the US, smartness is associated with a more egalitarian attempt to write so that [supposedly] a wider audience can understand you, knowing lots of science [because science is Truth and the closer you come to it the more you partake of its essence], and maybe giving the impression that you are expounding a radical new thesis instead of expounding a radical new thesis [since people who do that might come off looking stupid].)Reinis-yeah, that too. But I think different approaches to argument and to the function of philosophy in general can also account for the appearance of muddled arguments (and, of course, if a lot of the arguments don't look like arguments to you, you're more likely to think that there are fewer of them)
February 10, 2008 3:22 PM
Vancouver Philosopher said...
I still think it is the case that there is one proper aim of argumentation, and I still believe that CPers are actually arguing for something. Take your example of Ricoeur's aporetics. Isn't it just that he is arguing definitively for the insolubility of the problem of free-will? It's either that or contextualizing an issue beyond the immediate dialectic in which the problem surfaces is just doing a history of philosophy. Secondly, I used to know a B. Rouss from ephilosopher.com. If it be you, Brian, then hit me up, JediKnight Tage aka Ed of http://philosophicalchasm.blogspot.com/
February 11, 2008 2:22 AM
Roman Altshuler said...
Hi Vancouver, I don't think anything you say really suggests that there is "one proper aim of argumentation." You actually seem to just assume that in the rest of your remark, and then go on to say that either Ricoeur is making an argument, or he is just doing history of philosophy. Let me clarify a misunderstanding: Ricoeur doesn't apply his aporetics to the free will problem (unfortunately); that's just my pet project, so I used it as an example to demonstrate the style (Ricoeur uses it instead to show the insufficiency of various attempts to grasp personal identity). What I want to suggest, though, is that there really are two different ways of making an argument--whether these involve different aims of argumentation, I really don't know. If the aim of an argument is to convince, then yes. If the aim is to clarify the dispute itself, then I'm not sure the analytic mode is generally aimed there (although of course clarifying the problem is part and parcel of analytic writing, I don't think it is the aim of a typical analytic argument. Can you really argue that the problem of free will is insoluble? That depends. If there is one clear problem of free will, then one can't prove that it is insoluble. What one can do, however, is point out that the problem of free will, like any philosophical problem, is at least partly a conceptual problem. And the concepts involved are embedded within contexts of philosophical assumptions and premises and standards of intelligibility. And insofar as these undergo historical change, there problem itself will keep changing. In this sense, one can show that the problem of free will--if it is taken to be not a single problem, but a general term for a class of problems that are context-dependent in their expressions--is insoluble because it is not a single problem to solve. So, what one can do is point to the debate around the problem at a particular point in history, take the debate itself as indicative of the context involved in generating this form of the debate, and attempt to re-interpret the context, with the form of the debate as the guide according to which one makes the context itself intelligible. This is, in some sense, doing history of philosophy. But it is doing history of philosophy as a mode of philosophical argument.
February 11, 2008 2:05 PM
Gary Williams said...
Hey RomanIn one of your comments, you said that the approach you are talking about tries to express a deeper problem instead of explaining the problem away. This makes sense to me, but does it bottom out? Will there always be a deeper problem? You say that the approach places things in a wider context, but it seems like eventually you will either have to solve the problem or dissolve it. I don't see how you can just continually place things in a larger narrative because it eventually you will run out of space, so to speak. There has only been a finite amount of narrative, so it doesn't seem like you can keep going on and on expanding the context wider and wider. Perhaps I am missing something though.
February 11, 2008 7:23 PM
Roman Altshuler said...
Hi Gary, This is definitely a problem I've wondered about. Does the process go on forever? How is that possible?Here's my thought, which is very open to change. I would simply deny the claim that the amount of narrative is finite. It's true that the amount of narrative that has already occurred (i.e., philosophy up to now) is finite. But, much as a story can undergo infinite variation in its telling and re-telling, so the finite narrative becomes infinite in our interpretations and re-interpretations of it. This follows, I think, if we do not assume that there is exactly one correct meaning to any text (and, frankly, I just don't think there's much going for that thesis any longer). This is one side of the issue: the narrative up to now, though finite, becomes infinite in our re-interpretation of it. And then there's the other side: the narrative is constantly growing, with no logical limit. Our re-interpretations of the narrative themselves contribute to a change in the existing narrative, and a further proliferation. So I would say that the narrative is not limited: it keeps changing, both because the way we understand the past of philosophy is open to infinite variation, and because the future of philosophy is infinitely open.My suggestion was that the goal is to find a deeper problem by finding the context in which the surface problem you start with becomes more intelligible; but intelligibility is always context-dependent, so if the context is infinite, then the process can, in principle, go on infinitely. (This involves seeing philosophy as something other than the search for truth, where truth is conceived as the final word on an issue. I don't have much of a problem with this. We can make progress in philosophy without thinking that there is a terminal point.)
February 11, 2008 7:48 PM
Vancouver Philosopher said...
Hello Roman, I guess I did implicitly assume obnoxiously that either Ricoeur's aporetics is an example of an argument meant to convince someone on insolubility on a point, regardless of whether the issue is personal identity or free will. Could we say that the purpose of argumentation is still to convince, but think of convincingness in terms of degrees. In a sense, even in history of philosophy, there are still arguments. I argue for an interpretation I think most salient to Kant's notion of the imagination for instance. I am still making an argument, but the sphere of that argument is only directed to say someone influenced by Allison or Wood on Kant that doesn't follow the Heideggerian/Sallis line of thinking about Kant. When you make an argument to clarify the dispute itself, then what you are doing is showing a failure of a dialectic to take into account something that needs to be accounted for. You are still doing philosophy to convince interlocutors--in this case, it just is all sides not accounting for what's missing. I still think this is compatible with the analytic mode of making an argument. I wonder if we have just reached similar conclusions without realizing it.
February 12, 2008 11:21 PM
Roman Altshuler said...
Dude, did you just lump Heidegger together with Sallis? I agree with most of this, and as I said before, yes, I do think all arguments aim to convince. (And there are definitely arguments, vicious ones, in the history of philosophy! Both about the plausibility of a certain interpretation, and about the plausibility of a certain view. And these are, of course, related.) But I'm a little confused about where you're going with this point.Are you saying that analytic and continental philosophers are just employing different styles of argument because they're speaking to different audiences? Or that the maximal degree of convincingness calls for an argument that attempts to find what both sides are missing?As for whether this is compatible with the analytic style, again, I think it is often done, but on the side, as part of developing a more direct argument for or against a position within the active debate. Maybe there are analytic philosophers who focus on the approach I have in mind. (Sometimes Nagel seems to go in that direction, for example.) But I can't really think of many, and I don't think it's a prominent analytic strategy. Any examples you're thinking of?
February 13, 2008 12:54 AM
Michael Sigrist said...
Roman, Great post, well argued, fun issue. First off, am I missing something, or do you end up suggesting that most analytics use formal argumentation in what is actually a hermeneutic spirit. The aim is not really to convince in a single knock out or even TKO, but to clarify the crux of an issue or to recontextualize a less familiar topic into a more familiar idiom. If so, fine, I certainly agree. But can we conclude from this that they aren't so different after all? Could we not just as well conclude that, while the difference may not be between an argumentative and an interpretive approach, the difference is still large as ever, only within two very different approaches to interpretation? Secondly, I wonder if you let the continentals off the hook too easily. What you describe is certainly how most contintental philosophers would describe what ideally they are up to....but, so many in fact aren't. Much of continental philosophy might be compared to biblical interpretation, where one certainly finds arguments of sorts, but only of the severely question-begging sort. Finally, and leading off from this latter point, while analytic philosophers certainly spend a lot of time on the minutiae of fruitless and pointless arguments, at least they're making arguments, and are therefore less susceptible to outright sophistry.
February 13, 2008 12:15 PM
Roman Altshuler said...
Hey Michael, I don't think I say anything to contradict your second paragraph. Sure, I think a lot of continental philosophy ends up being bad, precisely because there is not attention given to formal argument. Philosophical arguments, not just analytic ones, but arguments throughout the history of philosophy, often have a formal structure, and no hermeneutics can grasp them without a proper grasp of that formal structure. Additionally, I think that mediocre analytic philosophy at least makes clear points, while mediocre continental philosophy is just words arranged in peculiar ways. My point, though, is that continental philosophy (at least of the kind I am pointing to) can be done well, and when it is, its philosophical elements might still be missed by someone looking for a more direct form of argument.About the first paragraph: I don't think I am saying that most analytic philosophers work in a hermeneutic spirit. I would say, rather, that many end up doing some hermeneutics but without a hermeneutic spirit. One obvious reason for this is that philosophical problems and their proposed solutions are treated (at least implicitly) as trans-historical ideal objects, which is anathema to any real hermeneutics. So sure, there are different views of interpretation involved. But I also think the goals to which interpretation is put are very different. So I am actually trying to resist the view that analytic and continental approaches aren't so different after all, and the difference in argumentative and interpretive approaches is an even bigger difficulty for bridgebuilding work than the more obvious differences in language and substantive background assumptions. (By which I mean not assumptions about methodology and interpretation, but assumptions about the correctness of teleology, the threat posed by reductionism, etc.)
February 13, 2008 2:23 PM
Joe said...
How do you suppose this "Continental strategy" fairs against the oft flung accusation of committing the Genetic Fallacy? I suspect that in light of this "Continental strategy," if not many of the conclusions Continental philosophers (and American pragmatists) have made, the genetic fallacy loses some of its rhetorical oomph.
February 16, 2008 3:43 PM
Roman Altshuler said...
Hi Joe,To be honest, I haven't seen the genetic fallacy accusation you mention leveled against continental philosophy, so I don't really know who you have in mind. Let me know. I sometimes suspect that Nietzsche can veer into the genetic fallacy (after all, the details of his genealogy could largely be turned into a story of the discovery of morality, rather than its invention). But phenomenology, critical theory, and (in a certain mode) hermeneutics seem to me to be committed (when done well) precisely to maintaining the validity of truth, meaning, normativity, aesthetic experience, etc. And on the other hand, the genetic fallacy--at least on some readings--is certainly not exclusive to the continental side of things, as the various behaviorist and reductionist programs of the analytic tradition show (my contention in the latest post is precisely that the experimental bent of recent philosophy can be taken in just this direction--holding normativity hostage to discoveries about its supposed origin in psychology).As for the strategy I am suggesting, I don't see how it could be accused of the genetic fallacy at all--the goal isn't to reduce a problem to a deeper problem, but instead to show the validity of the former problem as the expression of underlying philosophical tension. That is, the point of the strategy isn't to show that the problem is invalid, unfruitful, or completely misguided, but rather to bring its validity into clearer relief by showing the background against which the problem arises in the first place.
February 17, 2008 12:17 AM
himanshu damle said...
another major difference could be attributable to being argumentative and defending/refuting arguments. i guess, the mistaken notion given to the continental philosophers is the former. yes, i do completely agree that there is always a flux in the schema constructed by the continental philosophers and hence this is the reason why i propose to call them argumentative. most of the times, the schema is inflationary and hence it becomes difficult to deeply comprehend the problem in easing it. this inflationary narrative might succeed in giving an extensive understanding, but i opine it often is at the cost of intensivity. it plainly becomes a play of centrical and circumferential shifts.maybe, this play is an event only and a possible recourse to escape the allegations made against continental philosophy. himanshu damle
April 10, 2008 10:02 PM

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Articulating Positions (Updated) from Roughtheory.org by N Pepperell In the throes of writing over the weekend, but I wanted to put up a quick pointer to a post from Carl at Dead Voles, who is reflecting on the conversation Daniel and I ... Posted by Tusar N Mohapatra at April 27, 2008 4:47 AM
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Bits and Pieces
* Roman Altshuler on arguments in continental philosophy. * Rebecca recently featured the ontological argument, the cosmological argument, the teleological argument, and the moral argument for God's existence in her Theological Terms ... Posted by Brandon at February 18, 2008 7:07 AM
Argument in Continental Philosophy
Over at The Ends of Thought, Roman Altshuler has written a nice post with the provocative title Do Continental Philosophers Have Arguments?”. Altshuler notes that the perception that continental philosophers don’t engage in argument is ... Posted by N Pepperell at February 10, 2008 1:13 AM

Saturday, April 26, 2008

There are several other genres which have remained unrepresented

Re: Indo-Anglian Mystic Poetry: Miscellanea
by RY Deshpande on Wed 23 Apr 2008 08:46 PM PDT Profile Permanent Link

Taking Prof Goutam Ghosal’s Indo-Anglian Mystic Poetry as the starting point, I picked up first the poets mentioned by him in it and then extended it to others belonging to Sri Aurobindo’s Department of Poetry. I might conclude this present set of postings with a few more assorted representations from those early poets of the Aurobindonian School, mostly those who wrote directly under the guidance of the Master-Poet himself. This short anthology, covering some fifty poems, should perhaps give us a quick idea about the direction in which Sri Aurobindo saw poetry moving as a creative means of expression of the possibilities of the spirit. Not only did he see such future possibilities; he shaped them in a definitive way, that they became attainable when something inner or higher in us can open out to the distant but eager Goddess of Inspiration.

If the mystico-lyrical-symbolistic is more prominent in this compilation, it must be admitted that there are several other genres also which have remained unrepresented. Perhaps these could be taken up as independent attempts to assess, and to indicate, another vigour and vision that the poetry of the spirit is capable of offering to us. The Overhead realms of poetry constitute world after gleaming world and to move in them is to fulfil our authentic creative urge in the truth and beauty and delight of the supreme Speech herself. If something genuine and felicitous should happen in that direction, then the purpose of the anthology could be said to have been well served.

The sciy forum is wide open to such great attempts and it will be wonderful if we have contributions from its members with this objective, it driving our soul and our spirit, contributions original or compilational to promote such perceptions. In the sense of that active participation the sciy will have paved a pioneering path to take the ‘Integral’ itself forward to its meaningful utility and occupation. I believe this is possible and let’s expect that this will happen. ~RYD

Re: Indo-Anglian Mystic Poetry... [New Slide Show]
by ronjon on Thu 24 Apr 2008 02:53 PM PDT Profile Permanent Link

You can see it here: The Pondicherry School of Mystic Poets

Friday, April 25, 2008

Rhinoceros in Auroville

(submitted by Joy) posted by Announcement

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Ezekiel never gives up metre. Like Sri Aurobindo, Ezekiel is actually a spiritual poet

Makarand Paranjape

In a manifesto offered in the introduction to Modern Indo-Anglian Poetry (1959), the first anthology of modernist poetry, Lal divided readers into those who liked Sri Aurobindo and those who couldn't stand him. Though Lal himself seems to have moved closer to the former from being a champion of the latter, this division seems to still persist. It takes quite a bit of experience to realize how deeply entrenched this hatred is.

Mehrotra, always the most candidly intemperate of the modernists, simply says that Sri Aurobindo "spent the last years of his life composing a worthless epic of 24,000 lines." The very dismissive ease and forthrightness of this judgment is what makes it so seductive. If one can, on its strength, avoid the trouble of having to come to terms with the thirty volumes that Aurobindo's collected works occupy, which lazy or superficial undergraduate can resist its temptation?

Of course, the problems with this assertion start with its very grammar. There is something comic about the sentence: why would anybody compose a worthless [my emphasis] epic of 24,000 lines? The very length and seriousness of purpose implied in the information supplied in the statement would appear to contradict the adjective (expletive?) with which Mehrotra prefaces "epic." Doubtless, what Mehrotra really means is that the epic is worthless to him, not necessarily to Sri Aurobindo or to anyone else. But why doesn't he say so in the first place? Why accord an infallible objectivity to what is so blatantly a personal prejudice?

I do not wish to defend either Aurobindo or Savitri against the strictures of the modernists. Indeed, they do not need any such defence: Savitri is by far the most discussed Indian English poem and Sri Aurobindo the most studied of Indian English poets. This evidence is not merely statistical but suggests a history of serious appreciation or and engagement with the poet and his epic. Savitri, moreover, is the only Indian English and probably the only English epic which has acquired the status of a sacred text. Thousands of devotees of Aurobindo all over the world consider it a modern Veda, a book of revelation, something which can alter their consciousness. What all this means at the least is that it is not likely to be a "worthless" poem.

I shall offer two more personal anecdotes to illustrate the modernists' prejudice against Aurobindo. In a seminar in USA2, Shiv K. Kumar once made disparaging comments on Aurobindo and other mystic poets. In the audience was Karin Schomer, the translator of Mahadevi Verma. She took umbrage at his remarks; she offered a heated defence of the kind of poetry Kumar hated. Later, Kumar confessed to me that he had been taken aback by the vehemence of Schomer's defense. What struck me as extraordinary was Kumar's own complacence about his modernist poetics; he was incapable of believing that any sensible person could actually admire Aurobindo's poetry. That he had faced no such serious opposition in India was obvious by his surprise.

Another such incident involves Ezekiel himself. When he took a look at my dissertation "Mysticism in Indian English Poetry," he was surprised to find himself in it. He asked to read the section on himself and then sent it to Commonwealth Quarterly for publication. Later, he told me that of all the poets I had discussed, he was the only worthwhile one! What he didn't say, of course, was that he was the also the only modernist poet in it. I would have thought that he was being facetious except that he went on to repeat his opinions on poets like Aurobindo. "Whenever anyone says anything in favour of Aurobindo or the others, I ask him, `Tell me, do you read Aurobindo.' That clinches the issue." I told Ezekiel that I actually read Aurobindo and even enjoyed him. There was a deathly silence after that.

What I have been trying to suggest through these examples is that it is possible to like modernist poetry without being allergic to Aurobindo or Sarojini Naidu. The modernist either-or option is, ultimately, a false one. The appreciation of modernist poetry and poetics does not necessarily imply a rejection of the nationalist-romantic-idealist-mystic poetic. True, they are naturally opposed, difficult to reconcile, but are they totally incompatible, totally incommensurable? I do not think so. On the contrary, to me they are a part of an ongoing dialectic of Indian culture and sensibility, neither entirely true or false, but both together offering a richer, more complete view of Indian literary history. Indeed, this is the chief thing that distinguishes us from the modernists--at any rate, it distinguishes me from them. Like a child of divorced parents who loves and gets along with both of them, I like both Aurobindo and Ezekiel, both Tagore and Moraes, both Naidu and Mehrotra.

I believe I was not only the first to announce the death of modernism in Indian English poetry, but also to herald the birth of postmodernism. I am afraid both statements have not been well received by the modernists. Ezekiel, responding to the first said that I didn't know what I was talking about while Daruwalla thought postmodernism was, in effect, a lot of nonsense. I do not believe that tradition holds all answers, but I do believe that it must not be discarded. It is a valuable recourse. In literary terms, I want the poetry of Henry Derozio, Toru Dutt, Tagore, Aurobindo, and Naidu alive; I don't want to see it buried.

I have devoted a considerable amount of space in trying to problematize the relationship of the modernist poets with their predecessors. I would now like to focus more sharply on Ezekiel’s own poetry. I believe that Ezekiel’s poetry is much more like that of earlier poets than he ever cared to admit. For instance, like them, Ezekiel never gives up metre, though he is somewhat more selective with rhymes. But most of the poets that follow him dispense with both in favour of free verse. The conventionality of his form is what distinguishes him from most of his peers, except Moraes, and it is actually on this solid metrical foundation that his claims to poetic excellence rest. Ultimately, we cannot escape the fact that poetry is a special use of language. Ezekiel more than most of the modernists excels in the use of measured language...

The error that Indian English poets and critics have repeatedly made is to consider their own language to be the benchmark or even the defining parameter for the arrival or establishment of modernism in India. Ezekiel’s relationship with his poetic predecessors is thus marked by a much greater continuity than is generally understood or acknowledged. This continuity, evident in both the form and content, shows Ezekiel’s verse as far more “conventional” in his use of rhyme and metre than that of the later poets. Therefore, his view of poetry as measured language is closer to that of the earlier poets than to the later ones.

In addition, like, say, Sri Aurobindo, the great stumbling block and bete noir of all modernist versifiers and anthologists, Ezekiel is actually a spiritual poet. Throughout his poetry runs the quest both for the nature of the ultimate reality and for some kind of self-realization. Furthermore, that this quest is best articulated in just, proportionate, and uncontaminated perception—seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, and tasting “correctly.” The correctness in neither political nor religious nor social, but is certainly ethical and metaphysical. Ezekiel’s poetry suggest that if only we could see clearly and express ourselves lucidly, we would know ourselves, our world, and also God. Even his overtly erotic poems are really about confessing, owning up, and apprehending the “truth” about his relationships and experiences.

So, one might ask, in closing, what is different about Ezekiel’s poetry? Here one would immediately agree with the conventional wisdom of most of the modernists that the language that he uses is more everyday, colloquial, the lived idiom of contemporary life, not bookish, abstract, or bombastic. One would also agree that Ezekiel’s view of life lacks the sense of grand narratives or oracular pronouncements. It is in the everyday, humdrum, even sordid urban landscape of the postcolonial metropolis that he seeks to realize the higher truths of life. I would add that even his spirituality is different. It lacks the great affirmations of Tagore or Sri Aurobindo but is instead marked by a humility and modesty characterized by a reduced set of circumstances and a circumscribed quest. No longer is the vision one of saving humanity or saving a nationality, but simply of surviving, following a vocation, living authentically. The preoccupation with the means and ends of perception is reminiscent of another anti-traditionalist teacher whom Ezekiel does not mention but must have been familiar with: J. Krishnamurti. It must also bear the influence of European intellectual currents such as existentialism.

I would suggest that the times were different and so Ezekiel’s poetry had to be different. From a huge collective enterprise which welded a whole nation together, we now move to a more fragmentary and disillusioned era in which every man and woman must look out for himself or herself. The grand purpose is gone, as are the magnificent promises. Instead, you have a society inadequately prepared for the modern world but plagued with the aftereffects of centuries of subjugation and economic exploitation. Gandhi, Aurobindo, Ramana, Sarojini Naidu and a whole host of other great men and women are dead. Poetry is more beleaguered than ever and must find a way to survive. English itself is under siege. Some of this instability is reflected in all the different jobs that Ezekiel did before he “settled down” as Professor of English, University of Bombay. It was his stature as a writer that got him the job because, after all, he never did a PhD. Ezekiel’s career shows a tremendous dedication to his calling as a poet, a heroic persistence against all odds. It is a more quiet heroism, no doubt, but one this is no less worth celebrating and remembering than the more public and spectacular accomplishments of the great men and women of an earlier era.

I shall end by submitting that rather than being a “new” poet, starting a new trend, Ezekiel may be seen actually as a bridge between the old and the new, as a person who carried forward the “best” of what he inherited to a new generation which he fostered through his artistry and leadership. More Indian than foreign, more an insider than outsider, more Hindu than Jewish, more a part of the majority than a minority, Ezekiel actually embodies and carries forward the great themes of a very old tradition of poetry, the theme of finding the meaning of what it means to be embodied, to be human, to be a seeker after truth, to love (wo)man and to love God, to want to lead the good life, which is also the virtuous life, to want to find one’s happiness but also to do something for one’s fellow-human beings, to be rooted, located, to have an identity, to belong, but at the same time, to be a part of a larger world of people, ideas, and art, to be national but also to be cosmopolitan, in brief to be a modern Indian without entirely losing one’s sense of one’s traditions.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sri Aurobindo'a writings have begun re-occupying a large place

Anthology of Indian English Poetry, An - Page 75
Ezekiel's remark about Sri Aurobindo's poetry is significant: 'In my opinion, anyone who thinks highly of Sri Aurobindo as a poet has no feeling for the ...

English Language Teaching in India: Issues and Innovations by Rama Kant Agnihotri, Amrit Lal Khanna - Foreign Language Study - 1995 - 344 pages Page 125
... from Mulk Raj Anand to Anita Desai for fiction, and from the works of Aurobindo Ghosh and Mahatma Gandhi to Minoo Masani and Khushwant Singh for prose. ...

The Madness of the Saints: Ecstatic Religion in Bengal - Page 311 by June McDaniel - Religion - 1989 - 343 pages
Sri Anirvan, Letters from a Bdul: Life within Life (Calcutta: Sri Aurobindo ...

Journal of Dharma by Dharma Research Association - Religions - 1975 Page 91
AR Mohapatra, Philosophy of Religion: An Approach to World Religions, Sterling pub. ... viz., of Max Muller, Swami Dayananda and Aurobindo. ...

The Times of India Directory and Year Book Including Who's who - Page 54 by The Times of India, Bombay - Pakistani periodicals - 1984
Sri Aurobindo'a writings have begun re-occupying a large place In the esteem of the public. Among Moslem writers. ...

Accent - Page 11
Sri Aurobindo KP Kesava Menon CONTENTS Onward March to Super mini) A Lesson from .Japan Science and Spirituality A Symposium Control the Divergent Human ...

Contemporary Indian English Verse: An Evaluation - Page 302 by Chirantan Kulshrestha - Indic poetry (English) - 1980 - 314 pages
... PC, Indo-English Poetry : A Study of Aurobindo and Four Others. Gauhati : Gauhati University Press, 1969. Krishnamurthi, MG, "Arun Kolatkar", Quest, ...

Indian Poetry in English - Page 9 by Hari Mohan Prasad - Indic poetry (English) - 1983 - 254 pages
Tagore wrote poetry in incantatory prose that combines the mystique of music with the music of the mystical. Aurobindo invests English language with a new ...

Quest - Page 5 by Indian Committee for Cultural Freedom - India - 1976
... Business Manager: Miss Sheela Singh MEN AND IDEAS Sri Aurobindo 9 CLAUDE ...

The Chariot Page 52
step towards the light of tomorrow taking with her the rest of the world. World is celebrating the birth centenary of Sri Aurobindo on August 15, 1972. ...

The Literary Landscape: Essays on Indian Fiction & Poetry in English - Page 156by C. N. Srinath - Indic literature (English) 20th century History and criticism - 1986 - 172 pages
To say all this is to invoke what Aurobindo in his much neglected Future Poetry envisages the noble role of the poet as seer for he alone can see and with ...

Contemporary Indo-English Verse - Page 165 by Amar Nath Dwivedi - Indic poetry (English) - 1984
Sri Aurobindo and others, although, of course, with a sense of revolt against its preceding tradition.3 A new creative force4 with a remarkable sense of ...

Littcrit - Page 81
... Manmohan Ghose, Rabindranath Tagore, Sri Aurobindo, Sarojini Naidu, Nissim Ezekiel, Kamala Das, P. Lai, AK Ramanujan, Kaki N. Daruwala, Shiv K Kumar, ...

Mother India - Page 639 by Sri Aurobindo Ashram
... poetry which RK Singh nonchalantly and most ineptly compares with that of Tagore and Sri Aurobindo (p. 13). For Bhatnagar Krishna Srinivas is ...

The Journal of Indian Writing in English by G. S. Balarama Gupta Page 64
... says Sri Aurobindo. ' The language of the Veda itself it sruti, a rhythm not composed by the intellect but heard, '» divine Word that came vibrating out ...

The Miscellany by Writers Workshop (Calcutta, India) - Indic literature (English) - 1968
Page 6
Just issued is a disc of his readings from Sri Aurobindo. * j. c w. SMITH was born and educated in India. WW is planning a book of his verse soon ; writes ...

Interrogating Social Capital: The Indian Experience - Page 158 by Dwaipayan Bhattacharyya - Social Science - 2004 - 335 pages
... Ramakrishna Paramhansa, Sarada Ma and Sri Aurobindo. In West Bengal the first three found an institutional presence in the educational and philanthropic ...

Contemporary World by S.N. Sen - 2006
Page 174
Aurobindo who contributed some literary masterpieces - The Life Divine, Savitri, The Ideal of Human Unity - wrote in English till his death in 1950. ...

Monthly List of Periodical Articles on the Far East, South Asia, and South ...East Asia
Page 11
PEW, 12, 1962, 153-1 61 Organ (TW) The status of the Self in Aurobindo' s metaphysics - and some. questions. PEW, 12, 1962, 135-151 Panikkar (R.) Hinduism ...

Phakirmohan, His Life & Literature - Page 65 by Basanta Kumar Satpathy, Brajanātha Ratha, Fakir Mohan Senapati - Authors, Oriya - 1984 - 104 pages
The Indian national consciousness had already experienced Tilak and Sri Aurobindo by that time. But these were closed books then as far as Orissa and its ...

Musliṃ samudāyavuṃ samskkāravuṃ - Page 76 by Baccana, Ajitakumāra, Dominique Ngoie-Ngalla, A. Pampapathy Rao, Rā. Irākavaiyaṅkār, Sayyid Muḥammad K̲h̲ān̲ Rind, ʻAlī Javād Zaidī, C. K. Kareem, Kē. Rāmanātan̲, Sitakant Mahapatra, Thayat Sankaran - 1983
Sri Aurobindo fortunately escaped from this predicament, not because his merit ... The modicum of success which Sri Aurobindo achieved in his ...

Indian National Bibliography by India Central Reference Library, National Library (India) - India - 1958 Page 543
(O-72) 930 Das, Manoj Sri Aurobindo, in the first decade of the century. Pondicherry, Aurobindo ashram, 1972. 8.00. ...

Index India - Page 383 by Rajasthan University Library - India - 1967
Mystical kinship between Puran Singh and Walt Whitman. SIR 37(422) 89F 26-32. PROSE Aurobindo PREMA NANDAKUMAR. Aurobindo as a writer of English prose. ...

The Roll of Honour: Anecdotes of Indian Martyrs - Page 826 by Kali Charan Ghosh - India - 1965 - 829 pages
... Kara Kahini AUROBINDO ...

An Anthology of Commonwealth Poetry - Page 263 by C. D. Narasimhaiah - Commonwealth poetry (English) - 1990 - 264 pages
Poetry Aurobindo, Savitri, Pondicherry 1970 Aurobindo, Last Poems, Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1952 Das Kamala, The Old Playhouse and Other Poems. ...

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Spirituality in Sri Aurobindo’s poetic design is not something abstract, nor is it intellectual or philosophical, but vivid, living and concrete

The Poetics Of Sri Aurobindo
Sri Aurobindo’s Poetics R. K. SINGH

Sri Aurobindo does not endorse intellectualism -- richness of images and symbols without the corresponding essence of experience of ideas and feelings that are in the spirit. The poetic vision of life is not a critical or intellectual or philosophical view of it, “but a soul-view, seizing by the inner sense.”31 The intensity of rhythm and word is important but what is more important is the intensity of vision, the classic quality of “comprehensiveness”, concealing “the whole genius of a people,” to use T.S. Eliot’s phrase.32

Spirituality in Sri Aurobindo’s poetic design is not something abstract, nor is it intellectual or philosophical, but vivid, living and concrete and the use of images and symbols is inevitable in that it is the “straight way to avoid abstractness.” Formulated by the mind, images and symbols are the harmonizing elements in the structure of any poetic creation. The objects and ideas contemplated by the creative mind turn into symbol standing for something different from and beyond themselves, as Kant also points out in this Critique of Judgment .33

The poet realizes his images as very real and concrete to express his spiritual vision.The aesthetics of Sri Aurobindo propounds not only the dynamic mythic quality of languages but also its mythopoeic possibility as an index of cultural and spiritual evolution. Poetry-making is a symbolic act as long as it is a means of spiritual upliftment, the raising of consciousness to the ideal divine and the heightening and concentrating of simple sense experiences in truth. The poetic imagination, to quote Northrop Frye, “presents us with a vision, not of personal greatness of a poet, but of something impersonal and far greater: the vision of a decisive act of spiritual freedom, the vision of the recreation of man.”34

It is archetypal to the extent it concentrates on the motifs of totality, spirituality, universality, mythic consciousness and vision; symbols and images that appeal to the soul-culture of man, that bring out the spirit of the universe and the inner life, the essence of the eternal in the synthetic or harmonizing vision of the poets: poetry as the imaginative projection of man’s desires revealed in the form and expression of the poet. Symbol in Sri Aurobindo’s ideal is the natural body of the inner truth or vision, itself an intimate part of the experience. It is no intellectual abstraction but the native medium for the expression of the experiences of things realized inwardly. It induces inseeing and brings the high feeling of significance to what would otherwise be mere ordinary perception of the world. He wants an “imaginative use of tale and legend”35 and aspires after a “noble kind of poetry” with “the power to lay a great hold on the ancient figures and re-create them to be symbols of a new significance.”36

His concept of intuitive- spiritual poetry, that is the product of a direct spiritual perception and vision, stresses the total image which alone can bring out the beauty and power of thought and make it one with life. The spiritual reverie blends with the poetical, the personal fuses into the universal, and the self-knowledge leads to the cosmic knowledge.Poetry is the rhythmic voice of life, but it is one of the inner and not one of the surface voices. The creative-interpretative use of myths, legends and symbols opens up “new realms of vision, new realms of being” and not mere crude actuality of life.

Sri Aurobindo drives at the interpretative function of the poetic imagination which is identical with the power of representation in terms of images and symbols. He uses myths to manipulate a relationship between antiquity and contemporaneity, and at the same time as a symbolic device to seek self-knowledge and express the emotions experienced in the process of intuitive perception. As an evolving form myth adapts to the inner voice of the poet, as Lillian Feder confirms. Sri Aurobindo believes that the use of myths and legends will reconstruct the world for us and interpret the realities behind the veil.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Sri Aurobindo currently ranked: 835; Ezra Pound: 854

20 entries tagged: poet
William Shakespeare currently ranked: 23
Robert Frost currently ranked: 67
William Blake currently ranked: 85
Oscar Wilde currently ranked: 86
Robert Louis Stevenson currently ranked: 111
William Butler Yeats currently ranked: 197
Edgar Allan Poe currently ranked: 205
e e cummings currently ranked: 207
TS Eliot currently ranked: 217
Bob Marley currently ranked: 334
Niccolo Machiavelli currently ranked: 700
Lucretius currently ranked: 749
Sri Aurobindo currently ranked: 835
Ezra Pound currently ranked: 854
Francis Scott Key currently ranked: 1133
Henry Rollins currently ranked: 1155
Michael Madsen currently ranked: 1245
Pablo Neruda currently ranked: 1276
Ovid currently ranked: 1451
Lope Felix de Vega Carpio currently ranked: 1476

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Monday, April 07, 2008

Beyond the Silence — Two Swans

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Now I am burdened by biases created by people in last hundred years

Book Review: Moby Dick from Desicritics by Vivek Sharma

On the whole, Moby Dick is a readable book, for it does contain some remarkable passages. With some editing, it could have risen in my estimation, and fared better in the era before symbolists explained that what is presented is not as important, as what metaphors, what allusions, (what illusions) it can inspire. Since the book is sold as the battle between the whale and Captain Ahab, I must add that the face-off between these occurs only in the last thirty pages of a six hundred and fifty-five page version I read. The build-up to the battle begins so far into the novel, that by then most people who read for readings sake, would have given up. The reader is as exhausted as maybe Melville was when he brought his epic struggle of writing this to an end.

Surprisingly, while I did find that I had marked at least hundred pages as worth revisiting (and that in my typical estimation makes it an awesome novel), I was more disappointed than not, after finishing the novel. Even in translation, the Russians and the French find favor from me and I feel transformed after reading them. I prefer and prescribe Lawrence, Maugham, Hemingway, Nabokov, Victor Hugo, Virgina Woolf, Dickens, Joyce, Marquez, Tolstoy, Tagore, Dostovesky, Prem Chand, Pamuk, Gogol, Austen, Forster, Rushdie, and many more over Melville. Be it for entertainment, word play, historical or mythical content or for sheer imagery or all together, I will recommend at least a hundred novels that must enter your reading room before this Whale rams its way there.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Nirmala Seshadri & Neewin Hershall in Auroville

ADISHAKTI Laboratory for Theatre Arts Research presents CROSSROADS JOURNEYS AND TRANSFORMATIONS THROUGH LIFE AND DANCE By Nirmala Seshadri & Neewin Hershall At Adishakti, Sir Ratan Tata Koothu Kovil (Auroville – On the Edayanchavadi Road, Opposite Hope Auroville) 6.30 pm, Sunday 13th April 2008

An experiment in which the traditional dance repertoire is viewed through a different contextual lens; where the parts of the repertoire connect into a larger conceptual framework, allowing for other forms such as film and visual art to enter. Also an exploration of the gender equation; human emotions and angst through mathematical forms. The coming together of two dancers. From Singapore, from Kerala. The synergy. The blending of their artistic thoughts and energies. The eternal journey of differences, joinings. Of meetings and partings. From an undistinguishable point emerges man and woman, two aspects of Humanity. In form and shape they are different; they take different paths, have different emotional and intellectual hues, yet they meet, or rather they have to meet.

  • Is there a possibility for a better understanding by exploring and analysing the intrinsic nature of men and women?

To know the differences at a deeper level and to join together with understanding and love. To understand is to change, to change is to move forward, to move forward is to move away from stagnation and regression. This work has been conceived and choreographed by Nirmala Seshadri (recipient of the Singapore National Arts Council’s Young Artist Award) and Neewin Hershall a graduate of Kalakshetra. For more details call 91 0413 262 2287/ 262 2402

Friday, April 04, 2008

Shattuck's Nineteen Theses on Literature, a sort of manifesto for studying the classics

Literature in General
I. A real world of material things, sometimes called nature, exists around us. Nature includes us, and we share it imperfectly with one another through perception, action, memory, language, love, and wonder.
II. Material nature has gradually helped shape human behavior and consciousness into patterns we recognize as cultures and as common sense. Across millions of years under a great variety of social behaviors, we have evolved a fairly stable sociogenetic compound we refer to as human nature. Human nature contains an elusive element of freedom: freedom from blind chance and determinism, freedom to choose our actions.
III. There may be more than material nature and human nature. Words like spiritual and transcendent and ineffable may refer to more than mere yearnings. Much around us remains unknown.
IV. Works of literature, through their amalgam of representation and imagination, of clarity and mystery, of the particular and the general, offer revealing evidence about material nature and human nature and whatever may lie beyond. This is why we read and study and discuss literary works.
V. Literature ranges from simple songs and sayings to elaborate and extended tales of human deeds. The most compelling literature concerns persons whose feelings, thoughts, and actions engage us in the lived time of mortality. Ideas and abstractions, which systematically separate themselves from persons and from time, do not form the essence of literature and do not surpass it.
VI. Works of literature are written by individual authors using an existing language with reference to material nature and human nature. The doctrine known as textuality makes a triple denial of these entities. Textuality denies the existence of the natural world, of literature, and of authors.
VII. No author has a claim to final authority. However, we do well to acknowledge, as all cultures do, sheer seniority. Works that have survived for centuries cannot be dismissed out of hand as stiflingly traditional, as part of the status quo, needing above all to be usurped by the modern.
VIII. In order to affirm literature in its full humanist sense, let us eschew the freestanding word text. Its indiscriminate use today provides evidence of deadening stylistic conformity. Rather, let us take advantage of the full range of terms like book, work, poem, play, novel, essay, passage, chapter, and the like. There is no need to modify serviceable expressions like "the text of" a work, and "sacred texts." But let us refrain from endorsing, indirectly and inadvertently, the doctrine of textuality by chanting "text" in every other line of what we say and write.
IX. Like our terrestrial environment, our literary, intellectual, and moral environment needs to be wisely cultivated and protected. We have as many strip miners and clear-cutters operating in the areas of literature, philosophy, and history as we have operating on the planet Earth. You know their names and their schools. Some of them believe that we who devote ourselves to literature and inquiry are an endangered species—and should fade away. We, for our part, are resolved to survive and to flourish.
Interlude—Partially Plagiarized
X. "Our lives are a fierce attempt to find an aspect of this world not open to interpretation" (David Mamet, Kafka's Grave).
XI. In the fullness of time a poet-oracle came forth upon the mountaintop, whence one could see a great distance in all directions. To the innumerable questions put to this fierce yet gentle seer, only two answers have come down to us:
1. "Everything exists in order to end up in a book."
2. "Nothing will survive unless it has been uttered."
XII. To those preparing to be shipwrecked on a desert island, I offer a miniaturized library of world literature that can be memorized in a few days. It consists of 3,001 bulls—not Papal: Irish. Bulls combine succinct style, compacted logic, and a sharp (if blunted) point; for example:
At your age Mozart was dead. Reader's report to a textbook publisher: "This book does nothing forthe nonreading student." No one goes to that restaurant anymore. It's too crowded. We teach what we hope to learn. Count no man happy till he dies. Freedom is the absence of choice. Stop it some more. I can never kiss her properly. Her face always gets in the way. He died cured. Don't go near the water till you've learned to swim. This book fills a badly needed gap.
XIII. The world scoffs at old ideas. It distrusts new ideas. It loves tricks.
XIV. Everything has been said. But nobody listens. Therefore it has to be said all over again—only better. In order to say it better, we have to know how it was said before.
XV. A friend in Missouri recently sent me a book-length manuscript. In the past, she has written intense studies of the relation between German and French philosophy as it has influenced literary theory since 1950. In her letter, my friend declared that she has undergone a profound change of heart. She now rejects the reigning schools of literary theory and attacks them in this manuscript. It is time for a more direct and less abstract approach to literature. Would I write an introduction to her book?
My friend's new book vehemently rebuts Heidegger and Adorno, Barthes and Derrida on their own ground. It reads like her earlier books—with all the signs changed. She has without question changed sides; she has not left the battlefield. As before, her discussions do not refer to any primarily literary works. The only authors she mentions from before 1950 are Plato, Aristotle, Kant, and Hegel.
I wrote my friend that I applaud her change of heart. When is she going to change her reading accordingly? I could not write an introduction to a book still transfixed by her earlier theoretical concerns, even though she has joined the other side.
I did not write to my friend that I would like to know the titles of the books she keeps within easy reach around her desk or workstation. Does she still work surrounded by Saussure and Foucault? Or does she keep beside her again now the works she loved as a graduate student: Stendhal and Balzac, George Eliot and Dickens, Hawthorne and Melville?
XVI. In literary study as in everyday life, we have entered the Age of Appliances. More and more scholars and critics write and teach by applying an ideology or a methodology to a cultural "text." This reliance on appliances tends to eliminate the experience and the love of literature.
Literature in Education
XVII. We have brought ourselves to great perplexity about the basic role of education. Should education socialize the young within an existing culture and offer them the basic means to succeed in that culture? Or should education give to the young the means to challenge and overthrow the existing culture, presumably in order to achieve a better life? Here I shall appeal to analogy.
Almost immediately after fertilization, the human embryo sets aside a few cells that are sheltered from the rest of the organism and from the environment. These cells retain a special ability to divide by meiosis into haploid cells needed for sexual reproduction. Our gonads represent the most stable and protected element in the body and are usually able to pass on unchanged to the next generation the genetic material we were born with. In this way, the sins of fathers and mothers during their lifetime are not visited upon their children. Except for radiation and a few diseases, the life we live does not affect our gonads.
No such biological process is built into cultures. But all cultures have discovered something similar—an activity, sometimes developed into an institution, we call education. By education, we pass on to the young the customs, restrictions, discoveries, and wisdom that have afforded survival so far.
There is good reason to maintain that, unlike many other institutions—political, social, and artistic—which may criticize and rebel against the status quo, education should remain primarily a conservative institution, like our gonads. We are overloading education when we ask it to reform society, to redesign culture, and to incorporate the avant-garde and bohemia into its precincts. In a free society, original and disaffected minds will always find a platform. The university need not provide the principal home for political, social, and artistic dissidents. The primary mission of a university is the transmission of a precious heritage. As the heritage is passed along, both teachers and students will test it, criticize it, and seek to improve it. That healthy modification should not supplant the essential process of transmission.
XVIII. Out of the 1960s and 1970s, one item we should not forget is the counter slogan to relevance. It reads: Curriculum kills. There was great merit in the nineteenth-century ground rule for college programs that specified: no living authors. Students can read them perfectly well on their own. Why invite stuffy old professors to paint contemporary authors over with interpretations and theories? We need scholars in the classroom to help students with the genuine otherness of the past. We need cultivated readers and discriminating critics to deal with contemporary literature. But not in the classroom. Curriculum kills.
XIX. In planning the day-to-day work of education, we shall forever be selecting curricula and programs. In so doing, let us desist from referring to "the canon," or canons or—God save us—canonicity. The term canon was smuggled out of theology into education and literature only a few years ago by those who desperately need something to attack and subvert, something to transgress and deconstruct. Otherwise, what would they do? But they are talking about a figment of their own making. Who knows if Pilgrim's Progress or The Parallel Lives or Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea is in the canon? No one. We deal primarily with the curriculum that lies before us in the courses we teach. Here lies our path through knowledge, a path we may choose over and over again, like love in marriage. Our love of literature does not remain the same. Yet its constancy sustains us. posted by WH @ 3:17 PM 4 comments links to this post Integral Options Cafe

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Women can read this work and feel, for once, that they are not left out of a patriarchal spiritual path

A gnostic, inspiring, uplifting, life-transforming epic poem., June 20, 1999 By A Customer

This more-than-700-page poem in iambic pentameter expounds virtually every aspect of Sri Aurobindo's clarification and modernization of the ancient Vedic-Yogic spiritual path. It is both didactic and intimately inspiring, including tender scenes between Satyavan and Savitri, the hero and heroine of the poem. It is unique in spiritual literature of its era in that the pronouns "he" and "she" with their correlatives appear in approximately equal proportions. Women can read this work and feel, for once, that they are not left out of what has seemed too often a patriarchal spiritual path. Sri Aurobindo is not only the finest modern expositor of yoga, in a potent version which he called Purna Yoga, or Integral Yoga, but a brilliant intellectual with competence in classical and modern languages.

His semi-Shakespearean prose brings to life, in this book which is almost a scripture for his followers, the convincing architectonic philosophy he expounds lucidly in The Life Divine, his other major tome. The Mother, the French woman whose original name was Mira Alfassa Richard, his chaste yogic consort for about the last twenty-five years of his life, has said that to read Savitri is to be doing yoga. I feel while I am perusing it that Sri Aurobindo is in communication with me, and attempting, as only a Master of Yoga can, to help me over the hard places and even "operate on" me spiritually to correct my all-too-human imperfections. I can't praise Savitri too highly. Comment Permalink

beyond the best in english literature, November 23, 1998 By A Customer

This is the one book to treasure above all, it has the power to transport you to realms beyond human imagination. The mantric quality of the words resonates within leaving a impression that permeates all activities. Based on an ancient Hindu legend,Savitri represents the Divine Shakti(power) that manifests on earth as a result of her father's,King Ashwapati's yoga. In effect this is also the yoga of Sri Aurobindo, related in prose form of poetry. Encompasses all human experience within its 23,000+ lines. "A nectar of honey in the combs of god", in Sri Aurobindo's own words. Comment Permalink