Google+ Followers

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

C for Conditioning: Language & Mind

Brain pushes other organs on periphery because it has Mind which has Language

"C" for Conditioning: The conditioning of Mind by Language

(It is intended to blog small write-ups on Language & Mind in English alphabetical order. Here is with 'C'.)

Camera is an aspect of technology which does not allow us to have complete view of reality. The frame captured by camera, leaves out or blacks out several things surrounding the focus of lens.
Thus, the visual image or moving picture has the limitation. It does not or rather let us say 'can not' view reality from all possible perspectives and thus can not show us the real picture of the event / world.
It's not only with Media, it is with WORDS / Language also. Media uses this power of Language

It is similar to candle / lamp (dipak). The fire at the wick of candle or lamp (dipak) 'seems' to brighten the darkness. It gives us an illusion of reality. It makes us believe that we can 'see' things because its light brightens the darkness. But, in reality, it blinds us with its dazzle. Apart from the darkness kept under and around its light, it does not allow us to perceive the reality as our eyes gets dazzled in the glare of the light.

Isn't this true about 'words'?
Aren't words in the language, keeps us away from the reality?
It seems that the language (words) takes us towards reality, the truth. But like camera or candle, isn't it dazzling our mind?
Thus, as it is necessary to break free from the illusion of reality in image or moving picture or the brightened darkness, it is also necessary to break free from the illusion of words / language.
There is darkness beneath and surrounding the word. The meaning is not only what words show us. But there is something real in what word hides. Need to perceive, not what is revealed, but what is concealed. Language does not reveal, it conceals.
It may be argued that as human beings began to civilize itself, it needed to move away from nature and be cultured. Language is a part of being cultured and civilized. The cultured and civilized being requires to learn to art of concealing. Thus, the language becomes an inevitable part of human civilization.
It is essential for us to understand that language does not communicate, it conditions our mind.
And . . . if you think i am wrong, it proves that all these words used here do not communicate anything.
And  . . . if  u think its quite ture, you are conditioned, to think so! These words conditioned you to believe in it.
It is truth unbearable that we can't think beyond mind. Because we think with mind, we can't think out of box (mind).
Rodin's Thinker
Here are some of the presentations which tries to justify this argument:



Language as Technopoly: Invisible Technologies from Dilip Barad

Do you agree that we feel, experience, see, perceive world, universe, our surrounding through language? We may counter argue, it is not so, it is rather 'expression' of what we have felt, experienced, seen or perceived through language.
But
the question is: 'Would it be different, had we lived with different set of signs (words / language)?

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Mapping 21st Century Skills: English

We are in the mid of second decade of 21st century. Two decades back, the discussing about this century during final years of 20th century was characterized with talks about self-doubt and decadence. As all apprehensions about the coming times have gone with the wind, this also has not materialized into any sort of decadence or dissolution. Life moves on. Life has moved on. Life is moving on, in a rather better way than in previous centuries.



However, with changing times, we have to unlearn to relearn. Alvin TAlvin Toffler is also frequently cited as stating: "Tomorrow's illiterate will not be the man who can't read; he will be the man who has not learned how to unlearn." The words came from Herbert Gerjuoy, whom Toffler cites in full as follows: "The new education must teach the individual how to classify and reclassify information, how to evaluate its veracity, how to change categories when necessary, how to move from the concrete to the abstract and back, how to look at problems from a new direction — how to teach himself." (Tofler)
Thus, it becomes inevitable to think of 21st century as a sort of new chapter in the history of Time; it becomes necessary for academicians to research and search new skills necessary to make life better in 21st century; it becomes mandatory for teachers to inculcate these skills among the learners.


I would like to share this 21st Century Skills Map which is the result of hundreds of hours of research, development and feedback from educators and business leaders across the nation (USA). The Partnership between 21stcenturyskills.org and National Council of Teachers of English has come up with interesting map of these skills. It may sound easy to identify 21st century skills but what is very difficult is to define and map these skills in crystal clear terms. 


Let us see how they have identified key 21st century skills for the English teachers to incorporate with their core subject. Let us also see how skills are defined:


  • Creativity and Innovation: Demonstrating originality and inventiveness in work * Developing, implementing and communicating new ideas to others * Being open and responsive to new and diverse perspectives • Acting on creative ideas to make a tangible and useful contribution to the domain in which the innovation occurs.


    • Critical Thinking & Problem Solving: Exercising sound reasoning in understanding • Making complex choices and decisions • Understanding the interconnections among systems • Identifying and asking significant questions that clarify various points of view and lead to better solutions • Framing, analyzing and synthesizing information in order to solve problems and answer questions.
    • Communication:  Articulating thoughts and ideas clearly and effectively through speaking and writing.
    • Collaboration:  Demonstrating the ability to work effectively with diverse teams • Exercising flexibility and willingness to be helpful in making necessary compromises to accomplish a common goal • Assuming shared responsibility for collaborative work.
    • Information Literacy: Accessing information efficiently and effectively, evaluating information critically and competently and using information accurately and creatively for the issue or problem at hand • Possessing a fundamental understanding of the ethical/legal issues surrounding the access.
    • Media Literacy: Understanding how media messages are constructed, for what purposes and using which tools, characteristics and conventions • Examining how individuals interpret messages differently, how values and points of view are included or excluded and how media can influence beliefs and behaviors • Possessing a fundamental understanding of the ethical/legal issues surrounding the access and use of information.
    • ICT Literacy:  Using digital technology, communication tools and / or networks appropriately to access, manage, integrate, evaluate, and create information in order to function in a knowledge economy • Using technology as a tool to research, organize, evaluate and communicate information, and the possession of a fundamental understanding of the ethical/legal issues surrounding the access and use of information.
    • Flexibility and Adaptability: Adapting to varied roles and responsibilities • Working effectively in a climate of ambiguity and changing priorities.
    • Initiative & Self-direction: • Monitoring one’s own understanding and learning needs • Going beyond basic mastery of skills and/or curriculum to explore and expand one’s own learning and opportunities to gain expertise • Demonstrating initiative to advance skill levels towards a professional level • Defining, prioritizing and completing tasks without direct oversight • Utilizing time efficiently and managing workload • Demonstrating commitment to learning as a lifelong process.
    • Social & Cross-cultural Skills:  • Working appropriately and productively with others • Leveraging the collective intelligence of groups when appropriate • Bridging cultural differences and using differing perspectives to increase innovation and the quality of work.
    • Productivity & Accountability: Setting and meeting high standards and goals for delivering quality work on time • Demonstrating diligence and a positive work ethic (e.g., being punctual and reliable).
    • Leadership & Responsibility:  Using interpersonal and problem-solving skills to influence and guide others toward a goal • Leveraging strengths of others to accomplish a common goal • Demonstrating integrity and ethical behavior • Acting responsibly with the interests of the larger community in mind.

    • Toffler, Alvin (1970). Future Shock. New York: Random House. p. 367.

    Wednesday, 1 April 2015

    Kamala: Stranger to Herself

    Kamala: Stranger to Herself



    Abstract:
    The article attempts to view kamala Das as an identity that is stranger to herself in her poems. Critics have termed her as one of the best voices in Indian poetry where feminine sensibility finds its best expression. This article looks at Kamala from psycho-linguistic point of view and tries to exemplify that her identity is lost in the strangeness of language. Another’s language, man’s language has failed her is her attempt to reveal her true feminine identity. She is nothing more than stranger to herself. Taking help of Julia Kristeva and Lacan’s theory of Otherness of Language, the writer has aimed to prove his point with the help of several poems written by Kamala Das.
    How to cite this article:
    MLA Citation:
    Barad, Dilip. “Kamala Das: Stranger to Herself.” Charisma of Kamala Das. Ed. T. Sai Chandra Mouli. New Delhi: Gnosis, 2010. Print

    K R S Iyengar (677) puts Kamala Das under the title of ‘New’ poets in his comprehensive and masterly survey of the whole body of writing in the English language by Indian writers. The fifth edition of the book entitled Indian Writing in English was published in 1985. For last two and half decade, Kamala Das still remains ‘New’ and strikingly fresh poet to the Twenty First century reader. Her poetry spoke with fierce and unsparing honesty about the difficulties of being a woman and a wife in a time and for a culture which had trained women to a long tradition of silence. (Mehrotra 251). With all her honesty and ‘Newness’, Kamala remained stranger to her own identity. In her real life, Kamala ‘Nair’ by birth, became ‘Das’ after marriage, ‘Madhavikutty’ as a bilingual write and later on ‘Suraiya’ after converting to Muslim religion. Her search for true self-identity never ended. In her poems also the same striving for self-identity is reflected. The problem with Kamala Das the poet is the problem of any or all female writers. Any female writer, be it poet or novelist, face same dilemma when it comes to express their genuine self with sincerity. The dilemma leads towards anguish and anxiety. The dilemma is because of the language they use to express their sensibility. The language is such a tool, which on one hand helps to given vent to our emotions and feelings; on the other, it is the weapon which kills genuine expression of feminine sensibility. The language which is male oriented and patriarchal in its nature does not allow freedom of expression to feminine sensibility. Kamala Das is almost frantic to own this language:
    The language I speak
    Becomes mine, its distortions, its queerness
    All mine, mine alone…..
    It is as human as I am human, don’t
    You see? It voices my joys, my longings, my
    Hopes,… (From An Introduction)
    But her unconscious, as reflected in her choice of words, voices another story all together.

    It is well said by Roland Barthes (Qtd in Belsey 19): “Linguistically, the author is never more than the instance writing.” Kamala Das, the person – is not to be found in her writings. What we get is true feminine sensibility, feminine spirit; and the desperation of feminine sensibility for its expression in the language which is not hers.
    When Kamala Das wrote about ‘musk of sweat between the breast’, ‘menstrual blood’, ‘male/female body’, ‘female hungers’, ‘beat sorry breasts’, or ‘stand nude before the glass’, it was considered as ‘a far cry … a fiercely feminine sensibility that dares without inhibitions to articulate the hurts it has received in an insensitive largely man-made world’. (Iyengar 680). But these words studied from psycho-linguistic view point and with the help of the theories of Julia Kristeva, Jacques Lacan, Carl Jung, Northrop Frye, would give contrasting impression of Kamala Das as a poet. She emerges as a poet struggling to express her genuine sensibility in man-made language. The words as signifier do not signify the signified. What they signify is not acceptable to her, yet she has to as there is no way out. Julia Kristeva (Belsey 16) calls this signifying capability which is not derived from the meanings of the words ‘the semiotic’. It evokes, she maintains, the sound produced by the rhythmic babbling of small children who cannot yet speak. The semiotic exists prior to the acquisition of meaning, and psychoanalysis links it with the drive towards either pleasure or death. These sound effects, as they reappear in poetry, are musical, patterned; they disrupt the purely ‘thetic’ (thesis-making) logic of rational argument by drawing on a sense or sensation that Kristeva locates beyond surface meaning. Thus the surface meaning in Kamala Das misguides us to believe what Iyengar believed. But in true sense, she has failed to give vent to her feminine sensibility. She is failed by the very language she tries to express herself. The language is the prison within the limits of which she has to function. Her address to Krishna, in Krishna is symbolical address to the language she uses:
    Your body is my prison, Krishna,
    I cannot see beyond it.
    Your darkness blinds me,
    Your love words shut out the wise world's din. (Krishna)
    Krishna becomes the symbol of man-made language. She is imprisoned within the limits of the language. She cannot see beyond the language and it blinds her. Its words shut out the feminine spirit which she wants to express. Thus she remains ‘stranger to herself’ in her poems. The female voice in her poems pines for Krishna’s love, the unconscious female self of the poet pines for her own language.
    But in absence of her language, she makes use of man’s language in an attempt to express her true sensibility. In The Looking Glass, she writes:
    … the musk of sweat between the breasts,
    The warm shock of menstrual blood, and all your
    Endless female hungers.
    The reference to breast is her inner heart – which throbs for true love – menstrual blood is life giving and life enhancing – which flows out in absence of life in womb to nurture… There is hunger in this reference to nurture life. It is cry for true love. Absence of love from gay oriented husband and hidden love affaire represses her desires to be what she is. She finds outlet of her repressed desires and emotions through poems.
    In her first novel, Alphabet of Lust (Das 9) she writes, “But then she would not have been a poetess, for her poetry had burst out of the mire of her utter hopelessness like a red lotus”.
    But she needs to be read and understood with much deeper significance and interpretation. The Otherness of language (Lacan, Kristeva as qtd in Belsey) becomes hurdles in her expression and reader’s interpretation. What Julia Kristeva writes in Strangers to Ourselves (189, 191) is quite true for Kamala Das: “You improve your skills in the new language but it is never quite yours, and you lack the authority that goes with unthinking fluency. You are easy to ignore and thus easily humiliated. … You become a kind of cultural orphan, never at ONE with anyone anywhere”. She is not comfortable with man-made language and thus never at one with herself.
    In The Maggots, she writes:
    At sunset, on the river ban, Krishna
    Loved her for the last time and left…
    That night in her husband’s arms, Radha felt
    So dead that he asked, What is wrong,
    Do you mind my kisses, love? And she said,
    No, not at all, but thought, What is
    It to the corpse if the maggots nip?
    (From The Descendants)
    In this small poem, she expresses women’s desire to be with her love. When married to other man, she languishes. For her the husband is maggot… Krishna is symbolic of the language which female writers from Mary Wollstonecraft to Elain Showalter and Julia Kristeva have desired to have as theirs own. But as Krishna is of none and is illusive avatar, the language, which is patriarchal and male dominated, is also not acquired by these female writers. And in absence of that language, they have to be satisfied with kisses of maggot like husband. As maggot’s nip has no effect of corpse, the language they use have no effect on what they really want to express.
    In ‘An Introduction’, Kamala Das’s attempt to own Otherness (Lacan web) of language is reflected:
    ‘The language I speak
    Becomes mine

    Here again, linguistic study of the words reflect repressed desire to own something which is not hers and in that attempt something is lost. (From An Introduction)
    …. Its distortions, its queerness
    All mine, mine alone.

    Why is it that she makes use of words that are denotative of negation? Words like ‘distortion’, ‘queerness’, they denote negation. Perhaps, consciously she want to say that language is hers own, but the hidden unconscious, the feminine consciousness, expresses the hidden angst against the language. She is true to her feminine sensibility when she make use of negative adjectives like ‘distortions’ or ‘queerness’. Her feminine sensibility and consciousness know it very well that the language which she uses can never be hers.
    Later see writes in the same poem:
    You see? It voices my joys, my longings, my
    Hopes, and it is useful to me as cawing
    Is to crows or roaring to the lions…

    These lines from ‘An Introduction’ clearly signify what Lacan has said about Otherness of language. Lacan uses a capital ‘O’ to distinguish the Otherness of language and culture from the otherness of other people, though of course it is from other people that we learn and internalize the Otherness of the signifier. (Belsey 58)
    Catherine Belsey (58) simplifies what Lacan has said in ‘Of Strucure as the Inmixing of an Otherness Prerequisite to Any Subject Whatever’ and in Subjectivity and Otherness: A Philosophical Reading of Lacan (2007) by Lorenzo Chiesa. The big Other is there before we are, exists outside us, and does not belong to us. In the course of asking for what we want, for instance, we necessarily borrow our terms from the Other, since we have no alternative if we want to communicate. In this way, the little human organism, which begins with no sense of a distinction between itself and the world, gets separated off from its surroundings and is obliged to formulate its demands in terms of the differences already available in language, however alienating these might be. Then there is desperate attempt, anxiety and agony to express and to belong to. In this attempt to achieve fit full expression for desires and emotions, one finds oneself in very awkward situation. The Otherness of language, which we have acquired to ask and say what we want instead of crying helplessly, does not permit us to express what we want to. Because the language is irretrievably Other. For female the distance is ever greater. It is not only Other’s language; it is also man’s language. It has developed and acquired its uniqueness in patriarchal society.
    Something is lost here – experienced, perhaps, as a residue of the continuity with our organic existence, or as wishes that don’t quite fit the signifiers that are supposed to define them. Belsey (59) writes, “Lacan calls what is lost is real. The real is not reality, which is what culture tells us about. On the contrary, the real is that organic being outside signification, which we can’t know, because it has no signifiers in the world of names the subject inhibits. The real, repressed because it has no way of making itself recognized in our consciousness, returns to disturb and disrupt our engagement with a reality that we imagine we know.”
    In the above lines quoted form ‘An Introduction’, we find this lost of real and desperation to own it. She says that the language is hers and it expresses her longings and hopes. She is longing to express herself but her hopes are thwarted. She fails to express her ‘real’ self. The imagery that follows these lines signifies how she is lost in search of her real self. This strange self is reflected in the imagery she uses. Why is the language and its ownership like ‘cawing of craw’ and not like‘music in the Koel’or the sweet songs of Nightingale? Why are predator birds and animals like crow and lion used to signify it? These predators are archetypes of tragic world. Such recurrent archetypes are held t be the result of elemental and universal forms or patterns in the human psyche, whose effective embodiment in a literary work evoke a profound response from the attentive reader, because he or she shares the psychic archetypes.( Abrams 13) In Archetypes of Literature, Northrope Frye (Fry 1951) denotes tragic sense to the animal world belonging to the class of predatory. The use of imagery of animals belonging to archetypal tragic world, exemplifies that poet’s ‘real’ is dissatisfied. She is unable to find better images to show the general effect of loss. The loss of something that was never her own. A gap now exists between the organism and the signifying subject, and in that gap desire is born. Desire, Lacan (Belsey 60) says, is for nothing nameable, since it is unconscious, not part of the consciousness language gives us. But it is structural. The consequence of the gap that marks the loss of the real, and thus a perpetual condition. Although desire is unconscious, most of us find a succession of love-objects, and fasten our desire onto them, as if they could make us whole again, heal the rift between the subject and the lost real.
    Thus we find following lines in ‘A Widow’s Lament’:
    My man, my sons, forming the axis
    While, I, wife and mother….

    She wants to be identified as individual and as someone attached to husband and son. She desired to be one with her ‘real’. She longs to be ‘wife’ and ‘mother’… But as Lacan puts it, the rift between the subject and the lost real is reflected in the line following these:
    Insignificant as a fly
    Climbed the glass panes of their eyes…

    In her search of her real identify ultimately she finds her nothing more than ‘insignificant fly’. She is stranger to herself. The rift between the self and real lost is clearly manifested in several of her poems.
    It is human as I am human, don’t
    You see? … (An Introduction)

    She longs to be human. The capital ‘Y’ in ‘You’ signifies all the male gaze which considers women’s body as ‘thing’ and nothing more but a toy. She can be scornful of male desire, as for ‘The Latest Toy’, which asks that the woman not speak with
    A voice, softened as though with tears. He said then, his
    Dark brow wrinkling, oh please don’t become emotional,
    Emotion is the only true enemy of joy.

    Her obsession for sex and body is also expression of the repression born out of the desire. To heal the rift between the subject and the lost real, she seems to be obsessed with body and sex but in the end, it is difficult to heal the rift. It is possible to have a good time in the process of finding the lost real self but it is not possible to find better form of expression. And more she tries to get near to her true self, more she is dragged in the realm of strangeness.
    She tries to be honest and sincere with her feminine sensibility when she writes about her obsession for body and sex:
    And, I loved his body without shame, (Winter)
    In The looking Glass, she writes about total submission to man, may be to get her identity:
    Getting a man to love you is easy
    Only be honest about your wants as
    Woman.
    She goes to an extent of saying:
    Stand nude before the glass with him
    So that he sees himself the stronger one
    And believes it so, and you so much more
    Softer, younger, lovelier.
    She is ready to succumb her entire self to man to gain her real identity:
    Gift him all,
    Gift him what makes you woman, the scent of
    Long hair, the musk of sweat between the breasts,
    The warm shock of menstrual blood, and all your
    Endless female hungers.
    Man, like Krishna, here becomes symbol of the language, his language. The female poet in an attempt to achieve true sensibility and its expression is ready to give all she has. She also gets objective correlative or negative capability in form of Krishna’s image. Krishna is the symbol of that language which she wants to master in order to express herself. The otherness of language blindfolds her and she ‘cannot see beyond it. It darkens her vision and imagination. Her power of expression as poet is ‘shut out’.
    The craving to voice her sensibility is thwarted. She beats her ‘sorry breast’ and writes:
    Some beat their drums; others beat their sorry breasts
    And wailed, and writhed in vacant ecstasy. (Dance of Eunuch)
    Thus, the language betrays her. She somehow fails to speak of the various depredations the human is susceptible to with a poignancy which is more stark for being clear-eyed. (Mehrotra 252). Thus, she finds herself beaten, crushed and in pitiful situation.
    But my sad woman-body felt so beaten.
    The weight of my breasts and womb crushed me.
    I shrank Pitifully. (An Introduction)
    It seems that in The Stone Age, she is very happy and enjoys her love.  The poem end with following lines:
    Ask me why life is short and love is
    Shorter still, ask me what is bliss and what its price….
    She seems to be happy and so wishes for longer hours of loving with ‘another’ man.
    If we read a few lines above it we may find that in reality she is not happy. It again is his craving to give vent to her feminine sensibility but all in vain. The strangeness of language does not help her to do so.
    As soon as his husband leaves the house in the morning, she goes to meet his lover:
    I drive my blue battered car
    Along the bluer sea. I run up the forty
    Noisy steps to knock at another’s door.
    Though peep-holes, the neighbours watch,
    they watch me come
    And go like rain. Ask me, everybody, ask me
    What he sees in me, ask me why he is called a lion,
    A libertine, ask me why his hand sways like a hooded snake
    Before it clasps my pubis. Ask me why like
    A great tree, felled, he slumps against my breasts,
    And sleeps.

    The images used in the sensuous expression are again archetypes of tragic world. Say for instance, ‘Lion’, ‘hooded snake’, and ‘felled tree’ are all archetypes of tragic vision. Northrop Frye (1951) writes that the archetypes of tragic vision denote tragic sense. Archetypes, according to C.G. Jung (1922) are the reflection of collective unconsciousness. These archetypes are expressive of the fact that she is not at ease while expressing her genuine feelings and emotions. It does not mean that she is not sincere towards her sensibility. Yes, she is genuinely true towards feminine sensibility. But like all humans, she does not have control over her unconscious. When she is true with her emotions and feelings, she is true with her unconsciousness also. Here though the poet seems to express her joy in having sex with ‘another’, actually she is not happy with the act of sex. Going in ‘battered car’ does not speak about a happy journey. The entire process recalls the mechanical sexual process depicted in the episode between the typist and an unknown guest in T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land.
    These lines also express the attempts of a female poet to own man’s language. The poet drives in her blue imagination but they are battered as she fails to get better form to externalize it. The ‘knocking at another’s door’ is knocking at man’s language. But she can only peep through it. She cannot have fuller expression of her feminine sensibility through this language. That language like hooded snake ‘clasps her pubis’, symbolically gets hold of her emotions and feelings, but the result is not worth celebrating. The poem created is like ‘a great felled tree’. The creation ‘slumps’ against her breast. It cannot go deeper than skin. The language fails to touch the heart and soul of female poet. The poet has not found an expression of her true sensibility but the true meaning escapes from her grasp. The language has failed her. She merely remains a poet of body and sex. The genuine feminine sensibility that she wants to express is lost somewhere in the lacuna created because of Otherness of language.  She remains stranger to herself.
    Works cited:
    ·        Abrams, M.H. A Glossary of Literary Terms. Delhi: Thomson Wadsworth. Rpt 2007.
    ·        Belsey, Catherine. A Very Short Introduction: Post structuralism. New York: OUP. 2002.
    ·        Chiesa, Lorenzo. Subjectivity and Otherness: A Philosophical Reading of Lacan. MIT press. 2007.
    ·        Das, Kamala. Alphabet of Lust. New Delhi: Orient. 1976.
    ·        Frye, Northrop. The Archetypes of Literature. The Kenyon Review: Vol. 8. 1951.
    ·        Iyengar, KRS. Indian Writing in English. New Delhi: Sterling Pub. Rpt 2001. 1985.
    ·        "Introduction" Contemporary Literary Criticism Ed. Tom Burns and Jeffrey W. Hunter. Vol. 191. Gale Cengage 2004 eNotes.com 1 Jan, 2010 <http://www.enotes.com/topics/kamala-das#critical-essays-das-kamala-introduction>
    ·        Jung, C.G. On the Relation of Analytical Psychology to Poetic Art. 1922.
    ·        Kristeva, Julia. Strangers to Ourselves. Columbia University Press. 1991.
    ·        Lacan, Jacques. Of Structure as the Inmixing of an Otherness Prerequisite to Any Subject Whatever. 18 July 2009http://www.lacan.com/hotel.htm
    ·        Mehrotra, A.K. An Illustrated History of Indian Literature in English. Delhi: Permanent Black. 2003.

    ·        Wikipedia contributors. "Kamala Surayya." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 30 Dec. 2009. Web. 1 Jan. 2010.






                             An Introduction


    I don't know politics but I know the names 
    Of those in power, and can repeat them like 
    Days of week, or names of months, beginning with Nehru. 
    I amIndian, very brown, born inMalabar, 
    I speak three languages, write in 
    Two, dream in one. 
    Don't write in English, they said, English is 
    Not your mother-tongue. Why not leave 
    Me alone, critics, friends, visiting cousins, 
    Every one of you? Why not let me speak in 
    Any language I like? The language I speak, 
    Becomes mine, its distortions, its queernesses 
    All mine, mine alone. 
    It is half English, halfIndian, funny perhaps, but it is honest, 
    It is as human as I am human, don't 
    You see? It voices my joys, my longings, my 
    Hopes, and it is useful to me as cawing 
    Is to crows or roaring to the lions, it 
    Is human speech, the speech of the mind that is 
    Here and not there, a mind that sees and hears and 
    Is aware. Not the deaf, blind speech 
    Of trees in storm or of monsoon clouds or of rain or the 
    Incoherent mutterings of the blazing 
    Funeral pyre. I was child, and later they 
    Told me I grew, for I became tall, my limbs 
    Swelled and one or two places sprouted hair. 
    WhenI asked for love, not knowing what else to ask 
    For, he drew a youth of sixteen into the 
    Bedroom and closed the door, He did not beat me 
    But my sad woman-body felt so beaten. 
    The weight of my breasts and womb crushed me. 
    I shrank Pitifully. 
    Then … I wore a shirt and my 
    Brother's trousers, cut my hair short and ignored 
    My womanliness. Dress in sarees, be girl 
    Be wife, they said. Be embroiderer, be cook, 
    Be a quarreller with servants. Fit in. Oh, 
    Belong, cried the categorizers. Don't sit 
    On walls or peep in through our lace-draped windows. 
    Be Amy, or be Kamala. Or, better 
    Still, be Madhavikutty. It is time to 
    Choose a name, a role. Don't play pretending games. 
    Don't play at schizophrenia or be a 
    Nympho. Don't cry embarrassingly loud when 
    Jilted in love … I met a man, loved him. Call 
    Him not by any name, he is every man 
    Who wants. a woman, just as I am every 
    Woman who seeks love. In him . . . the hungry haste 
    Of rivers, in me . . . the oceans' tireless 
    Waiting. Who are you, I ask each and everyone, 
    The answer is, it is I. Anywhere and, 
    Everywhere, I see the one who calls himself I 
    In this world, he is tightly packed like the 
    Sword in its sheath. It is I who drink lonely 
    Drinks at twelve, midnight, in hotels of strange towns, 
    It is I who laugh, it is I who make love 
    And then, feel shame, it is I who lie dying 
    With a rattle in my throat. I am sinner, 
    I am saint. I am the beloved and the 
    Betrayed. I have no joys that are not yours, no 
    Aches which are not yours. I too call myself I.

    Saturday, 21 March 2015

    Deconstruction and Derrida

    Jacques Derrida:
    Structure Sign and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences
    (from The Structuralist Controversy, ed. Richard Macksey and Donato E. Baltimore: The John Hopkins Uni Press 1970)



    Define deconstruction:
    Deconstruction, as applied in the criticism of literature, designates a theory and practice of reading which questions and claims to "subvert" or "undermine" the assumption that the system of language provides grounds that are adequate to establish the boundaries, the coherence or unity, and the determinate meanings of a literary text. Typically, a deconstructive reading sets out to show that conflicting forces within the text itself serve to dissipate the seeming definiteness of its structure and meanings into an indefinite array of incompatible and undecidable possibilities.

    Q. Expound Derrida’s concept of decentering centre and suplimentarity.
    Q. Discuss how Derrida asserts the inexhaustibility of the text and thus keeps it perpetually open to new discoveries.
    Q. Comment upon the post-structuralist view that there is no ‘a-textual origin’ of text.
    Q. The Post Structuralist critic 'read the text against itself so as to expose what might be thought of as the 'textual subconscious', where meanings are expressed which may be directly contrary to the surface meaning.
    A:
    Deconstruction: In the criticism of literature, Deconstruction is a theory and practice of reading which questions and claims to ‘subvert’ or ‘undermine’ the assumption that the system of language provides grounds that are adequate to establish the boundaries, the coherence or unity, and the determinate meaning of a literary text. Typically, a deconstructive reading sets out to show the conflicting forces within the text itself to dissipate the seeming definiteness of its structure and meaning into indefinite array of incompatibility and undecidable possibilities.
    Derrida was the most influential philosopher in 70s and 80s of last century. His philosophy is the further extension of structuralism and is better called as Post-Structuralism. He carries this structuralist movement to its logical extreme and his reasoning is original and startling. We have seen in this movement that as in New Criticism, the attention was shifted from the writer to the work of literary text; consequently textual analysis became more important than extra textual information. Further, the author disappeared and only the text remained. This is what we called the stylistic and structuralist position. The meaning as it emerges from the text (the illocutionary force) alone counted. In this process the importance of the reader and his understanding increased, and the Reader Response or Reception Theory came into being. Derrida gives the same process a further and final push according to which what matters is the reading and not the writing of the text. At times one feels, though not quite justifiably, that, in Derrida even the text disappears and what is left behind is an individual’s reader response to it. Now the reader rules the supreme, and the validity of his reading can not be challenged. However, the structure of each reading has to be coherent and convincing.



    Decentering the Centre
    Derrida deconstructs the metaphysics of presence. That is to say that according to Derrida there is no presence or truth apart from language. He seeks to prove that the structurality of the structure does not indicate a presence above its free play of signs. This presence was earlier supposed to be the centre of the structure which was paradoxically thought to be within, and outside this structure, it was truth and within, it was intelligibility. But Derrida contends that, ‘the centre could not be thought in the form of a being-presence’, and that in any given text, there is only a free play of an infinite number of sign substitutions. A word is explained by another word which is only a word not an existence. Thus a text is all words which are just words, not indicative of any presence beyond them. In the words of John Sturrock, “The resort to language or sign entails, we know the loss of all uniqueness and immediacy. The sign is not the thing in itself”. It is utteractive or repeatable. A sign which was uttered only once would be not sign. It is the types of which each utterance is token.
    There is no a-textual origin of a text. The author’s plan of a book is a text. His realization of the same book is another text. Its summary is third text. A text kindles a text and there is no truth beyond the text that the text seeks to represent or explain. There is no reality other than textuality. The textuality is the free play of signifiers. There is no signified that is not itself a signifier.
    In the words of John Sturrock, Derrida seeks to undermine “a prevailing and generally unconscious ‘idealism’, which asserts that language does not create meanings but reveals them, thereby implying that meanings, pre-exists their expression”. This for Derrida is nonsense. For him there can be no meaning which is not formulated, we cannot reach outside language.




    Supplementarity
    The concept of supplementarity follows from decentrring the centre. A literary text is a work of language and language as such according to Derrida, is like time, ever in a state of flux. Just as time has no origin, so also the origin of language is inconceivable. All that we can say is that it came into being fully, not bit by bit along with the emergence of man, and will disappear along with man. Derrida quotes and approves Levi-Strauss who writes: “Whatever may have been the moment and the circumstances of its appearance in the scale of animal life, language could only have been born in one full swoop (all at a time). Things could not have set about signifying progressively. Following a transformation the study of which is not the concern of the social sciences, but rather of biology and psychology, a crossing over came about from a stage where nothing had a meaning to another where everything possessed it”.
    But language being a flux is not ever the same. It is always gaining in new elements and loosing the older ones. “The totality of the myths of a people”, Derrida quotes Levi-Strauss again, “is of the order of the discourse. Provided that these people do not become physically or morally extinct, this totality is never extinct. Such a criticism would therefore be equivalent to re-approaching a linguist with writing the grammar of a language without having recorded the totality of the words which have been uttered since that language came into existence and without knowing the verbal exchanges which will take place as long as the language continues to exist.” Totalisation is thus useless and impossible. The language paradoxically comes into being as a quest of imaginary truth apart from language and continues to realize the lack of truth in the words that it employs. The freeplay of signifiers, “a field of infinite substitutions in the closure of a finite ‘ensemble’ permitted by the lack. The absence of centre of a origin is the movement of supplimentarity. The super abundance of the signifier, its supplementary character, is thus the result of a finitude, that is to say, the result of a lack which must be supplemented. The process of supplementarity has no end. Because positive & concrete definition is impossible for any term, every term necessarily requires a supplement or supplements, something or some things which help(s) it exist and be understood. Yet, at the same time, the object(s) which the supplement is (are) supplementing is (are) (a) supplements itself. Extend this web in all directions and the relationship between bricolage, play, and the supplementary begins to make sense.

    The same applied to any literary text. We look for the truth of the text which in fact is only language, and create in our quest another text through our criticism to supplement the lack of the original text. Supplement the lack of the original text - reading is reactivating the expressivity of the text with the help of its indicative signs. But in the words of John Sturrock, “the meanings that are read into it may or may not coincide with the meanings which the author believes he or she has invested it with. A reasonable view is that a large number of these meanings will coincide depending on how far separable author and reader are in time, space and culture; but that a large number of other meanings will not coincide. For language have powers of generating meanings irrespective of the wishes of those of who use it.”
    Of course, the discussion here barely begins to scratch the surface of the implications made by Derrida, for within not even a full fourteen pages of text, has established the foundation of one of the most significant revolutions in the history of thought. Of course, saying that Derrida demonstrated how the history of thought contradicted itself and in so doing imploded the foundation of Western philosophy. Yet, there is scant little chance of denying that Derrida himself holds some special place in this development: if not as its father then at least as its catalyst.

    Let us conclude with M.H.Abram’s observation in ‘How to do things with texts?’: - “Derrida emphasizes that to deconstruct is not to destroy; that his task is to “dismantle the metaphysical and rhetorical structures” operative in a text “not in order to reject or discard them, but to reconstitute them in another way”; - that he puts into question the “search for the signified not annul it, but to understand it within a system to which such a reading is blind.”  




    What post-structuralist critics do

    1. They 'read the text against itself so as to expose what might be thought of as the 'textual
    subconscious', where meanings are expressed which may be directly contrary to the surface meaning.
    2. They fix upon the surface features of the words - similarities in sound, the root meanings of words, a 'dead' (or dying) metaphor and bring these to the foreground, so that they become crucial to the overall meaning.
    3. They seek to show that the text is characterised by disunity rather than unity.
    4. They concentrate on a single passage and analyse it so intensively that it becomes impossible to
    sustain a 'univocal' reading and the language explodes into 'multiplicities of meaning'.
    5. They look for shifts and breaks of various kinds in the text and see these as evidence of what is
    repressed or glossed over or passsed over in silence by the text. These discontinuities are sometimes called 'fault-lines', a geological metaphor referring to the breaks in rock formations which give evidence of previous activity and movement.

    Barry, Peter. An introduction to literary and cultural theory