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Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Presentations on T.S. Eliot's 'The Waste Land'

The Cover Page: The Waste Land

  1. 'The Waste Land' by T.S. Eliot
The literature is not only the mirror image of society. It can neither be limited to the metaphor of photographic representation, nor be limited to the lamp which brightens the corner of society or human nature. Sometimes, literature is the x-ray image of the society. The black and while skeleton of society. The ugly-but-real-at-its-core face of society is captured on transparent paper. The writer's eyes like an x-ray machine, penetrates deep and captures the nuances of social decay, moral decay and cultural decay. The rotten state of human life in the early quarter of the Twentieth century is meticulously captured by T.S. Eliot in 'The Waste Land - quite aptly known as 'The Modern Epic'. The root cause of this decay (social, moral and cultural) is spiritual degradation and sexual perversion. Is spiritual degradation the cause of sexual perversion or the effect of sexual perversion is due to spiritual degradation? It is not easy to answer this is simple cause-effect relationship. They both are interdependent. They have walked hand-in-hand, in past, they walk together in present and they will, if the lessons are not learnt from literature. People question the usefulness of 'Arts' in life. Can we find the answer art (verbal) like 'The Waste Land'.




2. Universal Human Laws in the Modern Epic 'The Waste Land'
Are myths subtle codes that contain some universal truth? Are they a window on the deep recesses of a particular culture? Or are they just entertaining stories that people like to tell over and over? The Waste Land not only makes extensive use of myths but also makes, a myth – the myth of the hollowness of Human Beings in Modern Times.The rituals of the modern men are mythified – which in turn attempts to legitimize it.Or rather it would be better to say: the rituals (sexual sins) are illegitimized in epic which is heavily drawn as modern day myth – the myth of decay, desolation and degeneration of human values, civilizations and cultures.As the poem operates in a dismantling way, rather than legitimizing, it illegitimizes the rituals of the Modern Times.



3. Autobiographical Elements in T.S. Eliot's 'The Waste Land'
It is well said that “Honest criticism and sensitive appreciation is directed not upon the poet but upon the poetry” . . . and . . . “Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality”.Consciously, the poet should make such attempts . . . But the Un/Subconscious is not under the control and commands of Conscious Mind. It finds it outlet in the expression. At the very moment when, quite  consciously, the poet has surrendered itself to the process of creation, it leaks out – it finds its moment of expression. T.S. Eliot, the high priest of the school of depersonalization is also not free from the ‘Un/Subconscious overflow of powerful self . . . Which can only be recollected in tranquility by the biographical critics’.


Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Short Learning Videos on Wordsworth's Preface to Lyrical Ballads

Here are some short videos on Wordsworth's Preface. After viewing them you will be able to:
* differentiate between Classicism and Romanticism 
* understand basic concept of Wordsworth's poetic creed
* attempt questions given below these videos 













After watching these videos, you can attempt below given questions. You can give your answers in 'Comment' below this blog-post.

  • What are the basic difference between the poetic creed of 'Classicism' and 'Romanticism'?
  • Why does Wordsworth say 'What' is poet? rather than Who is poet?
  • What is poetic diction? Which sort of poetic diction is suggested by Wordsworth in his Preface?
  • What is poetry?
  • Discuss 'Daffodils - I wandered lonely as a cloud' with reference to Wordsworth's poetic creed.


Additional study questions: 
(All these questions are not addressed in the video lectures. You can download documents from this page to prepare answers of the below given questions)

1.      What according to Wordsworth should be the theme of Poetry?
2.      Write note on Wordsworth’s view on the subject matter of poetry
3.      Write note on Wordsworth’s theory of poetic diction. Illustrate from Wordsworth’s reading of Dr. Johnson’s The Ant & Cowper’s Religion!
4.      Assess the greatness of Wordsworth as a literary critic.
5.      “A language was thus insensibly produced, differing materially from the real language of men in any situation.” Explain and illustrat with reference to your reading of Wordsworth’s views on Poetic Diction in Preface to the Lyrical Ballads.
6.      “A Poet is a man speaking to men: a man, it is true, endowed with more lively sensibility, more enthusiasm and tenderness.” Explain with reference to your reading of Wordsworth’s views in Preface to the Lyrical Ballads.
7.      “A Poet has a greater knowledge of human nature, and a more comprehensive soul, than one supposed to be common among mankind.” Explain with reference to your reading of Wordsworth’s views in Preface to the Lyrical Ballads.
8.      “For all good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feeling”. Explain with reference to Wordsworth’s definition of Poetry.
9.      “There neither is, nor can be, any essential difference between the language of prose and metrical composition.” Explain with reference to Wordsworth discussion on Gray’s Sonnet on the Death of Mr. Richard West.
10.   How does Wordsworth describe the language he claims to have selected for his poems? how does he describe the language used by "many modern writers"?
11.  What sorts of "incidents and situations" does Wordsworth claim to have chosen for his poems? How does he believe such incidents can be made "interesting"? Why does he choose situations from "Humble and rustic life"? What is the presumed state of the "essential passions of the heart" in that condition? What is the relationship of these passions to language? To the "forms of nature"?
12.  What, according to Wordsworth, is the relationship in his poems between feeling and action?
13.  According to Wordsworth, "one being is elevated above another in proportion as he possesses" what capability?
14.  What does Wordsworth think of the distinction between the language of prose and metrical composition? Why?
15.  What are some of the characteristics of the poet? What is his relationship to his "own passions and volitions"? What is the relationship between his feelings and the "goings-on of the Universe"?
16.  What sort of truth does poetry give? How is this truth communicated? To what tribunal does it appeal?
17.  Of what is poetry the image? Under what one restriction does a poet write? What sort of information may he expect his reader to possess?
18.  What sort of song does the poet sing? What is his metaphorical relationship to human nature? What does he do for the "vast empire of human society"?
19.  How is the poet "chiefly distinguished from other men"? What characterizes his "passions and thoughts and feelings"? With what are they connected?
20.   What, according to Wordsworth, is the "great spring of the activity of our minds"?
21.   Poetry is defined by Wordsworth as a spontaneous what? From what does poetry take its origin? Then what happens? In what mood is "successful composition" carried on?
Examine ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud . . . daffodils’ to illustrate Wordsworth’s poetic creed.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Worksheet: Screening Movie Waiting for Godot

After viewing the movie adaptation (Waiting for Godot) of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot (Beckett, Waiting for Godot), students are supposed to give their responses in the comments below this blogpost. The points to ponder are given to give direction to their thoughts. It is expected they give honest responses on the points given below.
The movie is directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg. In this 2001 movie, Barry McGovern and Johnny Murphy played Vladimir and Estragon, where as Lucky and Pozzo were performed by Alan Standford and Stephen Brennan, respectively.

Points to Ponder:
·       What is Existentialism?
o   Read Existentialism (Burnham and Papandreopoulos)  
o   Read Existentialism (C. Wikipedia, Existentialism)
o   Watch this video on the Introduction of Existentialism


·       What is the theme of The Myth of Sisyphus?

o   Read The Myth of Sisyphus. Translated from the French by Justin O'Brien, 1955 (Camus)
·       Do you agree that Existentialism is Humanism?

o   Read brief note on Existentialism is Humanism (C. Wikipedia, Existentialism and Humanism)
·       What is Übermensch?
o   Nietzsche had his character Zarathustra posit the Übermensch as a goal for humanity to set for itself in his 1883 book Thus Spoke Zarathustra
o   Read brief on Übermensch? (C. Wikipedia, Ubermensch)
·       What is Theater of Absurd?
o   Read brief on The Theater of Absurd (C. Wikipedia, Theater of Absurd)


  • Language: The surprise of the play is its language. It is incredible to see the complex philosophical thoughts of Existentialism captured with this sort of simplicity in language.


With reference to these topics of background reading, you have viewed the movie ‘Waiting for Godot’ (Beckett, Waiting for Godot). Please give your responses to these points:
·       What connection do you see in the setting (“A country road. A tree.Evening.”) of the play and these paintings?

·       The tree is the only important ‘thing’ in the setting. What is the importance of tree in both acts? Why does Beckett grow a few leaves in Act II on the barren tree - The tree has four or five leaves - ?
Leaves on Tree - Waiting for Godot

·         In both Acts, evening falls into night and moon rises. How would you like to interpret this ‘coming of night and moon’ when actually they are waiting for Godot?
Night and Moon - Waiting for Godot

·       The director feels the setting with some debris. Can you read any meaning in the contours of debris in the setting of the play?
·       The play begins with the dialogue “Nothing to be done”. How does the theme of ‘nothingness’ recurs in the play?
·       Do you agree: “The play (Waiting for Godot), we agreed, was a positive play, not negative, not pessimistic. As I saw it, with my blood and skin and eyes, the philosophy is: 'No matter what— atom bombs, hydrogen bombs, anything—life goes on. You can kill yourself, but you can't kill life." (E.G. Marshal who played Vladimir in original Broadway production 1950s)?
·       How are the props like hat and boots used in the play? What is the symbolical significance of these props?
·       Do you think that the obedience of Lucky is extremely irritating and nauseatic? Even when the master Pozzo is blind, he obediently hands the whip in his hand. Do you think that such a capacity of slavishness is unbelievable?
Pozzo - Lucky: Master-Slave

·       Who according to you is Godot? God? An object of desire? Death? Goal? Success? Or  . . .
·       “The subject of the play is not Godot but ‘Waiting’” (Esslin, A Search for the Self). Do you agree? How can you justify your answer?
·        Do you think that plays like this can better be ‘read’ than ‘viewed’ as it requires a lot of thinking on the part of readers, while viewing, the torrent of dialogues does not give ample time and space to ‘think’? Or is it that the audio-visuals help in better understanding of the play?
·       Which of the following sequence you liked the most:
o   Vladimir – Estragon killing time in questions and conversations while waiting
Vladimir and Estragon: The Had and the Boot

o   Pozzo – Lucky episode in both acts
o   Converstion of Vladimir with the boy
·       Did you feel the effect of existential crisis or meaninglessness of human existence in the irrational and indifference Universe during screening of the movie? Where and when exactly that feeling was felt, if ever it was?
·       Vladimir and Estragon talks about ‘hanging’ themselves and commit suicide, but they do not do so. How do you read this idea of suicide in Existentialism?
  • Can we do any political reading of the play if we see European nations represented by the 'names' of the characters (Vladimir - Russia; Estragon - France; Pozzo - Italy and Lucky - England)? What interpretation can be inferred from the play written just after World War II?



  • So far as Pozzo and Lucky [master and slave] are concerned, we have to remember that Beckett was a disciple of Joyce and that Joyce hated England. Beckett meant Pozzo to be England, and Lucky to be Ireland." (Bert Lahr who played Estragon in Broadway production). Does this reading make any sense? Why? How? What?

  • Click here to view some videos of the movie:











    Works Cited

    Beckett, Samuel. "Waiting for Godot." Samuel Becket.Net. 22 Sept 2014 <http://samuel-beckett.net/Waiting_for_Godot_Part1.html>.
    Burnham, Douglas and George Papandreopoulos. "Existentialism." Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 22 September 2014 <http://www.iep.utm.edu/existent/>.
    Camus, Albert. The Myth of Sisyphus. Trans. Justin O'Brien. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1975.
    Cybulska, Eva. https://philosophynow.org/issues/93/Nietzsches_Ubermensch_A_Hero_of_Our_Time. 22 Sept 2014 <https://philosophynow.org/issues/93/Nietzsches_Ubermensch_A_Hero_of_Our_Time>.
    Esslin, Martin. "A Search for the Self." Bloom, Harold. Waiting for Godot: Critical Interpretations. New Delhi: Viva Books, 2001.
    —. Absurd Drama. 7 May 2003. 22 Sept 2014 <http://www.samuel-beckett.net/AbsurdEsslin.html>.
    Sartre, Jean-Paul. Existentialism Is a Humanism. Ed. Andy Blunden. 1998. 22 Sept 2014 <https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/sartre/works/exist/sartre.htm>.
    Schrahé, Svenja. Albert Camus and The Myth of Sisyphus. 2011. 22 Sept 2014 <http://www.camus-society.com/myth-of-sisyphus.html>.
    Stanford, CCRMA. https://ccrma.stanford.edu/. 22 Sept 2014 <https://ccrma.stanford.edu/~pj97/Nietzsche.htm>.
    Waiting for Godot. By Samuel Beckett. Dir. Michael Lindsay-Hogg. Perf. Barry McGovern and Johny Murphy. Blue Angels Films, Dublin Gate Theatre, Parallel Film Productions. 2001.
    Warburton, Nigel. A student’s guide to Jean-Paul Sartre’s Existentialism and Humanism. 22 Sept 2014 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Existentialism_and_Humanism>.
    Wikipedia, Contributor. The Myth of Sisyphus. 22 Sept 2014 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Myth_of_Sisyphus>.
    Wikipedia, Contributors. Existentialism. 22 Sept 2014 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Existentialism>.
    —. Existentialism and Humanism. 22 Sept 2014 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Existentialism_and_Humanism>.
    —. Theater of Absurd. 22 Sept 2014 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theatre_of_the_Absurd>.
    —. Ubermensch. 22 Sept 2014 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%9Cbermensch>.




    Sunday, 21 September 2014

    Human Perspective vs Divine Perspective: Milton's Paradise Lost Book IX

    The Human Perspective and the Divine Perspective


    One of the major changes Renaissance and Reformation brought in socio-cultural life of Europe was the paradigm shift from God-centric world to human-centric one. The renewed interest in Humanism decentered God and replaced (Hu)Man at the center of the Universe. If all the walks of life were affected, how can literature remain aloof? All those 'stories' in scriptures (mainly The Holy Bible) which were said from the Divine perspective were retold from Human perspective. Some of the narratives seemed telling the stories from the Divine perspective, but, actually, they were not.
    Let us try to explore this hypothesis. We will take bird's eye view of 'Genesis' from The Holy Bible and Book IX from Paradise Lost. John Milton proposed in 'Argument' to 'justify the ways of God to men'. In fact, he moves on the justify '(Hu)Man's ways in this world'.



    In 'Genesis', the 'Fall' is narrated from God's perspective. Obviously, God is the center of Bible. The characters of Adam and Eve are flat, lifeless and mere puppet. They do not have any emotion or feeling or voice. The Satan-Serpent tempted Eve, Eve tempted Adam and the Fall happened. God emerged and punished all three. Many questions remained unanswered in the God's Justice.

    The Angry God

    • If Satan used serpent's body to harm Adam, Eve and Eden, why should it be punished instead of Satan:
    "Because you have done this, cursed are you above
    all cattle, and above all wild animals upon your belly you shall
    go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put
    enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed
    and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise
    his heel." (God in Genesis)

    • If Eve is to be punished for her 'disobedience', why should her children also be cursed: "I will put enmity between... your seed and her seed". (God). To curse Eve to multiply her pain in childbearing is not fair way to punish her.
    "I will greatly multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you." (God)

    • If Adam shares the guilt, he is not fairly well judged and punished. He seems to be in God's good book:
    "And to Adam he said, "Because you
    have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the
    tree of which I commanded you, 'You shall not eat of it,'
    cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it
    all the days of your life;thorns and thistles it shall bring forth
    to you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. In the sweat
    of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground,
    for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you
    shall return." (God)


    Regretful Adam and Eve - God's Wrath on the act of Disoedience


    Well, the entire story of Genesis is quite obviously, God centric. It is narrated from Divine perspective. It does not take care of Adam or Eve or Serpent's perspective.

    When we come to John Milton's Paradise Lost (esp. Book IX), we realise that the same story is told from Human perspective. Seemingly, it tries to justify ways of God to man, whereas, in reality, it retells the story from Human perspective. Let us see, how it happens.

    There are two major instances where we find the human perspective governing the plot of Book IX.
    If inferior, Who is Free?
    • Firstly, Eve is responsible for disobedience and thus Fall of man. Her wily act is that of touching and tasting the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. Nevertheless, she is presented with an intention to act. This giving an intention to act is where Milton brings in human perspective. Eve intention to taste the fruit was to gain 'knowledge', to be equal to Adam, to know good and evil as God seems to know it all, to be superior to Adam 'for, to be inferior, who is free'? She wanted to be 'free'. She wanted to exercise her free will and reason which is gifted by God. With this clarity in mind, she does what she does. She is human being and thus, acts like human being. Milton is a poet. The poet stands in favour of humans rather than God. Unknowingly, perhaps, Milton redeems Eve by giving her intentions which are quite noble and unproblematic.

    • Secondly, the act of Adam. Adam is  also driven by human emotion: 
    Adam's love for Eve was genuine and selfless

    "Should God create another Eve, and I

    Another rib afford, yet loss of thee

    Would never from my heart. No, no! I feel
    The link of nature draw me: flesh of flesh,
    Bone of my bone thou art, and from thy state

    Mine never shall be parted, bliss or woe." 
    (Book IX, Paradise Lost)
    His intentions are not tempted or forced upon him. He, after deep thinking, decides to be on the side of Eve rather than God. It is 'Love' - the human emotion - which drives him. 

    • We can read the character of Satan also being driven by human emotion.
    Satan and found The Serpent subtlest beast of all the field


    But what will not ambition and revenge

    Descend to? Who aspires must down as low

    As high he soared, obnoxious, first or last,
    To basest things. Revenge, at first though sweet,
    Bitter ere long back on itself recoils.
    Let it; I reck not, so it light well aimed,
    Since higher I fall short, on him who next
    Provokes my envy, this new favourite
    Of Heaven, this Man of Clay, son of despite,
    Whom, us the more to spite, his Maker raised
    From dust: spite then with spite is best repaid."
    (Book IX, Paradise Lost)
    These so called deadly sins like 'ambition', 'envy'. 'revenge' and 'spiteful' which Satan represents are quite human. No human can deny absence of these rather negative emotions in the breast of this Man of Clay. Therefore, Satan is also presented with human perspective. 

    Literary writers, however, hard they try, can't be on the side of God or religion at the cost of humans. Human beings, with all their virtues and vices, are the raw material of literature. Literature can't exist if it does anything at the cost of human emotions and feelings. It is made by, made for and made of human beings. The human perspective is not one of the perspective of literature, it is the 'only' perspective of literature and using it as prism, it reflects rainbow of perspectives.
    Humanity reaching out to Divinity

    Works Cited:
    Holy Bible, King James Bible. 20 Sept. 2014. <http://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/Genesis-Chapter-1/>
    Milton, John. Paradise Lost. 20 Sept. 2014. <http://www.bartleby.com/4/401.html>



    Monday, 15 September 2014

    Interpretation Challenge: Breath: The Shortest Play by Samuel Beckett

    While discussing ‘The Theater of the Absurd’ and Samuel Beckett’s ‘Waiting for Godot’, we viewed film version of his shortest play ‘Breath’ - a thirty-five-seconds play. Would you like to take challenge to give interpretation of this shortest play? Give your interpretation after reading the play and a few video versions (scroll down to read-view), in the comment section below this blog-post.



    The script of the play:
    CURTAIN Up
    1. Faint light on stage littered with miscellaneous rubbish. Hold about five seconds.
    2. Faint brief cry and immediately inspiration and slow increase of light together reaching maximum - together in about ten seconds. Silence and hold for about five seconds.
    3. Expiration and slow decrease of light together reaching minimum together (light as in 1) in about ten seconds and immediately cry as before. Silence and hold about five seconds. 


    CURTAIN Down

    Clue to interpret the play:


    • Absurd: philosophy meaningless: lacking any meaning that would give purpose to life 
    • the notion that existence is absurd


    • meaninglessness: the condition of living in a meaningless universe where life has no purpose, especially as a concept in some 20th-century philosophical movements.

      Existentialism:
      philosophical movement centered on individual existence:
      a philosophical movement begun in the 19th century that denies that the universe has any intrinsic meaning or purpose.
      It requires people to take responsibility for their own actions and shape their own destinies.

      Microsoft® Encarta® 2009. © 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

    You can view videos of the play:





    You are requested to give your opinion / interpretation / review after viewing above mentioned video & below given reading resources.