Dharamshala Central University Holds Literary Discourse

Literature is not written in vacuum

Dharamshala: The Department of English, Central University of Himachal Pradesh (CUHP), organized a Two-Day International Seminar on Literary Discourse across Cultures on 8th-9th March 2017 at  Shahpur, 25 kms from here.

The programme began with the inaugural address by Dr Roshan Lal Sharma, the Convenor of the seminar, in which he highlighted the importance of literary discourse across cultures in the current context. Explaining the term discourse, Dr Sharma said, “it is an integral part of academic growth as it not only suggests the presence of various ideologies but also implies the presence of a healthy atmosphere where debate and discussion are possible.” He then introduced the Key Note Speaker Prof Manuel Broncano of Texas A&M International University, USA.

Prof Broncano in his Key Note Address discussed the concepts of Ekphrasis and Mimesis in literature, and spoke about the relationship between art and imitation, and explained how various art forms are inter-dependent. Using examples from Romanticism such as P.B. Shelley’s “Ozymandias” and Modernism such as Wallace Stevens’s “The Red Wheelbarrow”, he elaborated on how Ekphrasis is a rhetorical device that is often used in literature – irrespective of the age or period.

In his second lecture on the second dayt, Prof Broncano spoke on the terms Apocrypha and Apocryphal, and how they are deployed to subvert hegemonic discourse. Using the example of Miguel de Cervantes’s popular character Don Quixote, he explained how the picaresque novel challenged dominant grand narratives. He concluded by saying that the current world needs knight-errants to fight for the suppressed, and hence, Don Quixote is a hero for the present times.

Prof Deepshika Kotwal of Central University of Jammu; Prof Gurupdesh Singh of Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar; Prof Rajesh Kumar Sharma of Panjabi University, Patiala; and Prof Swaraj Raj of Guru Gobind Singh World University, Fatehgarh Sahib; Dr Janesh Kapoor of Govt College, Karsog, were the other resource persons.

Prof Gurupdesh Singh spoke about keeping in mind the cultural context while reading a literary work. He said that literature is not written in vacuum, and highlighted the importance of why the study of socio-political conditions of the period is essential. Taking the examples of Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles and Charles Dickens’s Hard Times, Prof Singh said that a close reading of these novels shows how they are studies of Industrial Revolution in Europe.

This was followed by a lecture by Prof Rajesh Kumar Sharma. He spoke about the qualities of a good poet and critic citing 9th century Sanskrit scholar Rajasekhara’s Kavyamimansa. Prof Sharma dwelt at length on how Rajasekhara had given a detailed guide to judge a poet and a critic.

The next lecture was delivered by Prof Swaraj Raj on Intertextuality. Prof Raj said that Intertextuality is hardly a new phenomenon and discussed the similarities between 3rd century Sanskrit scholar Vishnu Sharma’s Panchatantra and 14th century British writer Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. He concluded that this shows how different cultures borrow from each other, while adapting them according to their milieu.

Prof Deepshika Kotwal spoke on Women’s Writings across Cultures. She began by questioning the idea of binaries, and the concept of canon. She stressed the need for celebration of heterogeneity, difference, and inclusiveness. Prof Kotwal highlighted the importance of studying the importance of women’s literature as a genre in itself. She said that in the current post-feminist world women are a privileged lot as they have the freedom of choice. However, she underscored the fact that they should not forget their responsibilities.

The final lecture of the seminar was delivered by Dr Janesh Kapoor. He spoke about the various schools of western discourse and correlated them with Indian epistemology. The lectures were followed by a conversation with Prof Broncano, where he spoke about his experiences while studying in Spain and teaching in the USA.

Faculty members, research scholars and post graduate students of the Department of English, actively participated in the seminar.

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