Rukhaya M.K

A Literary Companion

Raymond Williams’s Marxism and Literature: Tracing the Historicity of Literature

Raymond Williams has been praised by critics like Edward Said for his disregard for traditional academic boundaries, and the distinction between literature and Marxism. The connection between Marxism and literature has been debated from times immemorial.  Marxists claim that literature reflects the social system of the times as determined by the economic base. Yet Marxist critics themselves like Engels in a series of letters written in the 1890s recognized the relative autonomous nature of literature. Otherwise it would not explain how literary classics that were generated by earlier capitalist systems still held relevance for current generations.

Earlier on, it was deemed uncomplicated to categorize Marxism or literature as a static concept with known characteristics. In “Marxism and Literature,” Raymond Williams states how Marxism has experienced a recent revival– a related openness and flexibility of theoretical development, especially with reference to cultural theory. The concept of Literature, meanwhile, for related reasons, had become problematic in many ways. He states how the aim of the book is to trace this development. Williams traces his earlier conceptions of Marxism as he had been brought up in a working class family and how Marxism to him at that juncture had political and economic connotations. The cultural and literary arguments were merely an extension of the same.…

Poetry Analysis: Thom Gunn’s “On the Move”

Thom Gunn’s “On the Move” is the opening poem in the collection The Sense of Movement. The poem is said to be “a sociological footnote of the nineteen fifties”. The motorcyclists had become emblematic of reckless vigor and aggressive energy in the East. The subtitle also functions as the epigraph emphasizing the idea that they need to keep going on, asserting the hyperactive strain and the kinetic energy that they embodied.

The bird with gay plumage is essentially from the crow family. Its “scuffling movements” exemplify the restless movements as it pursues some hidden purpose. Therefore, the birds symbolize the motor cyclist –groups owing to their reckless energy and as they thrive in communities. They hunt for the instinct that dwells within them or their poise, or rather they seek both. Some exhibit needless or pointless speed. Some put on display their uncontrollable animal instinct.

They arrive in motor-cycles as flies in the heat, their strides across the road appearing smooth. The term ‘the Boy’ refers to how the motorcycle gang haunted lonely women with their unrestrained attitude, a superlative assertion of their notion of masculinity. The sound of the bikes as they travel in unison bugles to the sound of thunder.…

Poetry Analysis: Dylan Thomas’ “After the Funeral”

Dylan Thomas’ “After the Funeral” is a tribute and elegy to Thomas’ aunt Ann Jones with whom he shared a deep bond. The death of Aunt Jones left a profound impact on the poet. The poem “Fern-Hill” commemorates the happy moments he spent on Aunt Jones’ farm. This particular poem stands apart from the other poems of Thomas: it is the only one that is associated with an individual while others deal with experiences or abstractions. The poem begins in the typical style of the elegy expressing contempt for the hypocritical mourners whose formal salutations of grief are depicted as “mule praises“ and “brays”. They appear like asses in their superficiality and shook they ass-like ears rendering the tragic situation a mockery. They walked “muffle-toed’ in keeping with the atmosphere of the funeral. ”Tap-tap” also refers to the sound of nails being hammered into the coffin. The phrase ‘tap happily’ implies how the people were secretly happy that the tap was not for meant for them. The phrase “thick grave’s foot” is utilized as a metaphor where the coffin is imagined to be the foot of the grave, for it serves the purpose of carrying dead bodies to their grave. ’Blinds down the lids’ refers to the shutting of the coffin.…

Edward Said’s Orientalism: Building a Self-Reflexive History

Said’s Orientalism exposes the Eurocentric universalism built on a self-reflexive history in terms of the East. Said sets out to delineate the West’s supercilious stance and condescending conceptions of the East. Orientalism (1978) forms a trilogy with other works such as The Question of Palestine (1979) and Covering Islam (1981), the first of the two that established his career. Said examines the interplay of dichotomies that has been built under the tutelage of the West. Critics like Joshua Muravchik assert how the phenomenon hailed a new era for leftism in which ‘people of color’ substituted the proletariat as the redeemers of humankind.

Said’s work Beginnings is seen to be the beginning of this academic enterprise: “To begin to write, therefore, is to work a set of instruments, to invent a field of play for them to enable performance” (24). Edward Said begins the Introduction of Orientalism paraphrasing the narrative of a French journalist Thierry Desjardins as he expresses his view of the present day Orient foregrounding the stereotypical representation of the Orient. The passage refers to the French romantic travel writings  of Chateaubriand and Nerval and their construction of the Orient.This image of the Orient is much glorified in terms of the ones that created it, that  it comes across as immaterial that the place itself was sociologically affected.…

Poetry Analysis: R.Viswanathan’s “Grandfather”

“Grandfather” by R.Viswanathan is written to eulogize his grandfather who had an infectious joviality about him . The poem is about the death of the grandfather. However, it does not have a mournful tome or an elegiac tone. He is said to have laughed his way through life overcoming all trials and tribulations with ease. The alliteration in the phrase ‘lived long’ points to his harmonious life that was drunk to the lees. He made his folks laugh many times till all their bones broke.The speaker implies that his humour infused their very being and his buoyancy was the very core of their existence. Even while he was ill and the others around him were very pessimistic he inspired them with his incorrigible optimism and cracked jokes. Their bones broke but never did his spirit die. Though the speaker was not home during the incident, the experience was communicated to him with all the positive vibes intact. Therefore, grandfather transported his positivism to people at a distance also. The speaker was not home even when grandfather died, yet his still body seemed to laugh, according to the versions of others. His static body appeared to be kinetic.

The speaker comes home for Sanjayana to administer the last rites and goes with his Dad to the crematory.…

Gopal Guru’s Egalitarianism and the Social Sciences: Theorizing Experiences or Experiencing Theory?

The Cracked Mirror presents broken images of attempts to marry theory and lived experiences that hitherto have been often perceived as divorced dichotomies. Gopal Guru expresses in his essay “How Egalitarian are the Social Sciences in India” how social sciences are divided into empirically inferiorized and the critically privileged domain of knowledge. From the last sixty years, academic experience within the Indian social science circuit has been placed within the hands of a privileged few giving rise to a cultural hierarchy: the elite theoretical pundits who are presumed to be endowed with a reflective capacity and people with empirical experiences who are deemed as the subaltern.  It comes across that though the theorizing of Dalit experience is supposed to invert the dialectical pair Brahmin/Shudra, it rather enforces it thereby strengthening power structures. It functions parallel to Said’s notion of the Orient who is constructed as the putative object, by the West and for the West. The practice of the TTB underlines Foucault’s assumption of how power is constituted in and through discourses; and how knowledge is born out of the critical relationship between the ontology of the subject and the object.

Sarukkai sums up Guru’s view of theory thus: theory is based on experience and universal reason, and “theory is to be felt, is to embody suffering and pain, is to relate the epistemological with the emotional, that is to bring reason and emotion together” (quoted in Satyanarayana 400).…

Poetry Analysis:Ted Hughes’s “Thrushes”

Ted Hughes’ “Thrushes” is one of his frequently anthologized poems. The poet is enamoured at the violent streak in the thrushes rather than their singing ability. He is amused at their ability to “stab”. They are by themselves ‘sleek’ or stylish. They are single-minded in purpose, and therefore very attentive. With their iron will, they come across as coils of steel rather than mundanely humane. The “dark deadly eye” foregrounds the scene fixed in its stare, and the poise they assume is indeed to be regarded. The fragile legs are triggered to stirrings beyond sense, that is, it is driven on instinct-“with a start, a bounce, a stab.” Swiftly according to impulse, they prey on the writhing thing. They indulge in no irresolution, no lethargy and no postponing; they are characterized by immense presence of mind.

No indolent procrastinations and no yawning states,

No sighs or head-scratchings

It just takes a rapacious second for this predatory being to satisfy ts urge.

Is it their single-mindedness characterized by their solid skulls, or their body that is inherently well-trained, or is it the undeterred genius, or the poet asks is it the “nestful of brats” or the lineage with the killer-instinct. The adjectives “bullet” and “automatic” exemplify how the act looks automated, mechanized and triggered.…

Poetry Analysis: W.H.Auden’s “The Unknown Citizen”

W.H. Auden’s “The Unknown Citizen” pertains to Auden’s middle period of creation. It was the time of authoritarianism in Europe, and amid dictatorship in the various countries in Europe, Man as a rational individual was losing his stance, distinctiveness and identity. The definition of the average citizen was confined to how well he conformed, how far he was predictable and how smoothly he rendered himself a cog in the wheel of society.

. The beginning of the poem in the passive voice is indicative of the citizen’s lack of initiative. The individual is paid a tribute by constructing a marble monument for him Just as, the Taj Mahal, ‘the poetry in marble’ was gifted by Shahjahan to his better-half Mumtaz Mahal. However, Mumtaz Mahal’s life was filled with blissful love. Here, the unknown citizen’s life is constrained by the dictums and doctrines of the state. The state is said to ‘construct’ him, as he is described, at the outset, in terms of statistics. Furthermore, he is acknowledged as ‘unknown’. Only his presence is acknowledged, not his individuality.

Subsequently he is attributed with certificates of conduct. ‘Saint’ is categorized as an old fashioned word that has lost the connotations that olden times gifted it with, in the modern day context.…

“Poetry Analysis Ted Hughes’ “The Howling of Wolves”

Like the poem ”The Song of a Rat,” the animal in Ted Hughes’ “The Howling of Wolves” is portrayed as a victim. They are victims of their own predatory nature, that has made them live like this according their wildest whims and inherent instincts. This impulse in them inexorably stresses on the theory of survival of the fittest without any qualms. They are therefore “without world” because their only consideration is their inner world. They assert themselves “on their long leashes of sound” that dissolve in mid-air silence. They make their presence felt through the silence of the nights. They have indeed a very keen sense of perception that is put on alert with the crying of a baby). This innocent instinctive cry of the baby is contrasted against the wild howlings.

They also detect very easily the tuning of a violin with their alert ears. The gentle sound is as fragile as an owl’s ear. The poet connotes more than he denotes here as an Owl’s range of audible sounds is different from most of the living beings. Its hearing ability is much more acute at certain frequencies that renders audible the slightest movement of their prey in leaves or undergrowth.

Poetry Analysis: Ted Hughes’ “The Casualty”

In Ted Hughes’s “The Casualty,” he portrays the domestication and commercialization of a tragedy. Farmers and housewives behold the plane crash with an air of indifference .They watched as if they encountered a fight between “a spider and a firefly.”The phrase “between the washing hung out” domesticates the larger scale of tragedy.”Far above the trees” indicates their standpoint: how they comprehend that they are far away from the domain of this disaster. They wait for the evening news with interest as yet another major tragedy is commercialized.

Fallen into a brambled or thorny ditch, the “suddenly smashed stems twitch.” This signifies the vegetation that is completely out of place or the human bones being smashed due to the accident. The pheasant, the hare and the wren respond with their respective reflux actions bewildered at this “unnatural occurrence. ‘The pheasant stands on the ruins in total astonishment. The hare that typically hops reluctantly and quizzically-thinking at every step; in response to the calamity frantically hops away flattening its ears without thinking twice. The wren goes about its duty of warning the others.

The response of people to the crash is elaborated upon in the subsequent paragraph. They “saw fall”, it was not only the fall of the plane, but the Fall of Man as well, where Nature won over science yet again.…

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