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.…

Play Analysis : Harold Pinter’s “Birthday Party”


In Harold Pinter’s The Birthday Party, Stanley Webber, the protagonist, is a recluse in his late 30s characterized by humour, consternation and fear. Highly capricious at one moment and highly humorous at another, he appears like a frightened animal. He appears to be a pianist in his past life. He is an escapist as he comes across as a recluse set apart by his aloofness from society. There appears to be no prospect of escaping from his existence and their appears to be no other alternative. Ruby Cohn states that in Pinter’s plays, the house as a metaphor is openly reduced to a room. The play The Birthday Party commemorates the birthday of Stanley who is adamant that it is not his birthday. Birthday not only signifies the anniversary of one’s birth, it also points to the day of one’s birth. And, in The Birthday Party, the celebration of the former helps to create the latter. The intruders transform Stanley into a new man .As he is reborn by the turn of events, the make-believe birthday renders into his true birthday.

At the outset of the play, Meg tries to wake Stanley up as if he were a baby.…

Poetry Analysis: Tennyson’s “Ulysses”


Tennyson’s “Ulysses” is the first modern adaptation of the myth. Homer’s Odyssey lends the poem its narrative background. A closer look at the context through a detailed analysis follows.

Style and Form

Ulysses, by Alfred Lord Tennyson, was penned in blank verse. The poem’s persistent iambic pentameter has intervallic spondees. It slows down the pace and movement of the poem. Therefore, the laboring language reflects the stagnation that had set in the life of Ulysses. Some scholars consider Tennyson’s Ulysses to be a dramatic monologue. However, certain critics maintain that it is a soliloquy as it does not adhere to all the constraints of the dramatic monologue. It does not really become clear as to who the auditor is. At times, it comes across as a soliloquy and sometimes it appears as a public address. The poem was published in Tennyson’s second volume of Poems (1842).

Literary Context

In the eleventh book of The Odyssey, the prophet Tiresias predicts that Ulysses will go back to Ithaca after a tedious expedition. Subsequently, he would undertake a new, enigmatic voyage, and would later die a peaceful, “unwar-like” death that comes vaguely “from the sea”. At the end of Tennyson’s poem, the protagonist contemplates on embarking on this previously mentioned journey.…

Poetry Analysis: Gabriel Okara‘s “Once Upon a Time”


Gabriel Okara‘s “Once Upon a Time” has been published in the Edexcel GCSE anthology. In “Once Upon a Time”, Gabriel Okara speaks of a time when Africans were rooted in the simplicity of tradition and minimalism of sophistication; and how different they have turned out to be with the advent of colonialism. The very title “Once Upon a Time” points to a fairy tale existence long ago that is almost deemed unbelievable .

“Once Upon a Time” they used to laugh with their hearts and eyes in complete sincerity. The eyes are an indicator of the sincerity of a smile. Okara, here, portrays fake, unfelt smiles. A smile being the first greeting a person is received with: If the greeting itself is deceptive; the rest is to be regarded with great suspicion. “Once Upon a Time” they were children in the lap of nature. Though, now they have turned into processed products of pseudo modern existence. They now laugh mechanically with their teeth and ice-block cold eyes. The imagery of ‘ice-block cold eyes’ is suggestive of death and stagnation, and denotes lack of communication. Pictorial vehemence suggests the lurking hypocrisy.

The poet moves from expression to action.Now they shake hands ‘without hearts’ as their left hand probes the speakers’ pockets.…

Poetry Analysis: Thom Gunn’s “In Santa Maria del Popolo”


Thom Gunn’s “In Santa Maria del Popolo” explores the concept of annulled existentialism through religion. The poet lingers in the “The Church of St.Mary of the People’ to visualize the celebrated painting of the transformation of Saul(who later became St.Paul).The painting is by Caravaggio or Michelangelo who founded and established the Roman school of Painting which is profoundly coloured by naturalism ,and was far removed from the ideal. The painting is hazy, the image being Saul fallen from his horse. The rays of the evening lend life to the painting and enhances the theme of transformation. The image of Saul lying on the ground emerges and the face of Saul appears to be hidden. The focus of the painter is the lifted arms of Saul raised to God in submissive surrender.

Saul who appears in a seizure seems to be kinetic while the others around him stand static. The Renaissance period marked the flourishing of art. Nevertheless, there was also the predominance of religion that relegated art irreverently to the background.This explains the phrase the sun being ”Conveniently oblique;” and also the shadowing of the painting.

The speaker deliberates on how the painter left some details deliberately missing. For instance, Ananias baptizing Saul on his conversion, and the purging of his evils.…

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 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. The birds symbolize the motor cyclist–groups owing to their reckless energy and  their proclivityto 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. The bikes are in supreme control between their calf and thigh.…

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.…

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