I can still recall the day I was sitting with my research supervisor (also called research guide) in his chamber. I wanted to do a thesis on T. S. Eliot’s poetry. The guide was happy and enthusiastic about it. He also added much valuable inputs. The planning went good for a few months. When the time came to get enrolled and actually start the research work, things went south. My supervisor, an upright, down to earth and a man of integrity, directly said it on my face – ‘nobody in England will give a f*ck about this research as our opinions don’t matter to them’. And I was dumb! I could not think of anything to counter or add to his statement. I was dumb!
Why do we teach English literature (limit English as a geography) to students if they cannot have any opinion about the merits and demerits of the literary personalities from Englad?
Why do we stuff the syllabuses with contents by Longinus, Aristotle, Shakespeare, Horace, Plato, Eliot, Brontes, Yeats, Keats, Wordsworth and Goldsmiths if, ultimately, one has to do a thesis on ‘Indian themes and Indian authors’?
Why cannot we teach Indian English literature as major and only keep the literature of England to a referrentail value?
Why do we rely so much on the opinions by the critics of England and America, even Russia or Middle East nations? Why don’t we give value to Indian critics? Are opinions by Indian critics useless or not up to the mark or untouchable?
These questions demand answers and our academicians and politicians should come forward to answer them. Academicians and politicians together are responsible for the policies that decide syllabuses of the universities. If you are teaching something, let the students form their opinions and help them doing so. There is no use teaching how to solve mathematical problems and pushing someone to appear in a civics examination. This is very basic thing.
I have read critcia texts edited by Enright and Chickera. I have also read opinions by celebrated authors. And then, I have also read opinions on English poets and literature in general, poetry in general by Sri Aurobindo. I did not find Sri Aurobindo’s opinions lacking in any terms whatsoever. His opinions are of highest degree that a man can read still, we are compelled to read opinions by others, from their perspectives and with their limitations but not the ideas and opinions by Sri Aurobindo that will help us understand many things and ideas from our perspective, the Indian interpretation and in an Indian way, a native way.
Even for the slightest things like writing an answer to a question in literature examination to understanding the interpretation of a poem by Coleridge, we rely on the opinions by the English because our teachers and academicians think they are the experts and their voices matter a lot! Why cannot we formulate our own way to define how to write answers in English literature and how to read poetry? Is it too much to ask of our esteemed professors and academic scholars?
If we want to create a better intellectual batch of students and scholars who can represent the best of India to the world, we will need to respect the best of India as a prerequisite. If we cannot do the first, we cannot think of the second, ever.
Think about it!
by Ashish for Featured Books Blog