March 31, 2023


Musings II: Of Death

The lively presence of children at memorial ceremonies, much as they are upbraided for threatening to dilute the solemnity of such occasions, actually relieves frowning adults of the burden of mourning. In Bengali Hindu middle-class households, there are gastronomic and sartorial codes around memorial meetings. The host and hostess must ask guests, “Kheyechhen to? I hope the dhnokaar daalna is up to the mark? And the shukto?”

The Relationship Between Comparative Literature & Translation Studies

If Translation Studies helps the comparatist to actually engage with the questions of language/language-use, reception and changes within a literary system, then Comparative Literature and Translation Studies can be the best of friends. And Comparative Literature, now more than ever, is in dire need of friends. This is not because there is, or as people like to imagine there always has been and always will be a crisis in the discipline of Comparative Literature.

Musings #I: On Travel

A visit is too purposeful a project, particularly short-term ones. Only a long stay allows one to loosen the bonds of convention and custom. Though I began this essay with a reference to early modern travel, I cannot say I look upon travel with the same kind of educative zeal as, say, Sir Francis Bacon does in his essay Of Travel.

What Emilia Knew: Shakespeare Reads James

While recently rereading Derrida’s beautiful essay, “On Forgiveness”, I found myself imagining a story around it. So, the essay became one about a scene, rather than an idea, of forgiveness. “Forgiveness is mad,” Derrida writes, “It must plunge, but lucidly, into the night of the unintelligible.” I had been writing about Tagore’s Ghare Baire too, and, when I got tired of working, watching bits of Antonioni’s La Notte on YouTube. These night-haunted and night-haunting masterpieces by Tagore and Antonioni came together in my head and provided me the key – the ‘theory’, as it were – to reading Derrida’s piece on forgiveness, rather than the other way round.

If Music Be the Food of Love

Walter Benjamin, in his essay on Baudelaire, discusses that smell is the most powerful among man’s sensory perceptions. Any experience which is associated with smell suffers minimum data-loss as it finds a place in the brain, the storehouse of memory. An encounter with the same smell, no matter how many years after the first encounter, is most likely to bring back the earlier experience by an act of recollection, as Benjamin says, in a crisis-proof form.

The “Formalists” and what we owe to them…

In the previous article we had tried to arrive at defining Comparative Literature but that, as it appears, is a question that presently remains to be answered satisfactorily or rather conclusively. So be it. Before we move towards the possibility or impossibility of defining Comparative Literature (this vacillating tone is obviously sarcastic) there are some debts that we (and by this one means anybody who claims to study Literature) must acknowledge for they have long been taken for granted. One such debt the study of Literature in recent times seems to leave by and large unacknowledged is to the “Formalists” or the Formalist movement.