Wednesday, 11 September 2019

'Once upon a time there weren’t any scientists, as such, in plays or fictions, because there wasn’t any science as such!'

Bill Bryson and the Atwood Connect!

As noted critic Scupin Richard once said, ‘There are types and types of writers! Some are, by their own choice, always a step ahead, wanting us to follow them through the course of their mighty pages; some prefer to be at our back all the time, giving us leads and cues, prompts and high signs, to infer and to decipher the meaning all by ourselves down the pages; there are yet others who take pleasure in ambling up a leisurely stroll along with us, holding our hands, and guiding us through their pages in such gentle ways, with an involvement beyond measure!’

One such writer of the last order is Bill Bryson!

Indeed, just one cursory look at his range and his sweep makes you stand in awe of him!

Be it on travel writing, be it on the English language, be it on science, be it on memoirs, be it on philosophy, he’s got them all on him in abundant measure!

An engaging style is sure bound to be an endearing style wherein the writer resolves to take you on an awesomyyy ‘haiyahh’ kinda journey ;-) along with him/her, through his/her ideations, ruminations and reflections that’s been transferred with such enormous care and an abundance of love, onto reams and reams of paper white!

How could we ever thank Bill for making science accessible to us the lay in every way, through his wonderfully enticing book on science, titled, A Short History of Nearly Everything, published in 2003! One of the hot-sellers even today, this book takes credit for being one among the ‘mainline few’ that have made science sound so simple and so cool for all and sundry!

However the signpost thread for this post hinges on Bill’s commemorative volume to the 350th anniversary of the Royal Society of Science, titled, Seeing Further, a book which has quite unfortunately, not seen quite those stunning, raving reviews as have his other titles!

The Guardian and The Telegraph in especial, have been so bold and brazen in their bashing! ;-( Well, they’ve just unabashedly ripped apart the book as a huge ‘disappointment’, and a ‘missed opportunity’!

Ladies and gentlemen, they may be right! At the same time they may be equally wrong too!


Bryson ain’t the reason! Nayyy!

Rather, the liaison is!

Of course, liaisoning with an astounding array of scholars drawn from different disciplines - to each their quiddities and their quirks – is, should I say, a sheer labour of love in the interests of science, ‘so to say’! (‘so to say’ is Bill’s favourite refrain, again, by the way!)

One cannot but quite appreciate the eclectic range of the contributors to this commemorative number – from Margaret Atwood to Maggie Gee on the literary arena, to Holmes and Gleick on the historians’ realm, to Dawkins and Jones on the scientific sphere, yes! you’ve got them all here by the number!

One particular essay on this commemorative volume so endeared itself to me!

And nooo! Not because Atwood happens to be one of my die-hard favourites, but because Atwood is here in a dynamic, new avatar, exploring the claims behind the ‘mad scientist’ archetype!

Or should I personally quip, on an aside, Atwood here is, on a light-lighter-lightest vein, making (or poking) fun of this sinister archetype! ‘Figures of fun’ as she calls ‘em!!!

Moreover, the beauty of this feature lies in its appeal to all and sundry across times and climes!

A lively, engaging feel there is, to this narrative!

How beautifully she engaged us all right from the opening line, ‘In the late 1950s, when I was a university student!’ And yes, from thence on, chances are, you won’t bat an eyelid even as the pages flap and flutter all by themselves, and even as you are winged and hooked to a different environ altogether, and even as you are completely unperturbed by the wing’d chariot gently flitting you by and by!!!

Oh so! Let’s thank Bill yet again, for giving us all such an engaging essay from such an endearing writer of our times! So to say! ;-)

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Is Philosophy Really Dead? - Hawking Tells Us So!

The Grand Design | Stephen Hawking

When we think about the universe, the galaxies, the stars, the planets, the solar system, the asteroids, the comets et al, we always subscribe to the myriad stories and theories galore that baffle and boggle our minds on these innumerable scientific discoveries, revolutions, and inventions that are part of a particular social milieu! Ain't we? ‘Paradigm shifts’ as Thomas Kuhn would call it!

One such book of our times that analyses and examines these paradigm shifts in the history of scientific revolutions down the ages right from the times of the Ionian Greeks, is the wonderful 2010 book titled, The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking!

If to Nietzsche the philosopher, God is dead, to Stephen Hawking the physicist, philosophy itself is dead! ;-)

In the very first chapter titled, ‘The Mystery of Being’, he vouches hard to this viewpoint when he says,

We each exist for but a short time, and in that time explore but a small part of the whole universe. But humans are a curious species. We wonder, we seek answers. Living in this vast world that is by turns kind and cruel, and gazing at the immense heavens above, people have always asked a multitude of questions: How can we understand the world in which we find ourselves? How does the universe behave? What is the nature of reality?

Where did all this come from? Did the universe need a creator? Most of us do not spend most of our time worrying about these questions, but almost all of us worry about them some of the time.

Traditionally these are questions for philosophy, but philosophy is dead. Philosophy has not kept up with modern developments in science, particularly physics. Scientists have become the bearers of the torch of discovery in our quest for knowledge.

Moreover, to Stephen Hawking, it was not god who created man, but man, who created god! And as James Frazer traces this evolution of humankind from 'the black thread of magic to the red thread of religion to the white thread of science', so does Stephen Dedalus! oops Stephen Hawking!!!

Says Stephen –

Ignorance of nature’s ways led people in ancient times to invent gods to lord it over every aspect of human life. There were gods of love and war; of the sun, earth, and sky; of the oceans and rivers; of rain and thunderstorms; even of earthquakes and volcanoes. When the gods were pleased, mankind was treated to good weather, peace, and freedom from natural disaster and disease. When they were displeased, there came drought, war, pestilence, and epidemics. Since the connection of cause and effect in nature was invisible to their eyes, these gods appeared inscrutable, and people at their mercy.

Monday, 9 September 2019

'Shakespeare and theory do not belong to different times and lands; they are instead kissing cousins, speaking a shared tongue.'

Shakespeare & Literary Theory | Jo Gil Harris

Terence Hawkes is real super-amazing in his wonderful book on Structuralism titled, Structuralism and Semiotics! It’s been a primer of sorts for quite many years in a row, for any beginner who’d like to foray into theory proper! Added, some of his key definitions that he’s given us all in this book are awesomeyyy to the highest order! You may wish to read some of these snippets from Terence on our previous blogpost HERE!

But the same gusto and vibrancy seems to be lacking in Terence’s Alternative Shakespeares 2!

Well, the ‘Alternative Shakespeares’ Series has been such a phenomenal contribution to the ‘phenomenon called Shakespeare’, from various theoretical postulates! Housing a host of scholarly treatises from the ‘best in town’ as regards theory, the series has been a rave and a rage for scholars of all hues, bent on politicizing oops theorizing the bard through an unending plethora of –isms to suit their own vested hypos and typos!!! Also, Terence has given an Introduction that seems to have been done more in haste and hence lacking in taste! ;-(

In addition, the treatises contained therein are so scholarly that one needs to approach them more with admiration than with love! [A rehash of Dr. Johnson’s famous line, ‘I admire Jonson, but I love Shakespeare’!]

This little lacuna in Shakespearean criticism from a theoretical framework, has been so beautifully addressed nay remedied by Jonathan Gil Harris in his book titled, Shakespeare and Literary Theory!

If per chance you’ve had the privilege of reading through his The First Firangis or even his Masala Shakespeare, chances are that, you’ve real gotten for yourself a wonderfully refreshing frame of mind to approach this theoretical text too!

Jo has you in splits on almost every other page, although the humour is not quite overt all over! But not quite like how the humour pops up every now and then in his The First Firangis, though! There’s always an impish streak to his characterizations, descriptions and portrayals, which could be rightly said to be his forte, his charm and his hallmark!

Sample this from the Introduction!

Jonathan Gil Harris speaks –

Shakespearian theory is not just about Shakespeare, but also derives its energy from Shakespeare. By reading what theorists have to say about and in concert with Shakespeare, we can begin to get a sense of how much the DNA of contemporary literary theory contains a startling abundance of chromosomes—concepts, preoccupations, ways of using language—that are of Shakespearian provenance.

Some of these chromosomes may be immediately familiar to us from Shakespeare’s writing; some have mutated almost beyond recognition. But they are omnipresent in literary theory’s genome. 

And if ‘Shakespearian theory’ suggests how theory has always been Shakespearian, it can equally help us realize that Shakespeare’s writing has itself always been theoretical. That is why the British literary theorist Terry Eagleton can say that ‘it is difficult to read Shakespeare without feeling that he was almost certainly familiar with the writings of Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, Wittgenstein and Derrida’.

Such pronouncements may be deliberately and provocatively anachronistic. But they also recognize how the relation between Shakespeare and theory is not one of prior host and belated foreign body. Rather, the relation is familial, grounded in resemblance. Shakespeare and theory do not belong to different times and lands; they are instead kissing cousins, speaking a shared tongue.

Moreover, the fact that Jo is a ‘one-man-army’ as the sole author of the book, also helps!

While it looks like, Terence seems to have had teething problems up his sleeve collating ‘myriad-minded’ Shakespearian critics and critiques under one huge umbrella, Jo has had the blessedness of skillfully skipping over this problem; and hence the man is on a jamboree of sorts right from the word ‘go!’

He has structured his book in an easy-to-read elegant way based on the three powerful currents that have swayed and still continue to sway ‘theory’ for years without measure!

The first part deals with ‘Language and Structure’, and the second part is on ‘Desire and Identity’, whereas the third and final part deals with Culture and Society!’

Taking a leaf from out of his own discourses on Shakespeare, it could be said that, this book on Shakespeare and Literary Theory is ‘honeyed and sweet’ and would sure continue to stimulate, and reward, contemplation!

Happy reading folks!!!

'47 per cent believe they spend too much time on their mobile phones!'

The Demon on My Palm | Snippets from An Outlook Feature 

Outlook, dated 16 September 2019

Even as there’s a spate of digital device-related disorders that have been downing its devotees for the past decade and more, right here at Bangalore today, we all musta heard about the shocking news of a boy, by name Raghuveer Kumbar, who beheaded his father Shankar Devappa Kumbhar (61) after Shankar started advising his son not to play the PUBG game and asked him to stay away from his smartphone! The full news item HERE!

Well, as teachers, it becomes our bounden responsibility to emphasise on this harmful addiction of the mobile phone on our wards, and help them come out of its obsessive-compulsive lures and pulls, ain't it?

Coincidentally, Outlook magazine, has done an extensive feature - surprisingly just this week - on its magazine, on the addiction to the smartphone and the enormous digital distress that it leads people to!

Just reproducing excerpts from this week’s issue for y’all –

Here goes –

The addiction to the internet is emerging as India's newest lifestyle disease but we are not ready to accept it. The smartphone revolution is causing enormous digital distress!

As screens, clicks, taps and emojis mediate experiences and interactions more and more, the lines between real lives and ­virtual realities are getting blurred.

An unnerving new word is doing the rounds for unnatural attachment to digital devices: internet addiction. Yet, the phenomenon remains virtually undocumented in national surveys.

In contrast, China, South Korea and Japan recognise internet addiction as a serious public health problem.

In May 2019, online gaming addiction, or the unhealthy need to access online games, has been given the status of a unique disorder, similar to gambling addiction, by the World Health Organization. “Digital disorders are hugely under-recognised in India,” says Dr Rajesh Sagar, head of psychiatry at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi. “But it is fast emerging as India’s newest lifestyle disease.

Outlook decided to chronicle and analyse the health-seeking behaviour of a society in the throes of major socio-economic changes.

Market researcher Karvy sent out field workers across nine ­cities—Delhi, Lucknow, Mumbai, Indore, Calcutta, Patna, Chennai, Bangalore and Vijayawada—asking 1,648 men and women, between age 18 and 55 years, about their attitude to health and sickness. Over 70 per cent respondents were executives or business owners, all graduate and above.

The survey reveals that many of the ­respondents are aware of their unusual ­attachment to digital devices: 47 per cent believe they spend too much time on their mobile phones. Over 62 per cent admit they remain attached to their devices even when they eat.

What’s more, one in five across all age groups say they feel tired from excessive social media use. Hunched over their computers, smartphones or tablets for 7-10 hours every day, back pain is their biggest bane, forcing one in nine to pop painkillers regularly. Depression, anxiety, anger and guilt wear out 28 per cent respondents.

When questioned about the addictive potential of technology, 45 per cent readily confess they want to bring down the time they spend on their mobile phones.

India may embrace technology with open arms, but doctors are worried about the range of behavioural aberrations they come across: from anxiety and irritability to sleeplessness, neglecting important ­activities, avoiding face-to-face inter­actions with family and friends, and ­drifting away from intimate relationships.

Sunday, 8 September 2019

Are you game for the 'Digital Detox' Challenge???

Dear friends,

We are so mightily enthused by the response we’ve got from our friends, students – past & present, - and from all our well wishers for our past digital detox challenges that we have had thus far!!!

Now, spurred and enthused much-o-much by the success of our past digital detox campaigns, yet again we are planning on a digital detox time, in which period we would be practising digital minimalism of the highest order, that Cal Newport suggests!

As such, those of you who would like to join us all on our little ‘digital detox’ bandwagon are gladly welcome to do so! Just drop me an email, and then I would respond with a one-page guideline on how to make your digital detox time a great success, connecting with real life friends, walking amidst real nature, doing some real angling, visiting real libraries, reading real books and a host of like-fashioned spirited ventures!

9 September 2019 sharp at 12 midnight we start and end on 9 October 2019 the same time!
Mail me at if you’re really game for a digital detox!

Oh Come! There's more to life than the ones we find on our digital screens! There's more reality to games and playing than the 'virtual reality' we enjoy on our gaming consoles! There's more to nature than the animated fish we relish watching on our digital screens, fishes that 'seem' to wiggle their tails and move around on the screen in such measured sanity!

And yes! let's give the barons and the tycoons of social media a run for their money at least for a month's time! ;-)

Well, you might want to read more on our vibrant detox guru Cal Newport on our past post HERE!

But for some excerpts here - 

To Cal Newport, - and I quote -

This process of the digital declutter requires you to step away from optional online activities for thirty days. During this period, you’ll wean yourself from the cycles of addiction that many digital tools can instill, and begin to rediscover the analog activities that provide you deeper satisfaction. 

You’ll take walks, talk to friends in person, engage your community, read books, and stare at the clouds. Most importantly, the declutter gives you the space to refine your understanding of the things you value most. At the end of the thirty days, you will then add back a small number of carefully chosen online activities that you believe will provide massive benefit to these things you value. 

Going forward, you’ll do your best to make these intentional activities the core of your online life—leaving behind most of the other distracting behaviors that used to fragment your time and snare your attention. The declutter acts as a jarring reset: you come into the process a frazzled maximalist and leave an intentional minimalist.

Just giving y’all some delightful, mindful quotes from this lovely read!

The tycoons of social media have to stop pretending that they’re friendly nerd gods building a better world and admit they’re just tobacco farmers in T-shirts selling an addictive product to children. Because, let’s face it, checking your “likes” is the new smoking.

You can enjoy solitude in a crowded coffee shop, on a subway car, or, as President Lincoln discovered at his cottage, while sharing your lawn with two companies of Union soldiers, so long as your mind is left to grapple only with its own thoughts. On the other hand, solitude can be banished in even the quietest setting if you allow input from other minds to intrude. Solitude requires you to move past reacting to information created by other people and focus instead on your own thoughts and experiences—wherever you happen to be.

Now, after reading Cal, if you're really really really convinced of the importance of  a digital detox time, do mail me! Else pls don't! ;-)


Friday, 6 September 2019

'The concern of 'Critical Practice' is not what we read, but the reading process itself!'

Belsey | On the ‘Reading Process’

To the literary philosopher Francis Bacon, ‘Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested; that is, some books are to be read only in parts; others to be read, but not curiously; and some few are to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.’

Interestingly, Mark Heyer’s categorization of books do such an amazing connect with metaphors borrowed from our ancestors’ ways of gathering food: grazing, browsing, and hunting. In like fashion, to Heyer, there are three different ways of reading or gathering information, based on the gentle art of reading!

Reproducing interesting excerpts from Heyer, over here, for us all –

In the grazing mode, the ‘‘reader’’ picks up everything coming out of the book. For this purpose, we shall call that mode ‘‘continuous reading,’’ in the sense that the reader aims to construct a significant whole out of a long text, even if the reading spans many sessions. This mode of continuous reading is most typical of the novel where users have to immerse themselves in a book in order to create a fictional universe. It is also the case, albeit with significant differences, with long essays where the reader has to master a series of arguments and relationships, like Darwin’s On the Origin of Species or Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams.

In browsing mode, readers pick up only what is of interest to them through the ‘‘scanning of a large body of information with no particular target in mind’’. That mode became fairly common with the advent of newspapers, magazines, big catalogues, and coffee table books.

In hunting mode, the reader seeks specific information. This mode is relatively recent and became a real possibility only when alphabetical order was adopted for dictionaries!

Now, therein lies the ‘Shavian’ difference between reading for pleasure and reading for profit! Ain’t it?

Neil McCaw’s lovely book has been such inspiration to me in this regard. It’s titled, How To Read Texts, and is a definitive guide for all of us in the literary arena, to be guided into the nuances of reading! You may want to read excerpts from this Neil McCaw delight on our past post HERE!

This takes us to Catherine Belsey, yet another amazing professor of our times, [and the dominant spur behind this blogpost,] who interacts with us through her renowned book titled, Critical Practice, on the ways in which we make meaning in the process of reading itself!

Professor Catherine Belsey
This book would sure be a launchpad for an exciting adventurous trip down ‘theory-lane’ you bet!

Well, Critical Practice discusses in such nuanced detail the basic concepts on all things ‘theory’, and highlights for us all, the myriad ways in which we locate meaning in a text, and the possible interface between human beings and language, readers and texts, writing and cultural politics etc.

Just a cursory look into her Preface, would tell you how engaging she is, in all her critical interventions!

Here we go –

Writing the first edition of Critical Practice was a learning experience for me. New theories were arriving from Paris by the planeload, giving rise to heated debate. They seemed to change everything we thought about culture in general, but there was only one way to find out what difference they made to the practice of reading in particular. How do we know what we think till we see what we write? I wrote the book to find out—and have never been the same since.

Hope I’ve given you enough of a teaser or an appetizer to make you get the book for yourself! Please don’t don't download the book! Experts say that, the possibilities of reading a book that’s been downloaded in our mobile or on our computer screens are an abysmal one percent!

And for once, could you please just forget Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age! Please! ;-) Thank you!

That done, go ahead, lay hold on your own personal hard copy of Belsey’s Critical Practice, that’s up for grabs on all e-stores - and that for a paltry sum - and thereby motivate such scholarly Professors of the Belsey-ian types to write more and more!

Because, as Lewis Hyde in his memorable read titled The Gift observes, ‘In a free market the people are free, the ideas are locked up.’ Well, these great minds then, unlock these great ideas for us, with all care and concern, through the vibrant creative spirit within them, and, for this, we owe them thanks! And this ‘thanks’ we owe them, by purchasing a copy of their books! Ain’t we? :-)

So ladies and gentlemen, please allow me the honour of signing off this post, with Belsey’s lines from her Critical Practice –

The concern of Critical Practice is not our individual commitments, not what we read, nor what politics we bring to bear on what we read (though my own sympathies are transparently clear in the text), but the reading process itself.

Gives us all the more reasons to cheer Catherine and her creative spirit! Alley!?

images: amazondotcom, learnedsocietyofwalesdotcom, bloomsburrydotcom, & this bloggers's!

Thursday, 5 September 2019

Dr. Manalan on Libraries!

Reading & The Institutional Library

The institutional library thrives in India, enveloping learners, scholars and teachers in its democratic embrace, writes NAHLA NAINAR for The Hindu, Metro Plus!

Excerpts - 

The world may never see the libraries in Alexandria, Nalanda and Baghdad again, because they were all burned down by invaders. The pillaging of repositories of knowledge — thought policing at its crudest — continues to this day.

In the recent past, to pick just a few examples, Sri Lanka’s Jaffna Public Library (1980s), Iraq’s major libraries (2003-04) and Cairo’s Egyptian Scientific Institute (2011-12), have lost their volumes to looting by random forces.

Doomsday prophets may argue that we are metaphorically burning our libraries by abandoning the printed book in favour of electronic learning. But, it would be wrong to dismiss the library as a relic of an unwanted past, say professional archivists, who have been seeing the world of knowledge harvesting change with the society that shapes it.

As India celebrated National Librarian’s Day this week (August 12) in commemoration of the Father of Library Science, S. R. Ranganathan, MetroPlus found that the institutional library thrives, enveloping generations of learners, scholars and teachers into its democratic embrace.

Ranganathan formulated five laws of library science: books are for use, every reader his book, every book its reader, save the time of the reader, and library is a growing organism. How effectively are they being followed?

“‘The book shall die a natural death shortly,’ is a permanent forecast,” says A. Srimurugan, former university librarian and head, Department of Library and Information Science, Madurai Kamaraj University (MKU). “But the aesthetic pleasure of printed material, in feeling the paper and reading without any technological assistance, cannot be totally erased.”

Srimurugan cites the example of the University of Toronto’s ‘Demand a Print’ service that allows users to pay the library to print a single copy of a book instantly, as proof that the traditional perusal of print publications will retain its appeal.

With 40 years of experience in the field of informatics, Srimurugan says that while India’s academic libraries have adapted well to the information boom, the decision by the University Grants Commission (UGC) to limit the use of its UGC-INFONET on campuses has hampered wider and collaborative study, especially among women researchers.

“Indian scholars need support, not only from the State and Central Governments, but also more from the Library and Information Science (LIS) professionals, a majority of whom lack thorough knowledge of the digital environment they handle,” he says.

Few people are willing to study Library and Information Science, and those who do, fail to equip themselves with the required technical and professional skills, feels A. Amudhavalli, professor and head, Department of Library and Information Science, University of Madras.

“Digital technology is only a medium, and not an end in itself. This is why I am confident that though the functional role of librarians may have changed, the paper media will continue to exist,” she says. But the decline of the reading habit among school and college students despite vast advancements in technology in India needs attention, she adds. “It is lamentable that there is no focus on libraries in all the talk about education reform by government agencies,” she says. “In Tamil Nadu, there is still no sanctioned post for librarians in Government schools. The authorities need to realise that critical thinking and communication skills are missing among students today, because the library is missing from their education.”

The days of libraries being monolithic institutions are long gone, says Jesudoss Manalan, librarian of Bishop Heber College in Tiruchi. “Libraries have to allow others to access their documents because of the diversified nature of users. And, computerising operations has helped speed up the transfer of information. Earlier, when a lecturer would recommend a text book, students would rush to the library to borrow the same volume. Today, we expect user needs to be more diversified because of the Internet,” he says.

But relying on non-linear and non-indexed pools of data provided by the Internet is problematic too, Manalan says. “Librarians are trained to look for accurate information, with key words and Boolean methods, so that specific data can be fetched out immediately — which is why students should approach them for assistance.”

Monday, 2 September 2019

Criticism is a serious engagement with the pleasures of fiction too!

A Future for Criticism | Belsey

Catherine Belsey usually has her trademark witty liners splurged across her pages in equal measure albeit in varying degrees!

One of her latest books titled, A Future for Criticism is no exception to this credo!

In this book, Belsey traces back through time, the original intent of a teaching agenda, in days past, which focussed much on persuading students to ‘enjoy’ Shakespeare, Milton, and Wordsworth, but in practice this stern imperative was supported by morality, and moral severity, not pleasure!’

And to this end, citing Arnold, she says, that, Matthew Arnold, promoted culture as nothing less than ‘a pursuit of our total perfection’.

But Belsey begs to differ!

To her, then, criticism ain’t necessarily synonymous with ethics, morality, responsibility, politics, or agency. It is more than an assessment of a text’s commitment to civic virtue. And this includes an understanding of textuality itself and a serious engagement with the pleasures of fiction too!

Therefore, ‘If criticism is to promote morality, let it at least be a progressive morality’, she pleads!

Friday, 23 August 2019

'It is through interpretation that teachers attempt to transmit cultural values, but...'

On Interpretation and Beyond! | Culler

To Nietzsche, there aren’t facts but only interpretations! Well, he calls it perspectivism, by which he connotes to say that, since perception, experience, and reason change according to the viewer’s relative perspective and interpretation, there is no objective reality that is free from ‘perspective’ or ‘interpretation’!

Susan Sontag’s seminal 1966 essay titled, “Against Interpretation,” is an admonition for all those interpretations on art! And hence her famous dictum that, interpretation had become ‘the intellect's revenge upon art.’

Jonathan Culler, in his profound book titled, The Pursuit of Signs, posits the need to go beyond interpretation. His opening essay to the book is quite an eye-opener of sorts!

To Culler, the nuanced exercise of criticism has a strategic place in the production of literary tradition, but that does not mean that it should dominate literary studies.

He is of the opinion that,

Readers will continue to read and interpret literary works, and interpretation will continue in the classroom, since it is through interpretation that teachers attempt to transmit cultural values, but critics should explore ways of moving beyond interpretation. E. D. Hirsch, for many years a leading champion of interpretation, has reached the conclusion that criticism should no longer devote itself to the goal of producing ever more interpretations: ‘A far better solution to the problem of academic publishing would be to abandon the idea that has dominated scholarly writing for the past forty years: that interpretation is the only truly legitimate activity for a professor of literature. There are other things to do, to think about, to write about.

And therein lies the importance of The Pursuit of Signs, which explores some of the possibilities in this direction of thinking beyond interpretation!

image: amazondotcom