Friday, 21 December 2012

T.G.Narayanan Memorial Lecture - A Report

Professor Gauri Viswanathan releasing the fourth issue of Eclectic Representations
The first of the TG Narayanan Memorial Lecture Series, organised by the PG & Department of English, Madras Christian College, was indeed a trendsetter of sorts! It's quite rare in the annals of memorial lectures to have such a committed audience of academics and research scholars throng in so enthusiastic a fashion to ardently listen to the lecture of Professor Gauri today, [Friday, 21 December, 2012] at the grand Media Studies Auditorium. As our Principal rightly pointed out, the occasion was indeed a fitting finale to the 175th anniversary year-long celebrations which began in right earnest in the first week of January 2012. 

Gauri Viswanathan, Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University, focussed on English Studies in the era of globalisation, and assessed the impact of postcolonialism in literature. Eminent personalities from all over India were present in large numbers, and the Media Studies Auditorium was packed to capacity even before the lecture had started. Staff and students from many city colleges made a bee-line to listen to the eminent academic, Gauri Viswanathan, on her maiden lecture in Chennai in a long time. Dr.C.T.Indra, Dr.Hoshang Merchant, Mr.N.Ravi (brother of Mr.N.Ram, The Hindu), were among the host of luminaries present. Dr.Stephen, the Head of the Department, welcomed the gathering, and Dr.Ganesh, President, The English Association, introduced the Chief Guest of the day. After the Principal's inaugural address, Mr.N.Ranga Narayanan elaborated on the lecture series, paying rich encomiums to his father, in whose name this endowment has been instituted. 

Renowned Professor Gauri Viswanathan, [Colleague of Gayatri Spivak, at Columbia University], gave a simple yet profound lecture on "English Studies in Postcolonialism and Global History." 

The occasion also saw the release of two anthologies of poems, and the fourth issue of our peer-reviewed Journal Eclectic Representations. Ecletic Representations Vol. 2, Issue 2 was released by Dr. Gauri Viswanathan.  An anthology of poems titled Ignis Regina by Roseline Victoria was released by the Principal, and the second anthology of poems by Sai Shri, R, of III BSc Pbt titled Relationships, was released by the Bursar. 

The lecture was followed by a wholesome lunch for all the delegates at the Staff tiffin room. 

After the lecture, the second Editorial Board of Eclectic Representations met at the Department of English staff room at 2 pm. Dr. Dwight Atkinson (Purdue University), Dr. Rajeevnath Ramnath (Assumption University, Thailand), Dr. Armstrong, Head, Dept of English, University of Madras, Prof. Latha, (Stella Maris College), Dr. Stephen Jebanesan, Dr. Ganesh, Prof. David Albert, Prof. Monsingh, Vidya Venkat (Media Representative), and Editors of our students' journal Incisive Insights, Mr. Udhayaraj, Ms. Divya & Ms. Anlin Steida, were among those who were present. It was decided to reconstitute the board with effect from the next issue, and many resolutions were passed, and minuted. Dr. Joseph Dorairaj, Member of the Board, called up at 2 pm to give his wishes for the Board Meet. Sir had already expressed his inability to attend, due to a pressing commitment.

Excerpts from Professor Gauri Viswanathan's lecture:

I shall try to draw a larger picture on the shape of English studies today, and its changes over time, and reflect on the changing face of English studies on Globalisation, and assess its impact on postcolonialism on its future shape. It’s never easy charting the transformations in English studies as the very nature of change is to produce new forms whose relation to earlier ones is sometimes so opaque that we would be hard-pressed to find any idea of systematic development in the evolution of English studies. The difficulty is compounded by the fact that the multiple histories of English literary study, while effaced at the moment when English enters the syllabus becomes part of the credentialising of citizens and subjects and is established as the certifiable basis of heritage and competence. As a number of critics have pointed out, English Studies is a relatively old discipline, and it is not hard to believe that English Studies has a 115 year history behind it.  ...

How to appreciate a daffodil, without even seeing one, is often being pointed out as the quintessence of colonial education. Touching upon Jamaica Kincaid’s novel Lucy, a coming-of-age narrative where the protagonist Lucy was forced to memorise a poem about daffodils. Lucy could not appreciate the beauty of the daffodils because they did not grow on her island. The daffodils represents her alienation from her education and from her roots. Today, the daffodils is appreciated more for its poetic efflorescence, and people hardly study it as a botanical specimen. This is the kind of reflection that goes on in the novel, the kind of huge gap between knowledge that accrues from books and the social milieu and the knowledge that one gets through the imagination. So, for the very first time when Lucy gets to see the daffodils, she immediately wants to kill them, because she identifies the daffodils with conquest and subjugation, not with beauty and with pleasure. In fact, the daffodil now reminds her of her own state of colonial subjugation.

In conclusion, Professor Gauri emphasised on the need to turn the text into a simulacra of the world, and to regain the world to other imagines that recapture the text from a point outside the institution.

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