Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Dr. Litvack's Date with Chennai

It was a memorable day by all means! Dr. Leon Litvack, kept his date with Chennai on 07 November for an impressive lecture on ‘Myth, Memory and Meaning’ at the University of Madras, - a thought-provoking and insightful lecture that was ‘spell-binding’ by all means.

The evening with Dr. Litvack was all the more wonderful, with the four of us having a lively and fruitful discussion that ranged from Folk Literature to Creative Writing, to the scope of the Humanities now and in the near future, and the Irish literary landscape vis-à-vis the Indian. 

Dr. Litvack did his Honours in Literature at The King’s College, London, [remember? King’s College, London, which has gone into the record books, for being the very first College that offered English Literature as a course of study, way back in 1828!] and well, Peter Barry was our source for that!

He talked about how the people from Northern Ireland were traditional and quite orthodox in their views, and how they differed from the South! Being the trustee on the Dickens’ Museum, he added that, they’re planning on having an exhibition in 2020 on Dickens and his oeuvre.

Being a historicist himself, Litvack elaborated on how arduous the task is, [especially in historicist work on the story of The Titanic, and on the Charles Dickens project], yet how rewarding it turns out to be, at the end of the day. Interestingly, his daughter Hannah Litvack, is Assistant to the Surveyor of The Queen’s Pictures, at The Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace. 

He also gave us a copy of his latest book, On the Grass When I Arrive, published by Guildhall Press, and he was all happiness personified when he said that the cover for this book was done by his Artist-daughter Naomi Litvack, who specializes in 'large-format, imagined landscapes', and is a graduate from the Manchester School of Art.

On students making their career choices, Dr. Litvack said that, ‘they’ve got to decide on their professions for themselves’, - ‘not influenced by their parents or friends or relatives whatsoever’. And once they’ve decided on a career in the Humanities, they should start working with zeal and passion towards mastery in their chosen field of study. It’s all about passion and commitment that promotes excellence, he observed.

‘My classmates in school are now well-settled, having mastered either in Engineering or Medicine, while I am here happily settled  -with great satisfaction - here in the Arts. But unlike in the Sciences, the Arts and Humanities ennoble your heart and soul, helps you connect with people better - all over the world, making you adventurous, always asking for more of travel, more of the zest for life, etc etc etc he went on…!’

And indeed, that’s what makes us all in the Arts and Humanities special! Ain’t it…?

Litvack also talked with verve and gusto about his association with Seamus Heaney, the Irish Nobel Laureate, who coincidentally studied in Queens University, [where Leon has been working for the past 25 years].

The renowned Canadian literary critic and theorist famous for his contributions to Archetypal Literary Criticism - Northrope Frye happens to be his Guru, and Litvack adds that it was Frye who wanted him to do his masters under Stanley Fish in the United States. 

To be contd…


  1. Thank you, Samuel, for your kind post. It was a pleasure to meet you in Chennai,
    Best wishes from Leon Litvack

  2. Thank you, Samuel, for your kind words. Looking forward to seeing you in Chennai again!
    Good wishes from Leon Litvack