Professor Sridhar Rajeswaran, University of Mumbai, who has been invited as a Visiting Professor will deliver his 1st lecture on “W.B.Yeats a Dialectic of Desire and Nation: The Body of a Woman and the Lie of the Land ” on 06 May 2016 (Friday) from 3.00 to 5.00 p.m. in the Seminar Room of the Institute. Dr. Kaustav Chakraborty will be the chair.
There are moments in cultural history when entire aspects of culture, especially its institutions such as Art and Literature, have to be re-examined and re-defined. These moments crystallise in particular trends, in particular ‘ideologies’, all of which become parameters to construct a method that helps appraise the times and explore age old issues in the field of cultural studies. The Twentieth Century had seen a thorough re-interpretation of cultural issues. In the context of this tremendous theoretical interest that has come to be, it becomes important to identify those figures in the contemporary literary world, whose work may act as an aide in asking those significant questions about literature which are specific to the times and may thereby help in re-formulating issues in aesthetics. To work efficiently, it may be necessary to begin by defining our range of operations. A representative area, a representative figure, certain representative trends - all these need to be isolated and defined for purposes of analysis. Poetry as an area of analysis is especially adequate, since, unlike fiction and drama, it is not wholly bound by limitations of history and society. Among English poets of this century, it would seem debatable to choose a representative figure whose work could be used as a focus for analysis. However, a sound case may be made out for W.B. Yeats, whose practice of his craft and whose preoccupation with his art, have created a sense of a poet’s vocation that is possibly available only to a poet whose work is constantly seeking to define its own status. Yeats came to poetry at a time when questions about the very nature of art and the experience it arose from were being re-formulated. It was also a time when the poet’s role vis-a-vis society was being debated. Yeats sought answers to both on his own terms. The poet as a lone figure in search of truth - both as an image and as an idea - haunted him throughout his poetic career. Being born into an Irish inheritance, Yeats could refer this haunting to a history, which, however troubled, stood him in good stead. There was thus a natural dialectic which informed his art and, which, in fact, is necessary, if the poet’s art were not to dissolve into its own rhetoric. Yeats translated into his poetry the issues posed by this dialectic, and his poetic problems, in turn, constantly referred to larger cultural issues raised by the nature of the times.
In conventional criticism, the notion of the dialectic is assumed to be one that is natural to an internal movement in art. Such a notion, however, cannot bear the weight of historical shifts which have positioned splits in consciousness, to be products of an age governed by certain conditions of materiality. This, of course, was the age of Capital and Colonialism. Raymond Williams traces this split to Rousseau and consequently to the entire school of Romanticism. In different contexts, Frantz Fanon, Edward Said, Elaine Showalter and Terry Eagleton have examined the nature of this divided consciousness. Fanon and Said have identified this divide to be an aspect of the colonial condition, while Eagleton, basing his arguments on his studies of Irish culture, suggests that its effects may be found in works which seek to escape and transcend coloniality as well. Showalter argues that this split in consciousness was characteristic of fin de siècle Europe, as it sought to negotiate the divide which Capital had sealed between public and private spaces, and therefore, between the political and the sexual.
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