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Sep 23, 2013

Comparative Study

Comparative literature means, “a study of similarities,(P. 111)” “studying all literatures, with linguistic rigour and historical (P. 111)” comparison. It is to find similarities between two or more incongruent text or characters to develop bigger perspective than the mere criticism. We can compare folk or oral literature, Diaspora and Dalit or Tribal literature with each other for maturity of our thoughts, and this will be possible only through Comparative literature.
Indian poetics has often been identified with Sanskrit which “distinguishes modern literature from the literature of earlier periods (P.23).” Sanskrit was job of past and the modern poets are in the hunt of Western theories. The escape of Indian poetics from Sanskrit begins with the maturing of Indian Languages. Imagination loose its grip as the modern Indian movements like Dalit writing, Women writings, modern folk writings started in India. Now the literature is under the impact English Russia, French and Germany.  The modern critics accept this impact and trying to re-read the text and trying to represent the literature of dalits, Muslims, adivasis and women. These re-reading writers force us to rethink about our society, ethics and aesthetics. In this sense, modernism replaced the simile and the metaphor with symbolism and realism.
Indian Novelist are imitating the colonial model to construct a theory English Novel. The essayist, Alfred Lopwz, tells feels “the arrival of the postcolonial in such an array of non-aligned critiques of colonial cultural imperatives (P.83)”. To understand the thematic structure of Indian Novel I am quoting the words of character Jamie says:
Look into my face. My name is Might-Have-Been   
I’m also No More, Too Late, Farewell?         
                                    —O’Neill. Long Day’s Journey into Night. P. 148
For it the novelist first chooses a subject then he has to construct his plot whether artificial or natural. In this sense, Premchand divided the novels into two categories—Idealistic and realistic. He prefers “realistic Idealistic novel” because when it is written to gain some social, political and religious aspects it falls from its standard.  Narayan based the structure of novel on feudal social structure with Indian Rajas, and also includes some myths, rivers and forests with topographical sceneries. Apart, the theory of novel should reflect the multi layered reality of India but new novel is only “metro novel” and have nothing to do with the lower and even lowest classes and with their problems. All in all, there is no single theory for Indian novel as they are written in different regional language. “Only Indian Novel is considered to be post colonial by the academics”. (P.33)
The best comparative literature comes if we compare feminist text. The Feminist writings are discovering the past from women’s angle in male dominated society of India. After independence a new enlightened middle class women is both subject and object in Indian Literature. The use of body imagery, and emphasis on female against the set norms are seen in current literature. Strom in Chandigarh, Heat and Dust, Voices in the City, are only a hint of that.
Book defines intercultural criticism with the sign words “I- Thou-I” and for Derrida its meaning is “absence, critical emptiness (P. 41)” or they represents. Its perfect example is Kipling’s 1901’s novel Kim and herein hero asks Mahmood Ali, his friend and a horse rider, “What am I? Mussalman, Hindu, Jain or Buddhist?” The criticism here presented is about democratic trend with mixing of another culture as seen in A Passage to India (1924) by Forster.  In the culture and intercultural connection we come to know that characters are changing their religion for salvation which never comes to them as to the heroine, Madeline, in Rao’s Serpent and the Rope, becomes Buddhist and asks her husband Rama to marry an Indian girl, and this finally leads to divorce.
The literature of a country remains incomplete if its local texture/ logical structure (term by J.C. Ransom) is ignored, in this sense, tribal literature add literary discussion in India. The language, folk-lore, ceremony,  all are totally different that is why Henry Reman observes:
Nowhere in the world is the present evolution of comparative literature as dynamic and constructive as in India. (p. 172)
these societies had a sense of pride for their cultures. The themes of native identity are their main concern. Dalit, in doing the same in literature what the oral poet P.I. Sonkamble says:
                        When we were tearing you were tearing us   
                        Now we tear you while you tear. (The Cracked Mirror, P.22)
In India, New Comparative Literature not has deep roots. It is always in “War of position” among new literature (p. 184). Need of the time is that “comparative study must come to grips with ... its own methods of analysing ‘culture and ‘context’ in order to construct literary histories.(p.189)” . In lack of it, as Charles Bernheimer puts in “Comparative Literature in the Age of Multicultural” (1988) comparative literature has nothing new to offer.
Comparison gives goods opportunity for judging how history contributes to modern knowledge. “The merger of the two is the need of the time, and this approach is termed as “Comparative Cultural Studies.” Indian literature of different languages offers limited view of history in an underdeveloped manner. So a compendious bibliography needs to be compiled. Communalism based comparative cannot help to achieve international standard as Report of HRD Ministry of India, 2005, shows. (P. 193-94)
Comparative literature can be made strong with Interiorization (term by W.J.Ong). To judge the interior side or images of factual non-fulfilment which lead to enriched imaginative fulfilment of a literary text is called Interiorization. In Keats’ Ode on a Grecian Urn we have the lines “Heard melodies are sweet but those unheard are sweeter” suggests the beauty that eventually becomes truth not a fact of life but of literature. Again the lover, who is eagerly hoping to kiss the lady remains unrealized but realised possibly. For this reason songs are sung not “to the sensual ear,” but “to the spirit.” Milton’s “On His Blindness” is a protest against God’s blindness to human limitations but at the end blindness is removed by thinking “they also serve who only  stand and wait?” the poem is on whose blindness: Milton the man, or Milton the poet, or Milton’s God, or Milton’s reader? Similarly in “Paradise Lost” begins with the intention of “justifying the ways of god to man” but it is exposure of the unjustness of God to man.  Milton’s opposition of autocratic tendencies put him for a time of the side of Satan, against God, thereby this declared intention “to justify God’s ways.”
Comparative literature have the power to compare cultural and intercultural discourse. In the culture and intercultural connection we come to know that characters are changing their religion for salvation which never comes to them as to the heroine, Madeline, in Rao’s Serpent and the Rope, becomes Buddhist and asks her husband Rama to marry an Indian girl, and this finally leads to divorce. Here also East-West encounter is not fulfilled and the question of ““present” or “absent” or both are replaced unproblematically (p. 45).” Its perfect example is Kipling’s 1901’s novel Kim and herein Kim asks Mahmood Ali, his friend and a horse rider, “What am I? Mussalman, Hindu, Jain or Buddhist?” here Buber comments, Kim trying “willing to unwell or absent himself” by becoming the “Chela” of Tibetan lama and to use the words of Derrida, Kim “suspends his accomplishment or fulfilment of ‘desire or will’” by adopting Buddhism.  The criticism here presented is about democratic trend with mixing of another culture as seen in A Passage to India (1924) by Forster.
One crisis of Indian Comparative Literature is that features of colonialism are still yet to come. In “”New Literature,” the Dalit, the Gramin, Tribal and elitism etc are hidden behind modernism. Vedic tradition of discouraging analysis and comparison continues in different disguise. Perhaps this is main reason of the weak development of Comparative Literature in India. On other hand, our Comparative Literature is Euro-America-centric. The novel should reflect the multi layered reality of India but new novel is only “metro novel”. It has nothing to do with the lower and even lowest classes and with their problems. Indian literature of different languages offers limited view of history. It is in underdeveloped process. So a compendious bibliography needs to be compiled. Communalism based comparative cannot help to achieve international standard as Report of HRD Ministry of India, 2005, shows. (P. 193-94). It fails if it not shows local topography. It must have the qualities to judge the interior side.

The Book Studies In Comparative Literature: Theory, Culture And Space floods light on the different aspects of Comparative literature: where it is strong and weak, how it can be more strong as compared to the literature of America, Canada, Russia, England and China. The book also suggests, for wider reorganization literature must include Qawwali, Gazal, or Song as Salman Rushdie did in “The Midnight’s Children” with the song “Mera Joota hai Japani” translated in novel as “My Shoes are Japanese.”  Indian Veda must not be forgotten in this regard as each must compare Indian writings with it. Indian comparative literature is literature of high order but only the right comparative critics and criticism is the need of the hour. Some of the best writers were kept out of comparative literature in lack of it, so a close re-reading is strongly needed of the older texts like Pothery Kunhambu’s saraswativijayam (re-reading by Dalip Menon); re-reading of Kalidasa’s Abhijnana Sakuntalam by Romila Thapar’ re-reading of Chandu Menon writings by M.T. Ansari; and of  Kumaran Asan’s writings by S. Saradakutty.

Based on Studies In Comparative Literature: Theory, Culture And Space
Edited by
Jancy James
Chandra Mohan
Subha Chakraborthy Dasgupta
Nirmal Kanti Bhattacharjee

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