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Apr 30, 2019

Of Studies: Bacon

Of Studies is the first essay of the first collection of ten essays of Francis Bacon which was published in 1597. But it was revised for the edition of 1612. More than dozen new sentences were added and some words were also altered. Of Studies is typically Baconian essay with an astonishing terseness, freshness of illustrations, logical analysis, highly Latinized vocabulary, worldly wisdom and Renaissance enlightenment.

Bacon through a syllogistic tripartite statement begins his argument to validate the usefulness and advantage of study in our life. Bacon has the power of compressing into a few words a great body of thought. Thus he puts forward the three basic purposes of studies: “Studies serve for delight, for ornament, and for ability”. He later expands his sentence to bring lucidity and clearness. Studies fill us delight and aesthetic pleasure when we remain private and solitary. While we discourse, our studies add decoration to our speech. Further, the men of study can decide best on the right lines in business and politics. Bacon deprecates too much studies and the scholar’s habit to make his judgment from his reading instead of using his independent views.

Bacon is a consummate artist of Renaissance spirit. Thus he knows the expanse of knowledge and utility of studies. He advocates a scientific enquiry of studies. Through an exquisite metaphor drawn from Botany he compares human mind to a growing plant. As the growing plants need to be pruned and watered and manured for optimum development, the new growing conscience of us are to be tutored, mounded, oriented and devised by studies. But it is experience which ultimately matures our perception and leads us to perfection:

“They perfect nature, and are perfected by experience: for natural abilities are like natural plants that need proyning by study”.

Next Bacon considers what persons despise studies and what people praise them and what people make practical use of them. The crafty men condemn studies; simple men admire them while the wise men make ultimate use of it. But it should be remembered that the inquisitive mind and keen observation cultivate the real wisdom. Bacon advises his readers to apply studies to ‘weigh and consider’ rather than useless contradictions and grandiloquence.

In The Advancement of Learning Bacon makes systematic classifications of studies and considers different modes to be employed with different kinds of books: “Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed and some few to be chewed and digested”.

The books according to its value and utility are to be devised into various modes of articulations. The worthy classical pragmatic sort are to be adorned by expertise reading with diligence while the meaner sort of books or less important books are to be read in summary or by deputy. Again the global span of knowledge is revealed in his analysis of various subjects and their beneficent categories. The scholarly mind of Bacon here makes the subtle observation:

“Histories make men wise; poets witty; the mathematics subtle; natural philosophy deep; moral grave; logic and rhetoric able to contend”.

Studies do not shape a perfect man without the needed conference and writing. “And therefore if a man write little, he had need have a great memory; if he confer little he had need have much cunning, to seem to know that he doth’ not”. Bacon further tells us that our studies pass into our character (Abeunt studia in mores). Rightly so the constitution of our moral disposition is the outcome of our learning and experience.

Every defect of the mind, Bacon says, may be cured by a proper choice of reading. Bacon here draws a parallel between the physical exercise and intellectual exercise. As different games, sports, exercises beget growth and development, the different branches of studies cures the in capability of logic, wondering of wit, lack of distinguish etc. Bacon emphatically concludes that every defect of the mind may have a special receipt and remedial assurance.

Of Studies contains almost all the techniques of Bacon’s essay writing and the world of his mind. It is full of wisdom, teachings and didacticism. In style, the essay is epigrammatic proverbial form, of balance and force. It is full of warmth and colour, profound wit and knowledge, experience and observation.

Apr 24, 2019

House for Mr. Biswas: Naipaul

The Nobel Laureate of 2001, Naipaul’s view of art reminds one of Carlyle’s perception o the writer as a kind of secular-clergy as Ian Baruma suggests. A House for Mr. Biswas, “The marked signature of failure” of hero is the story of Naipaul’s father Seeparsed, leads one to the disquieting realization:
When everybody wants to fight, there’s nothing to fight for. Everybody wants to fight his own little war, everybody is a guerrilla.
The hero was born at he inauspicious midnight hour, like Salim Sinai in The Midnight’s Children, as the narrator describes Mr. Biswas:
Malnutrition gave him the shallowest of chests, the thinnest of limbs; it stunned his growth and gave him a soft rising belley. And thus, perceptibly, he grew.
Mr. Biswas “the barking puppy dog” was a hero lacking in heroism but has been talked about as if he were heroic, and has been described passing “his tongue above his upper lip to make it tough the knobby tip of his nose,” then he is shown, “spitting carefully, trying to let his spittle hand down to the floor without breaking it.”
The theme of individual fulfillment and of the crumbling of the society comes together. The novel is set against the background of the socio-political changes in Trinidad during the Second World War when England had leased to the American forces its military based in Carribbean. The search for self on the part of Mr. Biswas began as early as he developed a consciousness of the world around him. At Pegotes, living in a one-room tenement with his mother, Bipti, at Bhandat’s sharing a room with his rowdy sons—Rabidat and Jagdat, at Pandit Jairam’s—wherever he is “before the Tulsis,” he has been shown greatly concerned with his identity and his role in life. For him
It is far more difficult to sever relationship between the old and new or the past and the present, than a simple desire to do so may imply.
The most significant trait of Mr. Biswas is his rebelliousness at the moment he realizes that he is trapped into Hanuman House “a blasrws zoo” by Tulsi Family “this blasted fowl run”. He called Shama’s, his wife, brother are called “the little gods,” Seth as “the big Boss”, Mrs. Tulsi as “Old Queen,” “The Old Hen”, “A she-fox” and son on.
Mr. Bsiwas is so firmly ensconced in Tulsidom that it is only Deu ex Machina, i.e., divine intervention or the role of chance that finally succeeds in wearing him away from it. It was chance that he revealed to him his gift for painting letters in Mr. Lal’s classroom. It was chance which made him write a note of love to Shama under the provocation of Jagdat and Rabidat, which ultimately landed him in Hanuman House. All in all, Mr. Biswas, the failed Pandit, is not a wholly admirable character.
Mr. Biswas “was struck again and again by the wonder of being in his own house, the audacity of it” but he failed to make it. He wanted to forget “The memories of Hanuman House, The Chase, Green Vale, Shorthills, the Tulsi in Port of Spain would become jumbled, blurred; events would be telescoped, many forgotten.” At the end, he found himself in his own house, even though he has had a heart attack and he is on rather frail health, he would not mind dying in his own house:
How terrible it would have been …. To have died among the Tulsis …. Worse to have lived without even attempting to lay claim to one’s portion of the earth.”
The impression left is undeniably of the futility of the whole endeavor. Shelly’s Ozymandias like, Mr. Biswas fretted and fumed all his life for something which could not outlast. The last sentence of the novel runs:
“Afterwards the sisters returned to their respective homes and Shama and the children went back in the perfect to the Empty house.”
Here the house rendered “empty” after Mr. Biswas’s death at the age of 46.
One can perhaps conclude by suggesting that as regards the portrayal of the lives and activities of the immigrant Hindus in Trinidad, it can be averred that A House for Mr. Biswas anticipates Naipaul’s triology on India—India: A Wounded Civilization (1964); India” An Area of Darkness (1977) and India: A Million Mutinies Now (1990).

Apr 19, 2019

View of Larkin

Nihilistic, Bleak or Gloomy Outlook
Described by Eric Homberger as ‘the saddest heart in the post-war supermarket’ due to the darker aspects of life such as isolation, alienation and death, Philip Larkin is often dismissed as bleak or gloomy in outlook. His pessimistic approach is deeply rooted in the predicament of human life on which based the poem “Mr. Bleany,” wherein the central figure is leading a sub-standard life in his apartment. ‘Deceptions’ somehow privileges the suffering of the rapist, whilst letting the victim’s suffering slide into insignificance. The ‘Afternoons’ reflected the pessimism of a young couple that is pushing them to the side of their own lives. This dissatisfaction is part and parcel of Larkin’s poetic ability. Instead of directly describing the massacre and destruction of WW-II, he crafted pain, suffering and helplessness of a man under the impact of these destructive forces.
Life and Relationship, and Realism (Socio-Economic)
Larkin, in the reconstructive post war era, gave the run-around to God, religion and religious creeds. In spite of this non-sentimental and agnostic approach, he had earned a reputation of a great poet of his time as one who deals with the stark and harsh realities of his time with great realism. In fact, it is his non-romantic approach towards the precarious conditions of life that has given his poetry a long lasting popularity.
Besides giving plenty of space to his pessimistic and agnostic approach, he delineates a crystal clear picture of his society where the differences of class and culture emerge from the advancement of industrial revolution.
The poems on the course feature such ordinary occurrences as a lonely life in a room of Mr. Beaney, rapist and rape in “Deceptions,” boring wedding life of “Afternoons” remains the subject of poetry, instead of myth and allusion frequently finds in Eliot, Auden and others. Larkin said of his work: ‘I write about experiences, often quite simple everyday experiences which somehow acquire some sort of special meaning for me, and I write poems about them to preserve them’. Thus, there is less space for myth and more to realism. Larkin describes very realistically the truth of our social life, wherein a person’s character is judged by his style of living.
Even his love poems describe an utterly unromantic view of human life in the backdrop of the sexual act, which is generally believed to bring about fulfillment and sexual relief. 
In Larkin’s poems, the sexual act is altogether a deception and a sense of dissatisfaction attached to hopelessness that seems to penetrate everything with a feeling of emptiness. Thus, Larkin’s poetry is greatly reinforced by the cataclysmic scenario of post-war England. Intentionally and deliberately, he does avoid deceptions and through his perceptions, he presents the facts as they actually exist. If Christopher Ricks finds in him “a deep and true feeling for human loneliness and longing,” then Donald Davie described him as a poet of “lowered sights and diminished expectations.” His poems are marked by what Andrew Motion calls “glum accuracy about emotions, places, and relationships.”
The age of Larkin was an age of disaster and chaos on a social and moral level all over the world. The flames of Second World War were still burning in the late nineteen-fifties and there was a decline in the values cherished by societies. People had seen much destruction in the wake of first and second world wars and they had started raising questions about the existence of God. That was a scenario where Philip Larkin was born and brought up.
Mr. Bleany is a lonely person, isolated from others; there is nothing neither charming nor attractive in his life and in his apartment.. But
Larkin’s poetry is greatly overwhelmed by one single thought and that is death, which eventually leads the human mind to decline and deprivation.
Larkin’s so-called love poetry, devoid of any romantic passions and emotions by focusing on the peripheral issues of human life reveals tragic aspects and tragedies that have been inseparable to man, since time immemorial. This has been Larkin’s approach that altogether shuns superficial treatment of human suffering and presents pathetic, realistic pictures of human life.
They were described by Jean Hartley, the ex-wife of Larkin’s publisher George Hartley (The Marvell Press), as a “piquant mixture of lyricism and discontent.”

Apr 13, 2019

Poems of Wystan Hugh Auden

Wystan Hugh Auden
WH Auden has two identities. He is, many would argue, the greatest English lyric poet of the 20th century. He is also, few would deny, a top-ranked American lyric poet of a rather different, more reflective character. Auden is, in one of his many parts, a religious poet, concerned as much with the human spirit as John Donne or Gerard Manley Hopkins.
The 1930s were, as he memorably put it, ‘The Age of Anxiety’ and ‘a low dishonest decade.’ Along with the so-called ‘gang’ – Spender, Christopher Isherwood and himself at the centre – he spent time in pre-Nazi Germany, cultivating personal and literary freedoms. He travelled obsessively to scenes of war, notably Spain and China. War would be, in his term, ‘the climate of his time’.  
‘Musée des Beaux Arts’
Ekphrasis poetry is a vivid, often dramatic, and verbal description of a visual work or art or scene, either real or imagined, which is produced as a rhetorical exercise by the poet. Having based on Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s painting, ‘Musée des Beaux Arts’ is not, in itself, a difficult poem, but it is baffling, if one does not know where it is coming from. The ‘Musee’ herein is the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, in Brussels.
In the Fall of Icarus, there are no seething crowds here. The painting is a parable on human aspiration. Icarus, ambitiously, flew too near the sun and plunged into the sea and was drowned after the wax holding his wings together melted. If looked carefully, one can see “the white legs disappearing into the green water.” They are dwarfed by the horse’s rump. Most visitors to the Museum miss the detail which gives the poem its title.
The poem explains “how everything turns away quite leisurely from the disaster.” Earth abides: the ploughman ploughs. Trading vessels go about their commercial business. Life goes on. The death of an unlucky aviator is of no more importance than the fall of a sparrow. Mankind deludes itself if it thinks otherwise. The poem is explaining the notorious eccentricallity of the world at the fall of Icarus, an event that was given high importance by the poets of the past—but for the modern man “it was not an important failure” and this is how it has lost its value and charm altogether, may be due to materialism.
The poem is an exquisitely written sermon, advocating stoicism, and does not mean anything without the pictures—and it is completely dependent on things outside itself.
The poem has no rhyme scheme – it’s a stream of unstructured consciousness.
The critic John Fuller argues that this was in Auden’s mind when he took the first line of ‘Musée des Beaux Arts’ away from the syntax of ordinary speech: ‘About suffering they were never wrong…’ rather than, say, ‘The Old Masters were never wrong’.[ W. H. Auden: A Commentary (London: Faber, 1998), p. 266.]
Importantly, though, like Auden’s ‘The Shield of Achilles’ (1952), ‘Musée des Beaux Arts’ is a poem, rather than a painting, and cannot present a variety of scenes together at the same time, backgrounded or foregrounded: it unfolds rhythmically in time, with long lines that hide tight argumentation behind its deceptively conversational tone.
'The Shield of Achilles'
'The Shield of Achilles', be warned, is Auden’s most terrible poem – terrible because it is hopeless. It is a powerful rejection of war-related violence.
War which threatened to destroy civilisation was the background to Auden’s life–from the Great War of 1914–1918, through WW2, to the cold war, with its imminent threat of planetary extinction within four minutes from the launch of the rockets. The first H-bombs, weapons of awesome destructive power, were exploded a few months before Auden published the poem.
20th-century war bore no resemblance to the heroic conflict chronicled in the oldest, greatest poem we have – Homer’s The Iliad – the story of the Trojan War. Auden had been sent, by the US military authorities to examine damage in post-war Germany. What he saw left an indelible mark on him. Equally as terrible as the actual destruction was the wasteland which modern war left: there are few more chilling lines in the whole of English verse than the stanza beginning ‘A ragged urchin.’
Some understanding of the mythological framework of the poem is necessary. Thetis, the mother of the great Greek warrior Achilles had the armourer Haphaestus forge, and ornament, a shield for her son to protect him in battle. Emblazoned on it were all the things a ‘good war’ is fought for. See the stanzas beginning ‘She looked over his shoulder.’ But what, in the age of Auschwitz, Dresden, Hiroshima, would be etched on the shield? The poem gives a grim answer.
In the poem, Auden questions the validity of traditional notions of honour and fair war in an age in which war has become mechanised and impersonal. The poem references Homer’s The Iliad, in which Thetis, mother of the warrior Achilles, asks Hephaestus to forge a shield. Achilles’ shield is beautifully engraved with scenes representing war and peace, work and leisure. In his poem, Auden re-imagines how the shield of a modern Achilles would look in the modern age, when the rules of war and the role of the hero have been rewritten. The poem explores the complex relationship between art and war, and the ethical problems that the representation of violence for aesthetic purposes entails.
The poets, as said by PB Shelley, ‘are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.’ No poet of the 20th century fulfilled that role better than Auden.
In this second lecture on W.H. Auden, the relationship between art and suffering is considered in Auden’s treatment of Brueghel’s “Fall of Icarus” in the poem “Musée des Beaux Arts.” Auden’s reflections on the place of art in society are explored in the elegies “In Memory of W.B. Yeats.”

Apr 9, 2019

Tess of the D’Urbervilles: Hardy

Hardy, Tess of the D’Urbervilles, 1891
A poor British girl finds herself seduced and abandoned by a handsome social climber then attempts to find happiness in marriage to a modest farmer. Her past catches up with her with tragic results in this period.
Violent incidents of sexual desire in Alec, an exploitative upper class man, inaugurates Tess’s ‘fall’ that was followed by premature death newborn baby, unsuccessful marriage with Angel that leaves her the mercy of the antagonist. Eventually, it she was sentenced to death by hanging for the vengeful murder of her antagonist. A savage irony is reflected by the words, “Justice had done, and the president of immortals, in Aeschylean phrase, had ended his sport with Tess.”
Tess of the D'urbervilles is an epic tale telling the tragic life of Tess Durbeyfield and her disasters in love, her tear-wrenching experiences with death and her painstaking efforts to grow into a 'proper' woman.
The book is written in very traditional and, at times, hard to understand English.
The character of Tess, a girl-woman betrayed by the callousness of religion, by social convention and by the men who exploit her, is so lushly drawn, so sympathetically conveyed, that it is almost impossible not to feel crushed by the unfairness of life as she experiences it.
Tess starts out as an emblem of innocence, a pretty country girl who delights in dancing on the village green. Yet the world conspires against her. Seduced by a duplicitous older man, her virtue is destroyed when she bears his child and her future life is shaped by a continual suffering for crimes that are not her own.
In Tess’s case, she stabs Alec d’Urberville, the architect of her downfall.
Story centered about the rape scene—although the scene the since is typically metaphorical in its reticence—‘the coarse appropriates the finer thus’—it speaks volumes about Victorian anxieties relating to sex.
Tess isn’t simply a woman at the mercy of men, society, and nature; she’s also at the mercy of her own passions.
She isn’t a protagonist; she is merely a hapless, frail creature, buffeted by circumstances. is strictly a victim of men and social conventions. It is rather like being locked in. side a poem by Theocritus.
Time passes; characters meet and part; people are shaped by their destiny, or by the forces of the society which surrounds them. Tess, in other words, deals in a most convincing and authoritative manner with those large and general emotions which were once the province of the novel but now no longer are.
Tess, in the process, discloses the tragic destiny of a woman who cannot live and work in conventional society 'my youth, my simplicity and the strangeness of my situation', as she puts it but who is nevertheless blessed by the natural world. The film is about 'false relations' of every kind not simply the successful mercantile family who have adopted the name of 'D'Urbeville', but false relations within society and the people who make it up. The first half of the film is filled with natural sounds; the second with artificial and industrial ones, announcing a change in English life which complements the tragedy of Tess's own. It is not a simple theme.
Tess is nature's child she remains on the outside while the landowners remain within their houses, the priests in their churches; but nature itself can be barren and cruel, and it can also be conquered or destroyed. Like love itself, that love to which Tess tries to cling, it is a blessed state but not necessarily a permanent or even a beneficial one. In a queer way, however, Tess remains in control of her life she may seem like a field of wheat being slowly processed by machinery, but she is both field and machine within herself. She chooses her destiny, and ferociously pursues it: 'Once a victim, always victim'.
All the major novelists like Dickens, Eliot, Thackerey, remains faithful to the society and described social life in their novel; but Hardy’s novel do not fit into the realistic mode. His novel are expression of personal philosophy rather then rendition expression of an outer society. Hardy’s pessimistic outlook, his belief in fate and chance, and other philosophic impression impinge on and disturb the traditional accepted structure of the novel.
Tess’s tragedy is not logical outcome of events. The narrative does not have any cause-and-effect relationship. The events take place as they were pre-determined. Within the novel, Tess is doubly fixed: first as a woman and second within Hardy’s philosophy, Right from the very beginning, Hardy seems to be aware of Tess’s fate.

Apr 4, 2019

Hard Times: Dickens

Utilitarianism, Fact and Fancy
Hard Times, a Victorian novel by Charles Dickens, is the most famous attack on Bentham’s alleged antipathy to imagination called Utilitarian gloom, or Gradgrindian Education. The famous caricature of Benthamite rationality is Gradgrind who asserts that—“now, what I want is, Facts.” At the very early, it is stated, for example, that “Teach these boys and girls nothing but facts.”
From parliament to Coketown to the Gradgrind family, England is affiliated by an obsession with means and ends that has cast out the pleasuers of imagination and smile human affection. As a result, the imaginative or aesthetic subjects are absent from the curriculum, and higher emphasis is laid upon analysis, deduction and mathematics:
“No little Gradgrind had ever seen a face in the moon; it was up in the moon before it could speak distinctly. No little Gradgrind had ever learnt the silly jingle, Twinkle, twinkle, little star; how I wonder what you are!”
Gradgrind’s own son Tom revolts against his upbringing, and becomes a gambler and a thief. While, Louisa, his daughter, becomes emotionally stunted, virtually soulless: both as a young child, and as an unhappily married woman. Bitzer, who adheres to Gradgrind’s teachings, becomes an uncompassionate egotist. Sissy, the circus performer’s daughter, does badly at school, failing to remember the many facts she is taught, but is genuinely virtuous and fulfilled.
If fact is represented by Gradgrind, then Fancy, the opposite of Fact, is epitomised by the grotesque community of Sleary’s circus, the last vestige of a world held together by bonds of mutual affection and respect. Sleary, who is reckoned a fool by both Gradgrind and Bounderby, understands the need of amusement to escape from everyday drudgery. Utilitarianism links future of sympathy to a more thoroughgoing alienation, which is suspicious of any form of mental life—not obviously ‘useful.’
After all, the maximisation of pleasure was the central aim of utilitarian ethics.
When Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels were establishing their social critique, Charles Dickens took up the cause of ordinary working class in Hard Times (1854), which is surely “the harshest of his stories” as mentioned by GK Chesterton in Appreciations and Criticisms (1911). Though there was an ample precedent in the eighteenth century fiction for the social dynamics, yet an industrial order, to adapt Carlyle phrase, was ‘unexampled’ in this novel.
Following by-now conventional gesture of the “social problem” novel, it focused on the inner struggle of a single working class character, Stephen Blackpool—a weaver by profession. He was not only caught between the warring claims of labour and capital, but also mistreated by aptly named industrialist Joseph Bounderby. Later, he was wrongly accused of theft, exiled by the trade union, made redundant, and finally falls down an old mine shaft only to dies a disrespected death. His stoic forbearance is summed up in his feeble conclusion as “a muddle.”
The grave situation of workers which were depicted by Dickens were, in the words of Walter Allen, an unsurpassed “critique of industrial society,” which was later superseded by works of DH Lawrence. Though the novelist remained unsuccessful in projecting the correct and comprehends the politics of the time—which forced Thomas Macaulay to brand it a product of “sullen socialism,”—yet was able to find good words from John Ruskin, George Orwell, and FR Leavis.
While the narrator urge his middle class readers to appreciate that the workers were “gravely, deeply, faithfully in earnest” and “through their very delusions, showed great qualities” in fact the memorized union organisers received almost much voices as. Slackbridge’s trade unionism has played more “symbolic” role than a “realist’ function, as mentioned by David Lodge in Working with Structuralism (1981). It is why perhaps George Bernard Shaw was saddened by Dickens’ inaccurate depiction of “trade unionism.” And Yet, as brutal and as unjust as conditions were, and however accurate Gaskell and Dickens were in reflecting these problems, in reality the new industrial system proved to be hugely successful in terms of their overall contribution to the Victorian economy and the way that they sealed Britain’s reputation around the world.
Victorian literature dealt with the industrial epoch in a range of ‘industrial novels,’ which were often called ‘social problem’ or ‘condition of England novels.’
As a sub-genre, the industrial novel peaks during 1840s and 1850s, and then goes into decline after the 1860s. Titles includes Frances Trollope’s The Life and Adventures of Michael Armstrong: The Factory boy (1839); Charles Kingsley’s Alton Locke (1844); Benjamin Disraeli’s two novels Coningsby (1844) and Sybil, or the Two Nations (1846); Elizabeth Gaskell’s Mary Barton (1848); Charlotte Bronte’s Shirley (1849); Charles Dickens’ Hard Times, and George Eliot’s Felix Holt: The Radical (1849). Although Industrial strife is also reflected in the work of Victorian women poets such as Caroline Norton and Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
In this world of moral and emotional bankruptcy, ambition has curdled into mechanical routine, emotional numbness, and brute domination.

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