In Search of Truth: At the Crossroad of Critical Theory and Technology in the DesOps World

[This is the paper I delivered at Department of English, Baba Bhairabananda Autonomous Mahavidyalaya, Jajpur, Odisha ( on 16th July]


This UGC seminar session was an attempt to understand, from a non-traditional lens, the relevance of critical theory in context to today’s ever-changing technology space that is moving towards the Automation, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Distributed Computing, become much more important in history than ever, as it deals with softer aspects of human identity and socio-cultural dimension through communication or human expression.

This interactive session will have two major focus:

1. A brief overview of the critical theories from a diachronic lens that will be helping the students in grasping the fundamentals in a socio-cultural context.

2. A cross-discipline comparison with the modern design-driven practices in the software industry that would help the students understand the potential and opportunities in the real world scenario where these theories would help.]


© 2018, Samir Dash. All rights reserved. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International License

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Jayanta Mahapatra’s “Relationship” is available for iPhone/iPad/Android and as Standard eBook Formats




Relationship by Jayanta Mahapatra.

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Jayanta Mahapatra needs no introduction. Any discussion on Indian English Poetry is incomplete without reference to his poetical works. Mahapatra holds the distinction of being the first Indian English poet to have received the Sahitya Akademi Award for the current book “Relationship”. “his international reputation has been compared to that of Wordsworth…”

The Hindu, Sunday, Jan 29, 2006

‘History’ in Criticism – the ‘Other’ Side of the Story (Part – 1)


[Fig: Michel Foucault]

Focault and his contemporary post structuralists might make it a part of his consciousness that ontological studies of literature leads towards a future of studies without a point of convergence, as knowledge necessarily entails power relationship – that the moment one attempts to define in strict tones some aspect of ‘text’, it becomes something else. Exploiting this power relationship of knowledge with the interpreter’s environment (which is essentially socio-political). Said in Orientalism, adopted a different methodological standpoint – the method of “historical generalization”. And after publication of Orientalism the subaltern poststructural critics like Spivak termed it as the “source book” for the related disciplines  to which she belongs. The reason to present this fact is that, I want to direct our attention to one distinguish point of today’s criticism – that the so called anti-historic criticism (like post-structuralism) lead the way to point a fault i.e. “ontological interpretation” is never free from bias and thus it gives way to ‘historical generalization’ or (more specifically) to ‘use of history in critical interpretation of texts’, to which it is totally against. That means, in plain words, through the structuralists and post structuralists, deconstructionist distorted history, by assigning it the title of a ‘system’ with changing ‘center’ (For instance, Derrida thought his articulation of his deconstructionist ideas as an event, and this he showed as a process of change of “center” – by replacing “metaphysics” with the “deconstruction”, at the center of our belief system), they later paved the way (through Focault’s theory) for a new mode of interpretation where history plays an important role – in post colonial, subaltern and Oriental studies (more specifically in the words of Said and Bhaba).

Thus the most interesting point that comes to our notice is the relationship between two modes of idealism – one that supports the use of history and the other that is totally against the use of history in the study of literature are infact are the two sides of the same coin. This point as we observed in case of modern critical theories, tempts us to examine its validity in every phase of critical history itself, and in the following I am attempting to give this temptation , a mode of reality.


[From my essay with the same title written in December 2003]


© Samir K. Dash, 2003

Two oldmen


Two oldmen

Two oldmen met each other
One entered from a door
The other leaving

Both smiled at each other
Talked insane to the other
One has learned this world
The other yet to
One thing common
Both innocent at the moment
Rest too complex to explain
Like life itself!


“Two oldmen” (c) Samir K. Dash: 2011,

All Rights Reserved. No part of the above poem(s) can be published any where in any form (electronic or non-electronic ), with out the written permission of author. However you can direct yours links to this page in your websites.


Formalism, Simplified


Filippo TommasoMarinetti

The Background:

19th century Russian criticism was largely didactic. It was , primarily a weapon of liberal and later revolutionary opposition to the tsarist regime.


Towards 1890 (i.e. the end of 19th century), there came the symbolism with Dimitri Merezhkovsky and Valerii Briusov. So, for the first time criticism became partly aesthetic , which took into its consideration the “suggestion” of words, the personal mood of poetic themes. Some , like Vladimir solovev saw in symbolism an opportunity for Russian religious thought, as symbolism provided the magic of revelation of higher values.

But then many saw symboliusm as a revival of Romanticism (as it opposed to Realism and Naturalism).


During such a period, there raised a group whose statements were based upon classicism under the name of “Clarism” and “Acmeism”. They were also more like Paranassians, who stress on clarity and emphasize upon objectivity and concreteness. In addition, during this period Marxism came to front, being formulated in the writings of Plekhanov and Lenin. And this Marxism was a kind of revival of didacticism and return to the taste of 19th century realism.


Thus, the battle lines were drawn in 1910, as aestheticism, symbolism, Marxism confronted one another sharply. By this period the whole Europe (non-British), had been undergoing drastic change in literary theories, with a blurring distinctions among them, under the name of “Futurism” (Italian evolution) and Modernism is somewhat old term dating back to the middle ages in England. But in about a 1887, the form Die Moderne became a slogan of writers, whom we would classify as naturalists. But then this term modernism used widely, for instance , in Richard Ellmann and Charles Feidelson’s The Modern Tradition (1965) and in Irving Howe’s Literary Modernism(1967).


As far as “Futurism” is concerned, it developed in italy towards the beginning of 20th century. In 1909 the major manifesto of futurism was published by Filippo Marinetti in Le Figaro (1909), which advocated the complete breakup with the tradition and aimed at new forms, new subjects and new styles in keeping with the advent of the machine age. They advocated the dynamism, the machine and speed, the patriotism and splendour of war. This towards 1920, became more aggressive and Fasistic as it created movements like Dadaism and expressionism.


In Russia this futurism along with “Cubism”, “Dadaism”, “Surrealism” and other Avant-Grade groups(Avant-Grade is a term coined BY Gabriel –Desire Laverdant in 1845 ) put their effect on the groups who were opposed to symbolism and aesthetic values in literature.


Following 1909’s manifesto of Italian futurism (by Fillippo Marrinetti), in 1912 the notorious manifesto ‘A Slap in the Face of Public Taste’ (signed by david Burlink, Alexei Kruchenykh and Velimir Khlebnikov) was published stating to “throw Pushkin, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy and all others overboard from the steamship of modernity”.


In 1926, roman Jackobson established the Prague school, which was influenced by this spirit (as well as by the Italian futurism). And this school believed in the rejection of organic, biological, “beautiful” form in favour of abstract, geometrical , stylized art and the machine. Other schools and linguistic groups like OPOIAZ (Scociety for the study of poetic language established in 1919) supported this, under the label of ‘Formalism.’.


The Russian formalists were primarily interested in the way that literary texts achieve their effects and in establishing scientific basis for the study of literature.








The formalist theory can be grouped under the following main categories:


  1. The evolution of form:

The formalists collapse the distinctions between the form and content. They consider ‘form’ to be the result of two operations: (i) Deformation (ii) Organization.


Deformation means the change achieved by poetic language in contrast to the language of prose, patterning by the sound repeatations  and figures. But all the ‘devices’, must be used (e.g. like ‘plot’ in a novel is a device) in a systematic manner, or in other words organized.


Thus Russian formalists first studied the sound patterns, meters and compositional forms.




  1. attack on poetry as “thinking images”:

visualization or the images in the context of poetry was according to the formalistic view useless. According to the formalists the visualization of any “metaphor” is not necessary. Rather the poem achieves its effects by the use of sound patterns, grammatical parallels and contrasts.



  1. theory parallel to New criticism of America:

Formalists redefined the social function of art: “the purpose of art is to make us see things, not to know them. Art is there to awaken us from our usual torpor” . this reminds us about the theory of John Crowe Ransom’s insistence on the contrast of science and art, art being assigned the function of returning’the world’s body’ to us.




  1. art is a puzzle:

formalists view art as a jigsaw puzzle. Frame stories such as The Arabian nights with their constant delays and disappointments adventures and mystery stories, detective novels with their riddles and surprises serve as example. This shows that formalists were more concerned with the form than the aesthetic human values.




  1. the process of “automization” :



Formalists rejected the usual literary history as a ragbag of uncoordinated facts. As Norman Jakobson says:



The old literary historians remind us of policemen who in order to arrest a certain individual , arrest everybody and carry off everything from his lodgings and arrest also anyone who passed by on the street. The historians of literature use everything – the social setting, psychology, politics, philosophy. Instead of literary scholarship, they give us a conglomeration of homogeneous disciplines.


(Reprinted in Selected Writings 1979)





and formalists solve this problem by the process of “automization” – focousing on poetic diction and its evolution by wearing of f the novelty. Thus formalists put the study of the actual work of literature into the centre of scholarship.




Present status:



Many believe that formalism is analogus to the NewCriticism movement of America. But this is not true. Though many points match or resemble in both movements, the essential difference lies in the differences in ethos and emphasis. While formalists were aiming in being revolutionary, the other one lays stress on the tradition. Formalists were associated with more on science than in the interpretation.


The movement of Formalism died in 1930’s just 10 years after its birth , but it influenced the coming movements like Structuralism of Ferdinand de Sassure.




The above post is taken from the book “A Beginner’s Guide to Modern Critical Theory ” by Samir K. Dash , First Ed (c) 2005.
All Rights Reserved. No part of the above poem(s) can be published any where in any form (electronic or non-electronic ), with out the written permission of author. However you can direct yours links to this page in your websites.


Small hole in my heart

Let’s all emotions loose

Now is hence but a dry pot

Where lonely wind screams

At its solitude.


“Solitude” (c) Samir K. Dash:  2011,

All Rights Reserved. No part of the above poem(s) can be published any where in any form (electronic or non-electronic ), with out the written permission of author. However you can direct yours links to this page in your websites.


Distant Beach

In the bank of my memories

I used to gather my oysters

In the sands of time

There are still my mounts

But a feeling of lonliness

Absent with me ..the other one

Carrying the words

Walking ahead of me

— the world of wonders

To haunt me in the evening
While sitting at the side-window

Like a life in the sideways,

Feeling gush of the damp wind

Blowing blowing…

Reminding me of a girl

At the distant beach.



“Distant Beach” (c) Samir K. Dash:  2011,

All Rights Reserved. No part of the above poem(s) can be published any where in any form (electronic or non-electronic ), with out the written permission of author. However you can direct yours links to this page in your websites.