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

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[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.

(Continued…)

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

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© Samir K. Dash, 2003

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Structuralism, Post Structuralism, Deconstruction and Super Structuralism

The following post is taken from my book   A Beginner’s Guide to Modern Critical Theory

 


Structuralism

Structuralism has its origin in the science of linguistics. In 1915 ferdinand de Sassure of France published Cours de Lingustique Generale, from which the basis of linguistics was established. From this point of evolution, the movement under the label of Structuralism started in the field of language and literary theory, which is concerned with ‘language’ in a most general sense (not just the language of utterance in speech and writing).

 

Structuralism considers everything, from the point of view of codes of communication. Any way Sassure made a number of important original contributions:

 

 

  1. The concept of language as a sign system: According to Sassure, language is a ‘sign system’ or structure whose individual components can be understood only in relation to each other and to the system as a whole

NOTE:

Code: Though ‘code’ generally means a collection or digest of laws or a system of rules etc., in structuralism it is rather specific – it denotes a culture’s system of signification through which reality is mediated. The theory of structuralism is that all cultural phenomena are products of codes or code.

 

Everything in the theory of structuralism, is a product of a system of signification or code. The relationship between the elements of the code give it signification . codes are arbitary (as all signs are arbitary).

 

  1. Distinction between “langue”and “parole”: “Langue” and “parole” are the terms which Sassure introduced as fundamental to structuralism. Their English equivalents are “language” and “speech”. “Langue” denotes the system or totality of language shared by the ‘collective unconsciousness’ . Thus  ‘langue’ means the whole system of language with its elements like rules for combination (grammar, syntax etc.). ‘Parole’ is the use which individuals make of the resources of language, which the system produces or combines, in speech or writing or utterance.  ‘Langue’ is what people use in thinking and “parole” is what they use in speaking or writing. So the former is abstract where as the later is concrete. Sassure hence defined distinguistic study as the study of system which underlies any particular human signifying human practice, not the individual utterance.. thus “langue” represents the language as a whole (e.g. French, English etc.) and “parole” representing utterance, a particular use of individual units of language.

 

  1. Distinction between “Diachronic” and “Synchronic”: sassure coined these two terms in 1913. A diachronic approach to a study of language involves an examination of its origin, development, history and change. In contrast synchronic approach entails a study of the linguistic system in a particular state without reference to time. The importance of the Synchronic approach is that, Sassure theorized each sign as with out any properties other than the specific relational ones which defines it with in its own system.
  2. Distinction between “Signifier” and “Signified”: In Cours de Linguistique Generale (1915) sassure describes language system as a ‘series of differences of sound combined with a series of differences of ideas’. He coined two terms “Signifier” and “Signified”. According to him , each sign in language is an union of signifier (i.e. sound image or its graphic equivalent) and a signified (i.e. the concept referred to). The letter of h-o-u-s-e, form a signifierwhich evoke the signified ‘house’. The association of signifier and signified has no natural link. And each sign in a linguistic system possesses ‘meaning’ by virtue of the fact that it is different from any other sign rather than because of any linguistic reason why this should be so. ‘House’ is different from ‘louse’ or ‘mouse’. Thus a word can be identified because of how it is related to, and different from other words in that linguistic system. As Sassure puts it: “in language there are only differences without positive terms”. Sassure’s works have been fundamental to all developments in structuralism and post-structuralism and hence have also influenced psychoanalytical criticism as developed by for instance Jacques Lacan.

 

 

 

 

 

Structuralism  during this period was being influenced by three movements (and which were also labeled under it):

 

  • C. S. Peirce’s  “Semiotics”
  • Geneva School of “Phenomenology”
  • Prague Linguistic Circle (Russian formalism)

 

 

 

Strauss’ Myth criticism and Narratology

 

 

Then structuralism was furthered by Claude Levi-Strauss, who developed a structural theory (later known as Narratology) in a consideration of myth, ritual and kinship, especially in his classic work Anthropologie Structurale (1958). He sees social structure as kind of model and shows that the behaviour patterns of kinship and the existence of institutions depend on methods of communication that are all characteristics of how the human mind works. Thus he analyses modes of thoughts as well as modes of action, looking for the system of differences which underline practice, rather than their origins and causes. This developed into “Narratology” – a further aspect of structuralism.]

 

Narratology or the “Structuralist Analysis of Narratives” was begun by Strauss in 1958. He believes that the totality (i.e. all myths that are available) have some constant, basic and universal structures, through which all myths can be explained.

 

He sees myth as language system, which can be broken into smaller individual units called ‘mythemes’ – by analogy with phonemes. Myths can be read in relation to each other rather than as reflecting a particular version. Hence the concept of a kind of ‘grammar’ or ‘set of relations’ under the surface of the narrative. Later this theory was developed into a major part of critical theory.

 

 

 

 

After 1966 onwards two new views in context with structuralism came to front:

I.      Deconstruction theory

II.      Post-structuralism

Both of these provided complement to structuralism.

 

 

 

Derrida’s Deconstruction

 

 

In 1966, Jaquous Derrida published an essay titled : Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of Human Sciences which was later followed by his book Of Grammatology (1967). In these two works Derrida argued the following:

 

  • A text can be read as something quite different from what it appears to be saying. In short a text may possess so many different meanings that it can not have a meaning (i.e. there is no guaranteed essential meaning to a text).
  • The priority since the time of Plato was given to speech over writing, as it was believed that there is a gap in writing, which speech does not possess. But Derrida’s theory argued that both speech and writing are lacking in ‘presence’. In short previously the meaning conveyed by (or signified by) speech was considered as instable and writing having a fix stable meaning. But Derrida’s theory that a text can’t have a meaning, stressed that writing is equally unstable.
  • Derrida’s theory suggested that there can’t be ‘binary opposition’ in a language system or any code. As Derrida believed that a text does not have a single meaning  of any kind and as there is only the text and no meaning, then it can not have a centre, to which there can exist a binary opposition. Hence, he discarded presence of any binary opposition in a text. Moreover, he has mentioned that in the place of binary opposition there exist ‘disseminations’ (i.e. diffusement of meaning) . the various meanings spread over one another and hence betray any center.
  • Derrida proposed the theory of “Differance”, which he used to oppose “logo centrism”. In French language “differer”  means to “postpone, to delay” and also it means “to differ  or be different from”. Derrida uses “differance” in pushing Sassure’s theory to its logical conclusion and argues that to differ or differentiate is also to defer, postpone or withheld. The word itself illustrates Derrida’s point that writing doesn’t copy speech; the distinction between the two different forms “differance” and “difference” doesn’t  correspond to any distinction in their spoken form. Thus meaning is continuously and endlessly postponed as each word leads us on to yet another word in the system of signification. So, Derrida sees a text as an endless sequence of signifiers, which has no ultimate signifier.

 

 

Barthe’s Poststructuralism –The Death of Author

 

 

In 1967 Ronald Barthe published Elements of Semiology (1967), which stands as a temporal marker of post-structuralism. Hence he proposed that structuralism is capable of an explanation of any sign system of any culture (i.e. all system of signification). But he also perceives that such an explanation necessitates a theology of meaning or explanation. This gave rise to the idea of “Meta Language”, which in fact “beyond language” or “Second order language” which is used to describe, explain or interprete a “First order language”. Each order of language implicitly relies on a metalanguage by which it is explained.  Regarding metalanguage Barthes says that when one language is interpreted there comes the indefinite regression or “Aporia”. Thus the result will be that all metalanguages will be vanished in interpreting one another. This Barthes used to defend structuralism  , which stress on binary opposition and on its idea that text has a meaning (which is opposed by Deconstruction). He believed thus the signifying meanings of a text can be fixed and are need not to be diffuse or disseminated as proposed by Derrida.This theory even puts Deconstruction in a place (against its principles and design) where deconstruction acts like a meta language.

 

 

 

But as we see, discourse upon discourse in regression – which is one aspect of Barthe’s post structuralist thinking – is fundamentally, deconstructive. Barthe’s later theories includes his concepts of

  • Death of author (In his essay The Death of Author )
  • “Plaisir” and “Jouissance” are the experiences that a reader has while reading.
  • Text may be ‘readerly’ or ‘writerly’ or even both.

NOTE:

Readerly / writerly:

Barthes proposed this theory in his book S/Z (1970). A readerly text means a book to which  areader’s response is more or less passive (e.g. any realistic novel). Writerly text makes demands on the reader to work things out (e.g. Ulysses by James Joyce). Here reader is no longer a consumer but a producer of the text.

 

Death of Author concept of Barthes can be seen in reference to his concept of ‘writerly’ text. He believed that the reader must be free of the concept the author associated with the text. Because, the author if remains a suppressing force, then the reader sees what the author wants to project, thus he is unable to see the plurality of text. In a ‘writerly’ text the reader, is more independent to see the plurality of text.

 

Krestivan poststructuralism – foundation to Feminstic Criticism

 

Further important contributions to Post structural theory was made by Julia Krestiva of France. In 1974, she published Le Revolution du Language Poetique . in this she discusses the relationship  between “orderly/rational” and “hetrogenious/irrational” and also between the “conscious” and “unconscious” . she suggests that Semiotic material is irrational and illogical, the material of impulse and rhythm ; while reason creates logic, syntax and coherence and brings about the symbolic element. There are implied antimonies such as feelings/ thoughts ; heart/ brain and to reverse the sequence in the binary opposition.

 

She stresses that the “semiotic element” is linked with the concept of “infant” – a word which is “speechless” – and is opposed to “symbolic order”, hence sees it as a means of undermining the symbolic order. It is at its pre-oedipal (or infant) stage is opposed to strict meaning, a static condition. Rather it is at this time fluid and it is there fore opposed to any binary opposition, such as masculine/ feminine.

 

Though of course there is sometimes more than a hint of binary opposition. Hence semiotic writing is bi-sexual. For instance James Joyce and Virginia Woolf are semiotic writers, using a fluid disseminated ‘writerly’ mode and style. Such kind of structural thinkings of Julia Krestiva, raised the possibility of “Feminstic Criticism” – a theory of the idea of “é criture feminine”

 

Superstructuralism

 

 

In 1987, Richard Harland coined the term “Superstructuralism” in his treatise Superstructuralism: the Philosophy of structuralism and Post structuralism (1987)

He uses it to cover the whole field of structuralism, post structuralism, semiotics etc.

He also suggests that the term can be read as “Superstructure – alism”, and elaborates the idea that “superstructuralists” invert our ordinary base and superstructure models until what we used to think of as super structure takes precedence over what we used to think of as basic.

 

 

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A Beginner’s Guide to Modern Critical Theory published by Prakash Book Depot, bareilly, UP (India), 2005, ISBN:81-7977-147-4: This is a book for Post Graduation level students (in English Literature)of Indian Universities.

(c) 2005, All Rights Reserved. No part of the above post 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.

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Fallacies for Advanced Readers

It was in the neo-classical age, when Pope aimed his bitter agonies upon Colliey Cibber – because he [Cibber] had severely criticized Pope’s earlier work – Cibber commented that once a writer writes something, it becomes no longer his own, and therefore he should not be sentimental due to the criticism that is to be made on his work , as a man who goes to the rain, should not be worried about being wet.

This is perhaps the best expression of mankind on the rising tendencies related to the field of judgement of literature. I say this because, the work of a critic and the criticism on it are two dimension of whole literary study, and every scholar knows that there is an age old conflict between these two to gain supremacy over the other. This fact that a conflict is going on is even not simply in black or white, rather it turned out to be in a range of shades of grey – i.e. the critical discussion of literature has atendency to diverge the aim with which one starts to enter into the process of critical evaluation of any work of art. We see from Plato’s time that the discussion of literature hangs over mainly two aspects:

  1. What is the literature (or poetry )?
  2. What is its aim?

 

But while analyzing literature, the supposed aim seems more blur and undergoes a process of shifting. The more one tries to reach at the aim, the more it slips back like a mirage. We may use post-structuralist views that each time the “signified” is replaced by a signifier due to the fact that multiplicity of meaning exists and a text can’t have ‘a meaning’. So, what I am trying point out here is that due to such “shifts” in our presupposed aim to find out truth related to any piece of work of art, there arises the errors , which the New Critics had, in their attempt to categories the end of their ideology, grouped under the common term ‘fallacy’.

All the well established fallacies, that have secured their seats in various glossaries of literary terms, such as ‘Affective Fallacy’, ‘Tragic Fallacy’, ‘Internal Fallacy’, are in fact some kind of the ‘conflict’ that I have mentioned at the very beginning of this paper.

This conflict between writer and critic can be seen as the junction where diverging paths of exploration to the studies of different fallacies are originated. And this was recognized first by C.S. Lewis, who termed this ‘root of conflict’ as ‘Personal Heresy’. In 1934, C.S.lewis published an article ‘The Personal Heresy in criticism’ in Essays and Studies, where he reacted heavily to E.M.W.Tilliyard’s view that poetry is a state of mind of the poet – a reflection of the personality of the poet. Then the replies and counter replies of the two were later came up in a single volume in 1939 under the title The Personal Heresy.

 

The seed of such conflict was there back in the 20s, in the criticism of T.S.Eliot and I.A.Richards. Eliot’s view on ‘tradition’ squeezed the personality of the author out of his work as he described the expression by the poet as the product of past authors’ dead metaphors, language, ideas, expressions, by which he concluded that there is no individual pure-contribution of the author present in his work. Richard’s dissection of human mind and its working in the context of literary creation and judgment presented the similar view. And these views were concluded as ‘Internal fallacy’ in 1946 by W.K.Winsmatt in his book The Intentional Fallacy (reprinted in his The Verbal Icon,1954),where he summed up the “age old conflict” and declared it an error to assign the possession of any of the either of the writer or the critic on any work of art – that a poem ‘is not the critic’s own and not the author’s.’ and it is concluded that the work of art ‘goes about the world beyond his [ author or critic] to intend about it or control it.’

This view was later made the ‘punch line’ of the readers response theory, that exploited the newly invented structure and post structural jargon to sell this very old wine in a new bottle. Each critic of the readers response theory used a shade that is not exactly black or white, but a ‘grey’ to tell the same old theory.

But the difference that was there in the readers response theory was that, it instead of talking about the conflict directly, tried to gossip on one of the aspect of the conflict – the ‘subjective’ and ‘objective’ aspect of whole literary process from author to critic (or reader).

What we see here is how we slip from the original aim (we slip from focusing on the conflict to an aspect of this conflict). This ‘deferring’ from the soul aim is another kind of fallacy about which W.K.Wnsmatt, talked in 1954 in The Verbal Icon. This he termed as ‘Affective Fallacy’.

This fallacy is the error, which arises from the ‘deference’ from the ontological aspect of literature to a dimension which is relatively near to the centre of the discussion, but is in fact not the exact centre – ‘a confusion between the poem and its results (what it is and what it does).’

This critical error that ‘results in the mind of the reader’ is in fact the very base on which deconstructionist ideas are based upon. Derrida’s, Focault’s theories are always insisting upon  the ‘gap’ that exists between ‘signiufier and ‘signified’, which ultimately leads the ‘signifier’ to be a ‘zaum’ (Russian term indicating that ultimate truth can be never expressed).

And from this whole discussion, we can form a rough hypothesis that the knowledge (if seen as a ‘tantalization’) is in fact lacks any reason or logic to be expressede through any means  of articulation. But that does not mean that we must start to make our literature devoid of the sequence or logic, so that (foolish enough) our literature will resemble the experience. Because, that would be a process of unleashing. And what I am talking here in this very paragraph is all about another fallacy known as ‘Fallacy of Expressive Form’. This term, R.P.Blackmur  had adopted , from the observations of Yover Winters, who talked about ‘Heresy of Expressive Form’— that  stands for the error due to the attempt to express or or describe the ‘disintegration of a belief or a civilization in a chaotic form’. And Winters was on the view that though the world is chaotic, we must not use disintegrating form of mode of expression (such as Ulysses by Joyce).

Though Winters believed that it is impossible to discipline the indiscipline in any expression, I feel that after deconstruction theory, such a thinking can’t be any more a part of our optimistic consciousness, because no meaning is possible due to the absence of the centre in our belief system – no point of convergence exists – and which ultimately prescribes us just (to quote Edward Said)‘to attempt in spite of the impossibility of success’.

© Samir K. Dash, 2003

Absurdity of Absurd: Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot

What makes ‘Absurd’ mean ?When I searched the glossaries ,I found the word to be ‘out of harmony’(1).But yet the definitions trying hard to explain the term , just to end in total ‘Absurdity’ (assuming for a patch that we cognize the meaning of the word),as they talk in total sense, the nonsense just about it and of course that means they fail(in their attempt ).But considering the term to be connected with literature (and different forms of art too!),when I searched for much I came across the lines that states that no ‘literary criticism’ [in which I include the attempts to explain the literary terms] can take the literary activity itself ,or to be much specific ‘…it [literary criticism]is not substitute for reading the activity itself’(2),as it [the piece of work]is the most exactly and precisely ,the thought sent or explained.So,I reached the idea that to understand ‘absurd’ .I must view an absurd activity by an artist, rather than poring over the talks just about it. Thence as a literary student what 1st came to my mind at this instant is none, but WAITING FOR GODOT by Prophet Beckett,the so called absurd play structured about ‘Godot’,the axis all absurdity[as till the date none could declare with confidence ‘who’ or ‘what’ Godot is !]

What I found in the ash bin of my memories just about this godot is:

“On 19 Nov 1957, a group of distressed actors were preparing to face their audience . The actors were members of the institution of the San Francisco Actors’ Workshop . The audience consisted of fourteen hundred convicts at the San Quentin penitentiary . No live play had been preformed at San Quentin since Wife Henriette rosine bernard appeared there in 1913 .Now ,fourty four years later ,the play that had been chosen ,largely because no woman appeared in it , was Prophet Beckett’s WAITING FOR GODOT’(3). …”Beckett real triumph ,…came once WAITING FOR GODOT which appeared in book form in 1952,was 1st create on 5 Jan 1953 , at the little Theatre de Babylone (now defunct ),…’(4)

And I found as well several lines of this play:

“…

ESTRGON:Didi.

VLADIMIR:Yes.

ESTRGON:I can’t go on like this.

VLADIMIR: That’s what you think.

ESTRAGON:If we parted?That power be better of us .

VLADIMIR:We’ll hang ourselves tomorrow.(Pause)Unless Godot comes.

ESTRAGON:And if comes?

VLADIMIR:We’ll be saved

…”(5)

It is aforementioned just about Dramatist that once he was asked that what he meant by Godot he answered “If I knew ,I would-be have aforementioned so in the play”(6).’WAITING FOR GODOT makes not tell a story ;it explores a static situation ‘(7).So it is clean from the really beginning that Dramatist tried to create a ‘character’ with out a character’ as he himself doesn’t cognize him [Godot], and once much the movement of plot tends to zero ,i.e. there is dead no plot . Antecedently it was taken for granted that if there exits a literary piece then there must be either a story( or plot) to tellor any character to be delineate .But did exactly opposite to revolutionize his construct .He presents a ‘character’ whom he himself makes not cognize and tell a plot which is nothing but variations in arrangements and sequences of few events with negligible movement or action :’nothing happens , common man comes common man goes …’ (8).

But can be the term ‘Absurd’ appointed to but these qualities of the play? No, there are still much as mentioned by critics .In an essay on Kalfka ,Ionesco defined his understanding of the term as ‘ Absurd is that which is absent of purpose…’(9).And the purposeless becomes evident once ‘ the much things change , the much they are the same ‘(10).And this is done by creating uncommon situations in the play by Breckett . For instance the boy who carries message of Godot to Estragon and Vladimir fails to recognize them on each day of his reappearance .”The French version expressly states that the boy who appears in the second act is the same boy as the one in the 1st act , yet the boy denies that he has even as seen the two tramps before , and insists that this is the 1st time he has acted as Godot’s messenger’(11).And this is done patch ‘waiting’ which is understood by Martin Esslin as ‘Waiting is to experience the action of time , which is constant change . And yet , as nothing real ever happens , the change is itself an illusion .The continuous activity of time is a self defeating purposeless…’(12).

And thus by this meaninglessness Dramatist tries to prove the absurdity of his play .But is this actually absurd ? If we view it from several some point of views we can suddenly find thing contradicting . It is because we cognize the fact that ‘ truth is ne’er real’ ,and what we define for a situation becomes a truth for us , for that moment . So is the case of abnormality or normality of a situation . Once any action is most common that becomes ‘ normal ‘ for us and this is the really base of our understanding .We understand what is most common and general .We understand thing uncommon by referring it to several common things or actions we understand .So our really base of understanding is based upon several general truth or common events ,the state which we call normal .Now once we thing out of order in a play (e.g. WAITIG FOR GODOT) ,we interpret it in terms of those ‘ commons’ of our memory .But on this view we analyze , can uncommon or absurdity be perceived by us directly without any aid or reference to our definition of ‘normality’ ? It is similar to what Rene’ Wellek tried to explain in his essay ‘ATTACK ON LITERATURE’ by citing an example of Prophet Beckett’s ENDGAME .Becket has delineate a character in END GAME who was ‘ looking for the voice of his silence ‘(13).’The artist’s discontent with language can only be expressed by language .Pause may be a device to express the indescribable ,but pause can’t be prolonged indefinitely ,can not be just silence as such . It necessarily contrast , it necessarily a beginning and an end…’(14).
This statement suggests the importance of contrast and this is as true in case of absurdity and non-absurdity as it is true in the case of silence and music .
In this light we can reach decision that there is no sense of absurdity with out the normality . But how this is true in case of Godot can be analysed as follows :

Beckett tries hard to attain absurdity by doing through his characters , the abnormal things (or at least normal things in abnormal sequence ), still there remains the elements of non-absurdity in every corner of the play . The boy who doesn’t recognize the two tramps bring message from the same Godot (It ne’er happens ever that Godot brings a message from the boy ;or the tramps bring message from the boy to godot ;or tramps speak out the message that the boy brings from the Godot for them ;or Godot ne’er receives message from tramps and so many a can be the absurd case ).It was only one angle of interpretation of the situation .Other interpretations can be many a in amount :Godot waits for tramps ;or tramps don’t wait for Godot patch they say they waited. etc. etc.

When I mean to say is that some action is done in the play has there fore the elements of non-absurdity .We could have recognized them if what we call absurdity would-be be the most normal and what we now feel normal would-be have been absurd .In fact we can’t express absurdity itself and this is the deceiving nature of ‘Absurdity’ , because the moment we speak out thing it becomes a little several from what we originally meant to express . ‘Words , the medium of fiction ,are a fabrication of man’s intellect .They are a part of human lie ‘(14).And for this reason any literature necessarily that medium to be expressed , that becomes deceptive .So Roland Barthes of France says therefore that ‘Literature is a system of deceptive signification…emphatically signifying ,but ne’er finally import ‘(16).

There fore what ever actions Dramatist tried to fictional in to the play , stands till now between in the limits of absurd and non-absurd and how this action is nearer to any of these two limits depends on what words are used and how they are used to define the limits .

That’s why the play ‘..of the purportedly arcane avant-grade do so imidiate and so deep an impact on an audience of convicts…’(17),where as the critics could not easily accepted the play as an art in the beginning .

Martin Esslin writes : ‘ because it confronted them [the prisoners] with a situation in several route similar to their own ? Maybe . Or maybe because they were un sophisticated enough to move to the theater without any create mentally notions and readymade expectations ,so that they avoided the mistake that cornered so many a established critics who condemned the play for its lack of plot ,development , characterizations , suspense or plain common sense ‘(18).And of course this is what we see as the attempt to define absurd with non-absurd .Similarly many a different attempts have been ready-made in the past and present to create uncommon out of common .For example the Dadaist Movement . ‘Attempts have been ready-made not only to widen the realm of art ,but to get rid of the boundery between the art and the non-art . In music , noises of machines or the streets are used ; in painting, collage uses stuck-on news papers , buttons , medals and so on , or ‘found objects’ –soup cans , bicycle wheels , electric bulbs , any piece of junks—are exhibited . the newest fad is ‘earth works’ , holes or trenches in the ground , tracks through a corn field , square sheets of leads in snow . A ‘sculptor’ , Christo wrapped a million square feet of Australian lineation in plastic . At 1972 Bicnnale in Metropolis , a painter ,Gino de Dominicis , exhibited a mongoloid picked up from the streets as a activity of art .In poetry poems have been concocted by the Dadaists by drawing news paper clippings from a bag at random ; much recently poems have been create by computer and a shuffle novel (by Brandy Saporta ) has appeared , in which every page can be replaced by another in any order …’(18).

Similarly we can cite the example of Pop-Culture now so popular by the young generations ,which was once considered as absurd .So what conclusion we reached can be seen in the light of that contrast theory of silence and music told in this essay in the beginning , that what ever we want to express (may it be ‘Silence’ or ‘Absurdity’ ) we need words to express . But ‘a word can ne’er be a thing ‘(20).So we can either attain a situation or express it , but we can not do several because , if we try to do , the situation won’t be the same .This is what we can imply once we speak of absurdity ; i.e. we can’t be all absured in expression as there is no proper medium exists .

By closing this I think I have reached at the ‘ right place at the right time’ , because if I am right then I wish reach the right thing , but if I reach the wrong (as I wish get non-sense)that wish be rather a right thing due to our context . My attempt of criticism , ‘ is an attempt to do us much reasonable’

(c) 2005, Samir K. Dash

Re-visiting Coleridge’s Biographia Literaria

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For Wordsworth, the justification of poetic meters had proved a particularly troublesome problem, because, although the natural language of feeling may be broadly rhythmical, the highly regular stress and stanza patterns would seem a matter not of nature, but of artifice and convention. Moreover he was not clear on the question of how a poem as an individual work of literary art differs from other forms of expression. Thus the old problem of the relation of ‘form’ and ‘content’ was still unresolved. In attempting to remedy this defect in Wordsworth’s argument, Coleridge put the philosophical inquiry into the nature and value of poetry on an entirely new footing. In fact Coleridge is the first English critic to base his literary criticism on philosophical principles. Coleridge conducted his argument in an elaborate and ambitiously conceived chain of reasoning which embraced all his general philosophical principles.

In the beginning of Chapter XIV is the Coleridge’s attempt of differentiating qualities of poetry and the raison d’être of these different qualities. His philosophy begins by making just distinctions and end by discovering how these distinguished characteristics form a unity among themselves.

How does a poem differ from other ways of handling language? What is the point its so differing? How are these points of difference justified by the function and nature of a poem? This is what might be called the ontological approach. And Coleridge uses this ontological approach by defining a poem as a means to an ‘object’, ‘purpose’ or ‘end’.

A poem according to Coleridge contains the same elements as a prose composition. Both use words. The difference between a poem and a prose composition cannot then lie in the medium, for each employs the same medium i.e. words. It must therefore “consist in a different combination of them, in consequent of a different object being proposed”.

A poem combines words differently, because it is seeking to do something different. Of course, all it may be seeking to do may be to facilitate memory. One may take a piece of prose and cast it into rhymed and metrical form in order to remember it better, as in the following verses on the number of days in the months —  “Thirty days hath September/ April, June and November”  etc.

And as a particular pleasure is found in anticipating the recurrence of sounds and quantities, all compositions that have this charm super added, whatever be their contents may be entitled as poem. But in such cases object proposed – facility to memory is served by the mere addition of meter and rhyme. Their use is not necessitated by anything in the content or matter of the poem. There is no natural relation between the two.

So, is there anything in the content of a poem that can necessitate its expression in the metrical form? As the content is determined by object the question is ultimately one of the difference between the objects and the difference ways of writing – “Scientific” and “Poetic”:

“A poem is that species of composition which is opposed to works of science, by proposing for its immediate object pleasure, not truth”

Each of scientific and poetic writing has an immediate object and ultimate object. Science has truth and poetic writing has pleasure as its immediate end. Yet science may have some profound pleasure and poetry may have some profound truth as their ultimate objective.

But as it is immediate object of poetry to produce pleasure and meter conduces it, poetry prefers it to the language of prose.

These conditions are that it should suit the language of content of the poem and not be a mere super addition for ornament’s sake or to facilitate memory.

So, from this Coleridge proceeds to make a definition of what he calls “a legitimate poem”. According to him a legitimate poem is the one where each point (content and super added forms) contribute and must support each other to explain each other. This is what refers to Coleridge’s concept of “Organic Unity”. He believes that as a legitimate poem the objective (to produce pleasure) is carried out with the remaining part preserved.

One point to note that unlike Sidney and some of other critics, Coleridge is not discussing about imaginative literature in general, but about poems. Does that mean Coleridge’s view of what is true to poem is not related to other forms of literature? Does Coleridge’s notion  is restricted to ‘legitimate poem’ and not to other literature or writing that are different from science or history?

The clue to this lies in the distinction he proceeds to make immediately after his definition of a legitimate poem. It is the distinction, he made between a “poem” and “poetry”.

But, many critics have been puzzled by the argument Coleridge provides in this distinction. Shaw Cross in his standard edition of Biographia comments “It is doubtful wheather the distinction [between poem and poetry] […] makes for any clearness”.

Such comments are made by many , because “Coleridge gives no real justification of the old statement of a poem of any length, neither can be or ought to be all poetry”. Poetry for Coleridge is a wider category than that of a poem, i.e. poetry is a kind of activity which can be engaged in painters or philosophers or scientists and is not confined to those who employ metrical language, or even to those who employ language of any kind. Poetry in this larger sense, brings “the whole soul of man” into activity, with each faculty playing its proper part according to its relative worth and dignity. This takes place whenever the “Secondary imagination” comes into operation.

In other words, whenever synthesizing, the integrating powers what Coleridge calls the “Secondary imagination” are at work, bringing all aspects of a subject into a complex unity, then poetry in this larger sense results.

Poetry in the narrower sense – that is a poem – may well use the same elements of as a work of poetry in this larger sense , but it differs from the work of poetry in the larger sense by combining its elements in a different objects being proposed. That different object is immediate pleasure. But since a poem is also a poetry, the communication of pleasure may be its end, but not poetry’s whole function. Poem is distinguished from other art (whose communication end is immediate pleasure) due to the fact that it uses language as its medium.

 (c) Samir K. Dash, 30 April 2010.