Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Of Anonymity Crisis and Hendiadys

We, as the part of the Dept of English, under the DRS SAP-I programme had organized lectures and a workshop on 18 and 19 Sept 2009 to conclude a series of colloquia dealing with the theme of Identity which we had organized over the past six month. We had Prof Aniket Jaaware from University of Pune and Prof Nivedita Menon from JNU New Delhi. Students were quite enthusiastic about the whole thing and I too learned a couple of things from this very productive workshop.

I was fascinated with Prof Jaaware's guest lecture ` Language and Duplicity in Hamlet' which though was not part of the theme of the workshop was extremely insightful and lucid. Prof Jaaware shifted the focus away from the traditional approaches to Hamlet which have largely focused on his ` delay' in murdering his uncle to the use of language in the play. Prof pointed out that this was one of the most verbose plays and there was just too much language and people simply talked too much.

One of the preoccupations in the play as Aniket rightly pointed out was the verbal duplicity and linguistic manipulation of discourse. He drew attention to how Hamlet manipulates words of Polonius and Claudius by twisting them in different ways. Aniket noted that the idea of duplicity would also include `dualness' and talked about how there was often an extra character - for instance `Rosencrantz and Guildenstern' and `Voltemand and Cornelius ' . Aniket also talked about an essay by a noted Shakespearean scholar GT White which focuses on a figure of speech called `Hendiadys' in Hamlet. The figure expresses a single idea using two nouns instead of a noun and its modifier e.g. `He drinks from the cup and gold'. Aniket also noted that the whole idea of delay is only in the mind of Hamlet himself and the critics. No other character is concerned with this problem in the play, not even the Ghost. Hence, the center of duplicity is the figure of Hamlet himself.

Aniket's other lecture was very interesting too. It addressed the question of Identity and the notion of difference. He focussed specifically on the problematic relationship between identity and anonymity with reference to the urban armed resistance. Though armed resistance is about assertion of identity, in the urban context, it uses anonymity in a strategic ways. He said that the fictive identity ( fake identity cards, ration cards, fake driving licenses etc) are to treated very seriously and to be considered almost ` authentic' as the armed guerrillas in the cities cannot afford to be caught for ` improper parking'. Hence the politics of armed resistance in the cities uses a very different kind of identity politics where the `real' identity is often concealed and the fake one is treated as if its authentic.

Prof Menon spoke about the politics and predicament of feminism in contemporary India. Her presentations were extremely lucid and thought provoking. I had not acquainted myself with some of the key ideas of the third wave feminism. My reading of feminism was restricted to the French theorists. After Dr Deeptha's presentation in one of the earlier colloquia and after Prof Nivedita's discussion, I am definitely interested in this area.

Yours truly discussed Aniket Jaawre's essay ` Eating the Dalit and Eating with the Dalit' ( see K Satchidanandan ed. Modernism and After, Sahitya Akademi). I shared my apprehensions about confusion in the essay arising out of unclear distinctions between ` Varna', ` Jati' and `Untouchability'. I also pointed out the confusion arising out of lack on emphasis on the distinctions between ` modernism' and `modernity' in the essay as leading to a certain misunderstanding of the historiography of the post-independence Marathi poetry.

The workshop was inaugurated by the respected Dean of Arts faculty. During his inaugural speech he called Rajan Barett my colleague by the name `Dr. Sachin Ketkar', not once but thrice.
It was befitting of the workshop organized around the theme of identity. While making my presentation on Aniket's essay , I introduced myself as Dr. Rajan Barrett. The respected Dean of the Arts faculty, with his harmless lapse of memory had ushered in an ` anonymity crisis' of sorts in me. Taking away Rajan's identity had resulted in the loss of my identity too. I suggested to Rajan that we have now start resembling Rosencrantz and Guildenstern of the department. He said that we should rather be called the grave-diggers. I wonder whose skull are we going to find under the ruins now. Is it Yorrick's skull?

1 comment:

jaymehta said...

Got a new identity? huh?
So, hwz the grave-digger????
Just kidding, sir.
Please don't take it to heart.
- Jay Mehta.