Sunday 28 December 2014

I.A. Richards: Figurative Language

The Figurative Language: I.A. Richards

  Ivor Armstrong Richards – pioneer in the domain of New Criticism.
Ø  His path breaking works: `
1.       The Meaning of Meaning – 1923
2.       The Principles of Literary Criticism – 1924
3.      The Practical Criticism – 1929.
a.      Four Kinds of Meaning
b.      Two Uses of Language
c.       On Simile, Metaphor and Symbol
*     He was staunch advocate of a close textual and verbal study & analysis of a work of art.
*      Three objectives to write The Practical Criticism:
1.        To introduce a new kind of documentation to those who are interested in the contemporary state of culture whether as critics, philosophers, as teachers, as psychologists, or merely as curious persons.
2.       To provide new technique for those who wish to discover for themselves what they think and feel about poetry (and cognate matters)and why they should like or dislike it.
3.       To prepare the way for educational methods more efficient than those we use now in developing discrimination and the power to understand what we hear and read.
Ø  His approach is pragmatic and empirical.
ü  His experiment: Comments of students on poems without title and author. He gave suggestions, comments, interpretations and conclusions.
Ø  His practical approach gave new path to literary criticism.
ü  Instead of intuitive and impressionistic criticism, it became more factual & scientific.
*     In his methodology, a lot of importance is given to the “words”.
ü  He believed that poet writes to communicate, and language is the means of that communication. Language is made of words, and hence a study of words is all important if we are to understand the meaning of a work of art. Words carry four kinds of meaning: Sense, Feelings, Tone and Intention.
*     To him, language of poetry is purely emotive, in its original primitive state. This language affects feelings. Hence we must avoid intuitive and over-literal reading of poems. Words in poetry have an emotive value, and the figurative language used by poets conveys those emotions effectively and forcefully.
Ø  The importance of context and rhythm &metre: the sound of the word invokes feeling. Rhythm, metre and meaning cannot be separated; they form together a single system. They are not separate entities but organically related. Therefore, a prose-paraphrase or an over-literal reading can never convey the total meaning of a poem.
Ø  The nature of poetic truth
*     Metaphors: sense and emotive.
ü  How do I. A. Richards differ from other New Critics?
Figurative Language: I.A.Richards
(A brief outline of Questions and Answers)
v  What are the possible sources of misunderstanding in poetry?
v       “How are we to explain to those who see nothing in poetical language but a tissue of ridiculous exaggerations, childish ‘fancies’, ignorant conceits and absurd symbolizations – in what way its sense is to be read?” explain with reference to the I.A.Richards’s essay The Figurative Language.
v       “Poetry is different from prose and needs a different attitude for right understanding.” Elucidate.
v  Critically evaluate I.A.Richards’s view on the language of poetry. (M-07) (O-07)
Key to write answer:
Four types of misunderstanding:
o   1. Misunderstanding of the sense of poetry: Careless, intuitive reading (rhyme or irregular syntax)

o   2. Over-literal reading – prosaic reading
o   3. Defective scholarship
o   4. Difference in meaning of words in poetry and prose
Example: Solemn and gray…
*      What is the value of figurative language?
Explain with the example of - A health, a ringing health…..
v  What are the dangers of over-literal examination of figurative language?
·         Discuss three critics’ comment on Climb, cloud….
-          What are Richards’s views on Personification?
-          ………………………………visual memory?
-          ……………………. Comparative criticism?

ü  Conclude: The Aim of the Poem … 

(Download Teacher's Class Notes)

  • Task 1: You shall analyse one poem from this list of 30 poems. You shall select the poem that matched with your roll number. You are free to mutually change the poem with your friends. If you are writing blog on the analysis that you want to discuss in the class, submit the blog link in the comment and in Google Classroom.

  • Task 2: After classroom discussion, you are supposed to write a blog on 'verbal analysis' of the poem / song / film song lyric / hymns / devotional songs  or any poetic expression in any language of your own choice. Keep in mind the kinds of misunderstanding discussed in the essay 'Figurative Language'.  Based on the analysis given in the essay, give your comments on the poetic expression selected by you. Post the original work along with your comments on your personal blog. Share the link of this blog-post in the COMMENTS below this blog-post. In the comment, write an 'ABSTRACT' of your blog-post along with link of the post. Also submit the link of the blogpost in Google Classroom.

Tuesday 9 December 2014

Chetan Bhagat's 'one night @ the call center': Worksheet for Literary Analysis

Worksheet for Literary Analysis
Chetan Bhagat's 'one night @ the call centre' (2005)
(Quiz based on this novel)

(Do not miss to visit this blog for some interesting videos and links
Bhagat's Novels retain 5 position in top ten beset sellers in India
“It isn’t great literature. Serious critics will no doubt quibble with the two-dimensional characterization, the pedestrian prose, the plot’s contrived dues ex machine, and the author’s hokey spiritualism.” (Tharoor). Yet, Chetan Bhagat’s novels remain top 5 best sellers in January 2014. ‘one night @ the call centre’ (on@tcc, the author likes to call it thus), after nine long years of its publication, still retains sixth position among top ten bestselling novels in India in January 2014. (Balaji). Even then, there are websites which does not consider Chetan Bhagat in revered and highly acclaimed English fiction and novel writers who have garnered prestigious literary awards such as the Pulitzer and the Booker Prize. (Kausambi). This website considered Arundhati Roy (The God of Small Things - 1997), Amitav Ghosh (The Shadow Lines – 1988), Anita Desai (Fasting, Feasting - 1999), Vikram Sheth (A Suitable Boy – 1993), Khushwant Singh (Train to Pakistan – 1956), Abraham Verghese (Cutting For Stone – 2009), Amit Chaudhary (The Immortals – 2009), Akhil Sharma (An Obedient Father – 2000) and Aravind Adiga (The White Tiger – 2008) (Kausambi) as the Top Selling Must Read Indian Novelist of high acclaim. Quite conspicuously, Chetan Bhagat is not mention in this list. It may not have any effect on Chetan Bhagat. “For all its billion-strong population, only 61% of whom can officially read, India is hardly commercially viable territory for the workaday novelist. The typical Indian “bestseller” sells between 3,000 and 5,000 copies; a true success is one that remains in print for years, with reprints of 2,000 copies or so every nine or twelve months. In this modest market, on@tcc reportedly sold more than 1,00,000 copies in the first few months after its publication, and the demand shows no sign of abating.” (Tharoor). Quite obvious, why would anybody care for awards when the showers of manna overflow the coffers?

To be or not to be popular is not under the control of the text. So, to say that, the text does not have literariness because it is popular is nothing less than an injustice forced on the text.  No fiction shall be denied the literary analysis. We may conclude against the text, but not without weighing pros and cons of and in the literary text.

Well, let us see if this brave attempt by the Boswell of this brave new middle-class Indians (the Samuel Johnsons) has captured their aspirations, the dream and the desire better themselves in the era of Globalization with poignancy or has just touch-and-go kind of superficial portrayal of their characters and life. Let us pose some questions before on@tcc and see if it has potential to answer them.  The students are suggested to give their responses to the below given markers in the ‘comment’ below this blogpost.

1.     Contemporary issues in on@tcc:
a.     Do you agree: “Bhagat has a talent for tapping into the zeitgeist; that he is not much older than the people he writes about makes him a particularly credible portrayer of their world.” (Tharoor). Give illustrations from your reading of the novel.
b.     Can you justify this observation? “Bhagat's tone is pitch-perfect, his observer's eye keenly focused on nuance and detail. Verisimilitude is all: The first two thirds of the novel evokes, indeed reproduces, the way the young call center workers think, talk, eat, drink, dress, date and behave.” (Tharoor).
c.      Had  Bhagat’s vision been shallow, he wouldn’t have been able to see “call-centers as soul-destroying sweatshop, soaking up the energies of young Indians who could be doing better for themselves and their country”. (Bhagat). Do you feel that Chetan Bhagat with this observation has captured the skeleton image of the undercurrents in the society?
d.     Bhagat has an insight for the contemporary issues that are movers and shakers in India. See the below give table. You will find all his novels listed with the key contemporary issue portrayed with his imaginative stockade in the fiction, respectively. Share your observations on the important issues of the time and its delineation in Chetan Bhagat’s fictional oeuvre.

Issues in Bhagat's novels
e. Coleridge remarked in defence of Wordsworth: Had Mr. Wordsworth's poems been the silly, the childish things … they must have sunk at once, a dead weight, into the slough of oblivion, and have dragged the preface along with them.” (Coleridge). In light of the decade long career of Chetan Bhagat, can we say so about his literary contribution? 

2.     Mannepean satire:

a.     Menippean satire, seriocomic genre, chiefly in ancient Greek literature and Latin literature, in which contemporary institutions, conventions, and ideas were criticized in a mocking satiric style that mingled prose and verse. (Manippean Satire). Can you justify on@tcc as Menippean satire?
Do not miss to illustrate contemporary conventions like ‘throwaway culture’ (Suraiya) or ‘the great Indian chamcha’ (watch this video:


                                                             i.      Other issues that surfaced while discussion in the classroom – Bossism (authority), satire on people’s mindset that God only can solve problem, satire on work-culture (i.e. love your work but never your company, you never know when your company stops loving you), ‘loyalty’, marriage institution, family values (Priyanka: “I want my mother to be happy. But I cannot kill myself for it. My mother needs to realize . . . she is responsible for her own happiness.” Radhika: “I want to divorce Anuj. I don’t want to ever look at my mother-in-law’s face again.” (Bhagat)).

3.     The effect of Globalization:

a.     Thomas Friedman’s the World is Flat (Friedman)and on@tcc:
                                                             i.      Friedman’s notion of the Flat World is a reality. Justify this with an analysis fo the novel on@tcc. (Read here the reference in Chapter 2)
                                                           ii.      What sort of future projections discussed in The World is Flat seems to be supported in the fictional narrative of on@tcc?
                                                        iii.      on@tcc is a novel which brings out th effects of Globalisation at the cost of the personal. Elaborate.
                                                        iv.      Globalization has had a huge impact on thinking across the humanities, redefining the understanding of fields such as communication, culture, politics, and literature. (Connell and Marsh). How far is this novel affected by Globalization?
v. "Although technological revolution, transnational corporations, and global restructuring of capitalism have made the world increasingly interdependent and interconnected, radically altering our concepts of time, space, politics, and relations, this has in no way changed the fundamental fact that the West still poses or imposes itself as the centre of the world. The mythology of a world already decentered politically, culturally, economically, and ideologically papers over the lived global power-relations between the developed West and the underdeveloped Rest." (Shaoba Xie, Is the World Decentered? A Postcolonial Perspective on Globalization.) 
vi. Suman Gupta in Under Construction: “World Literature” in the Twenty-First Century portrays many of globalization’s major topics and processes: intercultural relations, intercultural conflict, transnationalism, population mobility, heterogenization, homogenization, hybridity, the public-private interface, economic integration, and so on.
vii. Sanjaya Subramanium's observation on another post-modern paradox authorship. (Read full interview) Here in on@tcc, how does this operate?

4.     Narrative Structure:
a.     The literature is not just telling stories in chronological order. It is the ‘how’ part of the story-telling which matters most. Chetan Bhagat makes interesting use of prologue and epilogue in this novel. The Aristotelian unities of time, place and action are also taken care of in plot construction. The justification of dues ex machine is also given with the possible alternative reading of the novel without God. Discuss with reference to the narrative structure of Life of Pi (Martel), the merits and demerits of the narrative structure of on@tcc.

b. “The narrative follows the dream of the author in train from Kanpur to Delhi, wherein God, in form of mysteriously beautiful young lady, narrates the story of ‘One Night @ the Call Centre’, which, in turn, is written from the perspective of Shyam – one of the six characters in the novel.” Comment upon the narrative structure of the novel.

5.     Popular Literature and ON@TCC

a.     Do you agree that on@tcc has following characteristics (Robinson, "Popular Prose Fiction.")  of Popular literature? Do not miss to give illustrations:
                                                             i.      Popular literature commonly lacks a sustained plot, worked out with close regard to cause and effect.
                                                           ii.      Still more characteristically it lacks the study of character and the intellectual analysis of such varied problems as occupy the fiction of the present age.
                                                        iii.      The popular romances lay their stress chiefly on incident and adventure or simple intrigue, and set forth only the more familiar and accepted moral teachings.
                                                        iv.      They represent, on the whole, an instinctive or traditional, rather than a highly reflective, philosophy of life.
                                                           v.      For all these reasons they have come to be regarded chiefly as the literature of children; a natural result, perhaps, of the fact that they originated largely in the childhood of civilization or among the simple peoples in more advanced ages.
                                                        vi.      It does not raise or answer abstract questions; it assumes that man knows what he needs to know in order to live.

6.     Self-help book and on@tcc:

a.     Define and discuss the characteristics of Self – help book in on@tcc.
What is the importance of the Call from God in the novel? Do you believe that under the law of probability and possibility, there are once in a while chances of such happenstance?
b. Reading resources: 
i) Self-Help, Inc. by Micki McGee / Review of this book - Click here to read online
ii) Self-Help Book (wikipedia)

7. One of the themes of the novel is its anti-American sentiments which are intertwined with Nationalism. Had you been God, what would have been your answer to Vroom when he said "If only you had given India as much as America!"?


Click here to appear in the quiz to test your understanding of the novel

The Hindi film Hello is based on this novel. (Bhagat, Hello)

Additional Reading Resources:


Balaji. neetchi. 2 Jan 2014. 8 Dec 2014 <>.
Bhagat, Chetan. one night @ the call center. New Delhi: Rupa & Co., 2005.
Coleridge, Samuel. Biographia Literaria or Biographical Sketches of My Literary Life and Opinions. London, 1815-17.
Connell, Liam and Nicky Marsh. Literature and Globalization: A Reader. USA: Routledge Literature Readers, 2011.
Friedman, Thomas. The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century. United Sates: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005.
Hello. Dir. Atul Agnihotri. Perf. Chetan Bhagat. Prod. Atul Agnihotri. 2008.
India, The Times of. "The Great Indian Chamcha." 23 Nov 2014. YouTubeIndiaTimes. 8 Dec 2014 <>.
Kausambi. 9 Aug 2014. 8 Dec 2014 <>.
Life of Pi. Dir. Ang Lee. Perf. Yan martel. 2012.
"Manippean Satire." 27 March 2013. Encyclopaedia Britannica. 8 Dec 2014 <>.
Martel, Yan. Life of Pi. Canada: Knopf Canada, 2001.
Robinson, F.N. "Popular Prose Fiction." The Harvard Classics 1909-14. 8 Dec 2014 <>.
Suraiya, Jug. "Throwaway culture: Unlike earlier days when things were made to last, today everything is disposable." 3 Dec 2014. 8 Dec 2014 <>.
Tharoor, Shashi. "India Finds Its Calling." Mar.-Apr. 2006. Foreign Policy. Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive, LLCStable. 6 Dec. 2013 <>.
Xie, Shaoba. 'Is the World Decentered? A Postcolonial Perspective on Globalization.' In Joseph and Wilson 2006, pp.53-75

Monday 1 December 2014

T. S. Eliot: Tradition and Individual Talent

Short Video Lectures and Quiz on T.S. Eliot's 
Tradition and Individual Talent (1919/1920-22)

T.S.Eliot’s “Tradition and Individual Talent” was published in 1919 in The Egoist - the Times Literary supplement. Later, the essay was published in The Sacred Wood: Essays on Poetry and Criticism in 1920/2. (Gallup). This essay is described by David Lodge as the most celebrated critical essay in the English of the 20th century. The essay is divided into three main sections:
* the first gives us Eliot’s concept of tradition;
* the second exemplifies his theory of depersonalization and poetry. And in
* the third part he concludes the debate by saying that the poet’s sense of tradition and the impersonality of poetry are complementary things.
At the outset of the essay, Eliot asserts that the word ‘tradition’ is not a very favourable term with the English who generally utilize the same as a term of censure. The English do not possess an orientation towards criticism as the French do, they praise a poet for those aspects of the work that are individualistic.
 However, they fail to realize that the best and the most individual part of the poet’s work is that reflects maximum influence of writers of the past. Tradition does not imply a blind adherence to the literary tradition of the past tradition. This would amount to mere copying or slavish imitation.
For Eliot, Tradition has a three-fold significance. Firstly, tradition cannot be inherited and involves a great deal of labour and erudition. Secondly, it involves the historical sense which involves apperception not only of the pastness of the past, but also of its presence. Thirdly the historical sense enables a writer to write not only with his own generation in mind, but with a feeling that the whole of the literature from Homer down to the literature of his own country forms a continuous literary tradition.
As claimed by Chris Baldick that Eliot had created an inverted literary history in which history being second to the permanent quality of literature, is readjusted to accommodate it to literature. Therefore, Eliot’s conception of history is a dynamic one and not static; and is forever in a state of flux.

Short Video Lectures:

1. Introduction:

2. The Concept of Tradition:

3. Explanation of "Some can absorb knowledge, the more tardy must sweat for it":

4. Explanation of The Chemical Reaction: The theory of Depersonalization:

5. Summing up:

Critique of Eliot’s Critical Thought:
Until the middle of the last century, Eliot’s ideas of tradition were extraordinarily influential. His essay was a major contributor to Modernism’s rise and hegemony. Like its author, the essay came to be regarded as conservative, elitist, obsessed with order and backward-looking. (Gareth Reeves – T.S.Eliot and the Idea of Tradition in Patricia Waugh’s Literary Theory and Criticism)
Eliot’s theory of literary tradition has been criticized for its limited definition of what constitutes the canon of that tradition. He assumes the authority to choose what represents great poetry, and his choices have been criticized on several fronts. For example, Harold Bloom disagrees with Eliot’s condescension of Romantic poetry, which, in The Metaphysical Poets (1921) he criticizes for its "dissociation of sensibility." Moreover, many believe Eliot’s discussion of the literary tradition as the "mind of Europe" reeks of Euro-centrism. (on the same note it should be recognized that Eliot supported many Eastern and thus non-European works of literature such as the The Mahabharata. Eliot was arguing the importance of a complete sensibility: he didn't particularly care what it was at the time of tradition and the individual talent.) He does not account for a non-white and non-masculine tradition. As such, his notion of tradition stands at odds with feminist, post-colonial and minority theories. Kenyan author James Ngugi advocated (in a memo entitled "On the Abolition of the English Department") a commitment to native works, which speak to one’s own culture, as compared to deferring to an arbitrary notion of literary excellence. As such, he implicitly attacks Eliot’s subjective criterion in choosing an elite body of literary works. Post-colonial critic Chinua Achebe also challenges Eliot, since he argues against deferring to those writers, including Conrad, whom have been deemed great, but only represent a specific (and perhaps prejudiced) cultural perspective.
Harold Bloom (The Anxiety of Influence: A Theory of Poetry:1975) presents a conception of tradition that differs from that of Eliot. Whereas Eliot believes that the great poet is faithful to his predecessors and evolves in a concordant manner, Bloom (according to his theory of "anxiety of influence") envisions the "strong poet" to engage in a much more aggressive and tumultuous rebellion against tradition.
In 1964, his last year, Eliot published in a reprint of The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism, a series of lectures he gave at Harvard University in 1932 and 1933, a new preface in which he called "Tradition and the Individual Talent" the most juvenile of his essays (although he also indicated that he did not repudiate it.)
However, now that the dust is settling, when postmodernism is retreating, when we are beginning to live comfortably with the fact of plurality and the notion of literatures rather than Literature, and with canons rather the Canon, it is possible to return to Eliot’s idea of tradition, as critics and theorists have been doing of late, from a more impartial perspective. 

After viewing these short videos on key concepts in the essay 'Tradition and Individual Talent', students shall give their responses to the below given questions/though provokers. The responses shall be given in the comments section below this blog.

  1. How would you like to explain Eliot's concept of Tradition? Do you agree with it?
  2. What do you understand by Historical Sense? (Use these quotes to explain your understanding)
    • "The historical sense involves a perception, not only of the pastness of the past, but of its presence"
    • This historical sense, which is a sense of the timeless as well as of the temporal and of the timeless and of the temporal together, is what makes a writer traditional
  3. What is the relationship between “tradition” and “the individual talent,” according to the poet T. S. Eliot?
  4. Explain: "Some can absorb knowledge, the more tardy must sweat for it. Shakespeare acquired more essential history from Plutarch than most men could from the whole British Museum".
  5. Explain: "Honest criticism and sensitive appreciation is directed not upon the poet but upon the poetry"
  6. How would you like to explain Eliot's theory of ddepersonalization? You can explain with the help of chemical reaction in presence of catalyst agent, Platinum.
  7. Explain: " Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality."
  8. Write two points on which one can write critique on 'T.S. Eliot as a critic'.


Click here to attempt the quiz on this essay.

Further Readings:

  • Brooks, Harold Fletcher. T. S. Eliot as Literary Critic. London: C. Woolf, 1987.
  • Rainey, Lawrence S. Institutions of Modernism: Literary Elites and Public Culture. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998.
  • Reeves, Gareth. T.S. Eliot and the Idea of Tradition. Ed. Patricia Waugh. An Oxford Guide: Literary Theory and Criticism. International Student Edition. 2006/7. OUP.
  • Shusterman, Richard. T. S. Eliot and the Philosophy of Criticism. London: Duchworth, 1988.
  • "T. S. Eliot." The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism. Ed. Michael Groden, Martin Kreiswirth, and Imre Szeman. The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005.
Citation credits:
Barad, Dilip. Short Video Lectures on T.S. Eliot. NMEICT Project Playlist. 2012.
Gallup, Donald. T. S. Eliot: A Bibliography (A Revised and Extended Edition) Harcourt, Brace & World, New York, 1969. pp. 27–8, 204–5 (listings A5, C90, C7)
IZQuotes-image credit: