Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Globalisation beyond West and America

Courtesy: The Economist
Globalisation, etymologically, can be understood as the process by which something hitherto belonging to a particular place, community or culture expands itself to the world. Also, it is a result of such process. Though the word, thus, carries a neutral meaning and concept primarily without discriminating between places and cultures from different parts of the world, many people view that the process of globalisation is unilateral and its movement is from the West to the East. Hence, for them, globalisation is equal to westernisation. Likewise, many of them believe that America – the United States of America – is the centre of the West and consequently westernisation most of the times means Americanisation.
Yes, America is significant in the West and the West is transmitting its cultures and values across the world in the name of globalisation. Yet, it may be a narrow, thus incomplete, view that America only is the world leader; for other nations too are also proving their powers in different times. European nations including Britain and France assert their dominance in world politics frequently. Also, nations from the "non-west" like China, Japan and Russia also come to the front in different issues backed by their increasing economic strengths.  Globalisation today thus does not mean westernisation; and westernisation is also not limited to Americanisation. Globalisation today is also outside America and the West.  

War of Power

Critical Discourse Analysis of a Section from Rookmangud Katawal's Autobiography
Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) is an act of explaining and interpreting any kind of text – both written and oral – and similar discourses, in order to understand what meaning is created in the text, how and by whom. In a CDA activity, the researcher analyses how the text means what it means in the given social context. As context is a broader term that implies a variety of backgrounds; such analysis attempts to identify how power relationships affect the discourse. Teun A van Dijk, one of the most important theorists of the CDA, defines, "Critical discourse analysis (CDA) is a type of discourse analytical research that primarily studies the way social power abuse, dominance, and inequality are enacted, reproduced, and resisted by text and talk in the social and political context" (352). Van Dijk's definition hence apparently urges analysts to look into aspects of power relationships including social power abuse, dominance, and inequality.
            A couple of weeks back, former Chief of Nepal Army Rookmangud Katawal launched his autobiography titled after his name and written in Nepali language. Published by Nepa~laya, the book, penned by the General assisted by skilled journalist Kiran Bhandari, is a talk of the town in Nepali literary and intellectual circle today.

Critical Discourse Analysis: A Multidimensional Perspective

Defining at the simplest level, Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) is an act of explaining and interpreting any kind of text – both written and oral – and similar discourses that carry a certain message. It is a study of the ways in which language is used in various texts and contexts. In analysing discourses, the discipline pursues to incorporate various perspectives in order to get the richest meaning of the discourses possible. Further, the CDA adopts an in-depth study of play of power and role of socio-cultural, economic and cultural contexts in which texts and discourses are created. The discursive nature of language further necessitates the CDA to interplay among various facets of understanding. Hence, the Critical Discourse Analysis is not a single theoretical framework; rather a combination of a number of multidimensional approaches, for a good CDA necessarily involves as many approaches as feasible.       

Racist Media in Native Son

A scene from Pierre Chenal's 1950 film Native Son. Courtesy: http://filmcomment.com/
Native Son, a novel by Richard Wright, is often named as one of the greatest pieces of literature in showing experiences of the African-American people. There are many issues that the novel raises regarding racial segregation and torture. The novel exposes how black men and women had to live during the first half of the twentieth century, years after slavery ended. It portrays the treatment of black people by various quarters of social and political life. Among them is the press and, in particular newspapers. The newspapers' role is brought into the novel when pressmen significantly cover the death and murder of Miss Mary Dalton and the incidents following that, in the two chapters ‘Flight’ and ‘Fate’ of the novel. Like other institutions established and operated by white people newspapers too in the novel, are apparently racist; and they sensationalize more than inform the public about what is happening.

What if Stronger Women: Retelling The Winter's Tale

A scene from the Utah Shakespeare Festival's 2004 production of The Winter's Tale. (Copyright Utah Shakespeare Festival. Photo by Karl Hugh.) Courtesy: http://www.bard.org/
In The Winter's Tale by William Shakespeare, Queen Hermione is one of the most important characters. Her importance is not only limited to the context of this play in particular; rather Hermione is perhaps one among few strongest women characters Shakespeare has ever created for/ in his plays. Paulina of this very play can also be categorised as similar to Hermione. Yet, the overall development of the play is not presented from her perspective. Although being strong and heroic, the Queen's role is made subordinate, and the role of the King Leontes is highlighted. From a feminist perspective, the point of view which the Shakespearean drama is presented through thus can be called patriarchal, for it presents women in submissive roles who always accept decisions of their male counterparts. If the story is retold with the feminist lens, the plot of the play will go to a completely different direction in which women characters are decisive in themselves for their life.   

Decision Making Right of Women in Pericles

The eight-member cast of California Shakespeare Theater’s Pericles puts on a jousting pageant on stage at the Bruns Memorial Amphitheater in Orinda. Photo by Kevin Berne.  Courtesy: http://www.theaterdogs.net/
Pericles, Prince of Tyre, a romantic play by William Shakespeare revolves around various women characters from diverse family backgrounds. These women have significant roles in movement of the plot, for without them the play would be different. But, their role in decision making moments that actually determine the plot movement is different from character to character. While some characters are not allowed to speak during crucial decision making moments, some other even enjoy it to the extent that they are misused. In some cases, the decision making right awarded to women in the play is not much strong as women generally had in the sixteenth century Shakespearean English society.  But, some women are able to make their voices heard in decision making processes. In overall, the decision making right that women characters in the play can enjoy is not uniform, but different from case to case and person to person.

Dewey and Tagore: Together despite Differences

John Dewey (1859-1952) from the United States and Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) from then India can be positioned as two among some most important and influential philosophers of education in the twentieth century. The two scholars have written extensively about what purposes education should serve and how a good education should be. Dewey's Democracy and Education (1916) is a book that discusses in details his ideas and philosophies on education. Likewise, Tagore also has written extensively about educational systems and ideas, as rewritten in the chapter "Founding a New Education" in The Oxford India Tagore by Uma Das Gupta in 2009. These two scholars lived around the same time, but in two poles of the world. Thus, it is interesting to compare their ideas. What looks more interesting is that while Dewey and Tagore agree on some ideas like that education is not separate from life itself; they have many differences like what education should aim.

Augustine on Role of Signs in Learning

A Caravaggio painting of Saint Augustine.
Courtesy: The Guardian
In his dialogue with his son Adeodatus, recorded as 'On the Teacher' (389 AD), Saint Augustine has put forward his views on how one can learn, more specifically what agent can help one learn. In this context, he has also discussed roles of signs, words in particular, in the teaching-learning process. Though the father and son at first agree that a major function of signs is teaching, later they conclude that signs cannot help anyone to teach or learn. Thus, for Augustine, no sign in itself is capable of any help to facilitate understanding.

Aristotelian Definition of Phronesis: Clear and Convincing

Aristotle. Courtesy: www.britannica.com
AC MacIntyre, in his After Virtue: a Study in Moral Theory (1981), has interpreted the concept of "phronesis" developed by Aristotle. Defining Aristotelian concept of phronesis in his own words, MacIntyre says that phronesis is "a moral and intellectual virtue rooted in a natural human capacity to do the right thing in the right place at the right time in the right way" (qtd. in Carr 39). MacIntyre's interpretation of the concept of phronesis has differentiated it from "techne" on the basis of its moral and intellectual aspect. Techne and phronesis are two major branches of practical philosophy of education. Since MacIntyre's definition has clearly hinted the aspect which differentiates the two – presence or absence of moral value, it is well defined and holds the true meaning of phronesis. Thus, it is agreeable.

Censure against Certitude: Lyotard and Derrida

Postmodernism and poststructuralism can be taken as the theories that question modernism and structuralism respectively. Developed in the twentieth century, both of the theories try to undermine authority of what were considered central (establishment) before them. Postmodernism challenges modernism – search for purposes in whatever human beings do – and poststructuralism in the similar fashion poses an encounter against structuralism – the theory that believes words and languages do have meanings. Since it is language that human beings are able to experience anything through, questioning the power of language is also question against meanings of human activities too. In this regard, both 'post-' theories come together in questioning the presence and confidence of a central power or a central meaning. Such questions to certitude of the established authority can be seen very vocal in writings of Jean-François Lyotard, a pioneer of postmodernism and Jacques Derrida, who developed the theory of deconstruction, which is one of the inevitable ingredients of poststructuralism.

Constitution of Human Beings and Behaviours for Marx, Freud and Lacan

Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud and Jacques Lacan, all three are among few most important scholars of the modern era who delved into what constitutes beings and behaviours of human race. The essays "Preface (to a Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy)" by Marx, "A Note on the Unconscious in Psychoanalysis" by Freud and "The Mirror Stage as Formative of the Function of the I as Revealed in Psychoanalytic Experience" by Lacan also present their ideas on what actually forms human personalities and behaviours. Founding fathers of Marxism and two prominent schools of modern psychoanalysis respectively, the scholars have respectively attributed to economy, the unconscious and the Mirror Stage as formative elements of human consciousness, activities and life as a whole.     

Sunday, November 16, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Voices of the Century

Speeches That Changed the World is a collection of some important speeches made by significant players of the twentieth-century world politics (though few speakers don't belong to the political domain). Compiled and edited by an Australian history teacher Alan J Whiticker and published by Jaico Publishing House in India in 2010, the book has 43 speeches covering a span of 104 years (1901-2004). The book talks about diverse issues from war to peace, from socialism to the Holocaust, from nuclear weapons to pacifism, and from women rights to AIDS-related discrimination. Considering the geography, time span and themes it covers, the book is a credible document of major ups and downs in the world politics in the twentieth century.  

Why Ban on Smoking in Public?

By now, after much research is done to study effects of smoking in human health, perhaps
Courtesy: http://www.calvinshub.com/
there is no any debate on whether smoking is unhealthy. But the debate whether people should be allowed to smoke at public places is still a debate in national and international forums. In 2011 April, Nepal also introduced a law called Tobacco Product (Control and Regulation) Act that prohibits smoking in public areas. As expected, the law did not get accepted cleanly. Besides scattered public opinions against such a strict law, some industrialists also launched a campaign seeking cancellation of the law (The Himalayan Times "Anti-tobacco bid").  Arguments for and against allowing smoking in public seem valid on their own. But considering facts established by scientific researches about effects of smoking, national and international legal documents on the issue and sense of moral responsibility, public smoking should be legally banned in Nepal and other places of the world.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Value Judgement of Literatures under Questions

Literary studies in almost all parts of the world involve a system of valuation of literary texts and authors. Consequently, some texts and authors are canonised and established as "standards" in every literature on suppression of rest of "non-standard" texts.  Traditionally, some qualities like test of time, aesthetic standard and representation of real life are regarded as benchmarks of value judgement of literary texts and authors. Nevertheless, such systems of judgements are most of the times suspected to be false as they apparently exclude many of texts with different qualities and they base the judgements upon few select critics. Due to exclusion of many texts and authors as decided by few critics, value judgements in literature are under the questions of accuracy and credibility.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Erasers: A Narrative Rewriting of Oedipus Rex

Photo: http://ecx.images-amazon.com
  The Erasers is a detective novel by Alain Robbe-Grillet, originally published in French as Les Gommes in 1953. The novel deals with attempts to find the assassin of a professor named Daniel Dupont who was supposed to be killed in the night before the novel's setting. The novel is set in an unnamed city, covers a full day that a government's special agent spends to find out the murderer. The novel concludes much like the world famous classical Greek tragedy Oedipus Rex by Sophocles revealing to the readers that the one searching the murderer himself turns to be the murderer. Due to its similar plot structure with dramatic irony and other similar elements, The Erasers can be taken as a rewriting and/or rereading of the classical mythical tragedy of Oedipus.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

English Medium Education: An Individual and National Need

From www.ekantipur.com
On a day in my twelfth grade, my English teacher was marking my test papers in front of me. Suddenly he asked me if I came from a government school. I said, "Yes, I am from Nepali medium." Then he commented, "If your parents had enrolled you in an English medium school…" He didn't complete the sentence, but looked at my face directly and seriously. My face turned very serious and quite shy. This comment had such an impression on me that I am still thinking what if my parents had enrolled me in an English medium school.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Metaphors in "To a Skylark"

Photo from http://www.charliesbirdblog.com/
"To a Skylark" is a lyrical poem written by one of the best known Romantic poets Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822).  In this poem, the poet has elevated beauty and sweetness of a skylark and the song it sings. To describe its virtues, the skylark is compared with various beautiful things of the world. Metaphoric language has been used in the poem as a means of such comparisons. The poem thus is filled with metaphors to describe beauty of the skylark and sweetness of its songs and such metaphors have made the bird and the song something more than what they really are.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Quest for 'the First Principle': From Thales to Aristotle

Photo from http://lh6.ggpht.com/
It has been long that the western philosophy has begun searching "the first principle" – the fundamental element or principle that caused all the diverse things in the world. Though many things have been lost by now, traces of philosophical attempts to define the first principle can be found back from the seventh century BC. By the time of Aristotle in the fourth century BC, in Greece itself, there had been many attempts to know the first principle. In fact, the first principle was the most important aspect of pursuit of knowledge in the ancient Greece which every other aspect of knowledge revolved around.  The developments of the western mind in Greece from Thales up to Aristotle can be summed up as quests for the first principle.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Mero Sansar: The Sansar for Millions

I don't remember when I visited Mero Sansar  for the first time. But what I remember is after that day, I have been visiting the blog site everyday whenever I have an access to the Internet. Mero Sansar (to translate literally, "My World") has been the third site that I visit most nowadays (the first two being my Facebook and Gmail accounts).  Mero Sansar presents interesting information in an entertaining way; that is what has made the site one of the popular Nepali webs to be visited by thousands of people every day.  

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Author's Presence in a Text

           Though Roland Barthes has already declared that the author is "dead" in a text, there are many theories that believe authorship cannot be separated from any writing. Despite many theoretical attacks on presence of the author in a literary creation in the modern era, many other theories believe that author cannot help representing him/herself in his/her writing; thus any writing is expression of its author and his/her feelings, emotions, thoughts and ideas. These theories can be collectively called "the theory of expressivity". Since these theories originate and develop most in Romantic writings, they can also be called "the Romantic theory of authorship" or "the Romantic-expressive theory".

Thursday, April 25, 2013

No Respect for Native Rules

"To write every word in correct rhaswas and dirghas, I'm not a Nepali professor after all", many youths and adults tell this sentence when someone tries to correct some spellings in their Nepali writings. So – does one need to be a Nepali professor to write Nepali correctly? If yes, given that most of us try to make our English spellings as correct as possible, why have not we been English professors yet?
Author and journalist Sharat Chandra Wastiwrites, "The national language should have become stronger day by day, but this is not the case due to extreme ignorance and an impulse toward fashion. On the one hand are those risen to senior positions and highly educated who feel proud, not shy, to say "I don't know Nepali much". On the other hand are those involved in language-related professions who take linguistic incompetence for their pride by saying "Do I need to learn Nepali? Whatever I write is Nepali." The general user lies confused between these two poles" (IX). It shows that Nepali population has been too much ignorant about correct use of own language. And, this can be best seen in spellings of Nepali words in Nepali (Devnagari) script they write.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Parody: This is Just to Say

Our poetry teacher Prakash Subedi says one of the best ways to appreciate a good poem is to compose parodies of them. So, he had assigned us to write parodies of the well-known poem 'This Is Just To Say' by William Carlos Williams. Thus, here are a couple of parodies written by me:

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Rigidity in Old Age: Natural and Human

            We demand to our parents that we need internet access and laptop at our home. "Why?" they ask. We say we need to research online for our study and assignments. They answer, "We too studied and were abided with assigned projects in our times. We completed our bachelors and masters under dim lights of a tuki, when there was no electricity. But we never thought of laptops or the Internet. So, you can study and do assignments without them if you really wish them. You complain means you don't want to do them!"

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Nora's Final Meeting with Torvald: The Doll's Defiance

Nora Helmer, wife of Torvald Helmer is the protagonist of the celebrated realistic play 'A Doll House' (1879) by Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906). The change in her personality from a submissive wife to an assertive woman is taken as the most important move of the plot in this play. In this development, Nora's final meeting with her husband Helmer (whom she is going to leave) is the climax. Understanding this very episode provides the audience with the central controversy associated with Nora's role: is she right in leaving home. In deed, the scene of her meeting with Helmer is essentially crux of the play as it includes the landmark move in the plot, that is Nora's daring defiance against her doll position.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Role of Family in Personality: A Psychoanalytic Reading of 'I Stand Here Ironing'

'I Stand Here Ironing' is a short story by American writer Tillie Olsen. The story is about struggle of a mother – who is also narrator of the story – to bring up and console her psychologically problematic child, Emily. Emily is projected as one with various psychological core issues; namely low self esteem, fear of intimacy, and sibling rivalry. As the story progresses, she is gradually healed. In this process of problematisation and healing, the mother is seen always with her. Besides, the unnamed mother too shares those core issues. In fact, it is the mother (and indirectly the father) who incorporated the psychological problems into the daughter. Thus, the story shows that parents' treatment to children during childhood in the family directly influences their personality formation.