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National Allegory: Private Experience as Microcosm for Larger National Concerns in The Bachelor of Arts and Clear Light of Day.

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Presentation on theme: "National Allegory: Private Experience as Microcosm for Larger National Concerns in The Bachelor of Arts and Clear Light of Day."— Presentation transcript:

1 National Allegory: Private Experience as Microcosm for Larger National Concerns in The Bachelor of Arts and Clear Light of Day

2 A. Background and Introduction Fedric Jameson s 1986 essay Third World Literature in the Era of Multi-national Capitalism has stamped a certain way of our speaking and thinking about Third World literature: Jameson believes that capitalism has not yet split the private experience from the public sphere as it has in developed countries. Behind this notorious claim, we can detect the persistence of the dependence economic, ideological, cultural of the developing world and its literature on northern hemisphere patrons and models.

3 B. Jameson s National Allegory and his Critics Ahmad criticizes Jameson for being precipitant in offering his totalizing and exaggerated terms. According to Ahmad, in asserting national allegory as the primary, even exclusive form of narrativity in the so-called Third World, Jameson has minimized and homogenized the specificity of cultural difference: Even Arun Mukherjee, an Indo-Canadian teacher, corroborates this view of totalizing tendency: The fallacy of partial and parochial bigotry: If we lay aside the most problematic word "necessarily," Jameson's idea is, to certain degrees, feasible and applicable despite considerable criticism and justifiable resistance. The purpose of this paper is to examine two Asian (Indian) novels through the prism of national allegory.

4 C. The Bachelor of Arts Narayan resorts to the experience of Chandran, who represents the whole nation of India, to show his concern for India in late colonial period, just as Desai does in her fictional exploration of post-colonial themes. 1. Strewn in the novel are the traces of the contrast between westernization and nativism: a. The college life of Chandran in late colonial times b. The very title suggests the primacy of western culture, of which Chandran is highly cognizant c. British colonial culture is overwhelmingly omnipotent and ubiquitous in India. d. Chandran s observation that "The white fellows are born to enjoy life. Our people really don t know how to live (34). This is rounded off by Ramu s conclusion that India is a wretched country (34). e. The absent-mindedness of Professor Brown

5 2. Veeraswami s paper The Aids to British Expansion in India : Fanonian violence Veeraswami endorses the use of violence, regarding it as the surest avenue of national liberation. His tenet runs counter to the nonviolent resistance of Gandhi, whose assassination is depicted in Clear Light of Day.

6 3. Narayan s concern for India through the ostensible love romance of Chandran: Chandran represents an entire India in miniature. The novel s sudden and ambiguous end not only allegorizes the uncertainty of the national fate but also exposes the dilemma of India colonized by England, with an education system based on western culture, and hence the infiltration of English literature in Chandran s college life; its social system inevitably influenced by its local customs, such as the time-honored belief in horoscopes.

7 Desais fictional explorations of post-colonial themes: Personal relationships in a family as microcosm for national concerns. The decaying garden in Old Delhi serves as an embodiment of the condition of Indiathe familys debilitating house with the aura of decadence is an epitaph for the country in the wake of its independence. 1. Engrossing image of a decaying garden: 2. Bims students regard Old Delhi as a great cemetery, every house a tomb (5) 3. Here things are left unsaid and undone. It was what they called Old Delhi Decadence (13) 4. Dust is ubiquitous and Bim is described as a mud-faced woman. (153) 5. Bim asked Tara that Anyone would be horrified to return to it. Werent you horrified? (156) 6. The house is depicted with pejorative terms like shabby old house that looked like a tomb in the moonlight (159) D. Clear Light of Day

8 The contrast between old and new worlds (nativism versus westernization) 1. Bim and Tara: Bim, burdened with caring for Baba, her simple-minded and autistic brother, and Aunt Mira, represents Indian culture whereas Tara, who marries herself off to an ambassador, Bakul, represents western values. Bakul believes that he has extricated Tara from the slough of helplessness and decadence:

9 2. Bim s and Tara s attitudes toward Jumna river, the holy river: Nothing? she repeated Tara s judgment … Oh Bim, it is nothing of the sort, Tara dared to say, sure she was being teased. It is a little trickle of mud with banks of dust on either side. It s where my ashes will be thrown after I am dead and burnt, Bim said unexpectedly and abruptly. (24)

10 3. Bim and Dr. Biswas, who sets out to court Bim, but to no avail: Frantically in love with German music and medicine, Dr. Biswas tells Bim that the sense of "euphoria" is gone when he comes back to India: Fraught with responsibilities, Bim remains her entrenched position as old tradition espouser. The reader will by no means be amazed by Bim s refusal to unite with Dr. Biswas. As they belong to two diametrically different worlds, the consummation between the two is impossible.

11 4. Tara s daughters: the absorption and intrusion of western music and culture. Even Tara reflects that her daughters are raised as far too sophisticated for such rustic pleasures, the lack of which makes Tara feel guilty. (11)

12 The novel as a medium of social protest: 1. Religious conflict, Hindu bias, and the deliberate erasure of Islamic culture in India: 2. The deliberate erasure of Urdu culture: It is interesting to note that Bim and Tara are not able to read Raja's verses written in Urdu. Only with the translated versions can they appreciate Raja's poems.

13 3. Desai s achievement in highlighting the forgotten and anguished history: Desai's achievement consists in ferreting out the forgotten and anguished history of India: fratricide, partition (Raja s friends, who vociferate against the partitioning of the country, call him a traitor who accepted the idea of Pakistan as feasible ), women's social status, and religious bigotry (threatened by terrorists, none of the Muslim girls come any more ).

14 Homi Bhabha s third dimension and Baba: We can incorporate Homi Bhabha s concept of the third dimension in The Location of Culture to delve into the conflict of two cultural norms in the novel. The third dimension, as Bhabha elaborates, is useful in describing an in-between space in which cultural change may occur. In developing the idea of liminality, Bhabha resorts to the art historian Renee Green s characterization of a stairwell as a liminal space: Alternating between two worlds, Baba is confined in the house of Old Delhi decadence and hovers at the edge of a new Indian Society through his compulsively listening to the old HMV gramophone.

15 E. Conclusion R. K. Narayan s The Bachelor of Arts of the 1930 s and Anita Desai s Clear Light of day of the 1980 s both seem to bear out, despite their predictable differences and variations, much of what Jameson hypothesized. As the seeing eyes of history, these two writers show their deepest concerns for their nation by means of microcosmic explorations of individual feelings and experience in the novel form.

16 Here I want to resort to Lu Xun, one of China s greatest writers who uses his stories to alert the reader to a war- stricken, debilitated, and pathetic China, whose citizens must make a desperate bid for survival. Like Lu Xun, both Narayan and Desai are sensitive intellectuals concerned about the national fate, maneuvering the novel as a medium for physical and literary projections. To press a step further, in their novels we can find the microcosmic threads for the larger national concerns, which mesh well with Jameson s contention.

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