Reflection - a viewpoint

The word ‘reflection’ according to dictionary means different things – it is ‘a calm lengthy intent consideration’ (that is, contemplation) and ‘a remark expressing careful consideration’ (that is, observation) to quote only two of the various meanings of the word ‘reflection’.
If we take the word in terms of our life and our personality, we will find that what kind of life we are leading is nothing but a reflection of the type of personality we have. The fact that the scene of life changes the moment we change our outlook and attitude towards it, stand testimony to the declaration made in the previous sentence (to quote myself: “life is but a reflection of our personality”). Just as the image in the mirror reflects what we present before it, similarly our life is what we make of it.
We, as humans, are often apprehensive of the ‘self-assumed’ oncoming problems of our future life, so much so that sometimes the problem itself does not exist or is very negligible, and it is only our thinking that makes it all the more profound and so ensnaring. Charles Dickens has rightly remarked, “Reflect upon your present blessings - of which every man has many - no on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”
To save ourselves of this trap of unhappiness or misfortune we should reflect upon the moments of joy that we have experienced in the past times. And we would find a sudden transformation. There would be miraculous escape from most of the problems and tensions of our life. This is possible because of that ‘inward glance’ because basically the answer lies within us; as it is said ‘It is all in mind’.
Trying knowing yourself and you’ll know the world in a much better way!

Oscar Wilde's 'The Picture of Dorian Gray'

The name of Oscar Wilde needs no introduction. He was a poet, a playwright and the author of many short stories. But all of us are not aware of the fact that he tried his hand at writing a novel too. The only product of his penmanship in the form of a novel was ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’, which was published in 1981, after being published as a story in a monthly magazine (Lippincott's Monthly Magazine) in 1890.

The novel is a classic example of the gothic horror fiction. The theme of the novel has a Faustian theme – the protagonist Dorian Gray wishes that his portrait would age rather than himself. And his wish is fulfilled. Then there is a series of sins.

The novel begins on a flowery note. What I mean by this will be obvious from the following opening lines:
“The studio was filled with the rich odour of roses, and when the light summer wind stirred amidst the trees of the garden there came through the open door the heavy scent of the lilac, or the more delicate perfume of the pink-flowering thorn.”

Here is another of the memorable quote from the book:
“ . . . there is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about."


Expressionism is an anti-realistic mode of artistic expression that flourished in Germany from about 1910 through the 1920’s. The German Expressionist painters employed expressive devices – like sharply angular lines unknown in nature and objects endowed with unnatural colour – in an attempt to suggest a new perception of reality.
German expressionist dramatists such as Georg Kaiser, Ernst Toller and the early Bertolt Brecht, inspired by the Swedish playwright August Strindberg, avoided depictions of individualized characters in realistic settings. Strindberg’s ‘Dream Play’ with its fragmented, stylized action and its flowering castle, had shown the way to a new theatrical symbolism.
In general, the Expressionists rejected the imitation of external reality in order to express either a private, inner vision or a wider political one of a world often depicted as bizarre and violent.
In American drama, some of Eugene O’ Neill’s plays, particularly ‘The Emperor Jones’ (1920), ‘The Hairy Ape’ (1922) and ‘The Great God Brown’ (1926), with its use of masks, were influenced by Expressionism in their departures from certain realistic conventions of drama.
The term Expressionism is problematic since it can be used to describe virtually any of the deliberate distortions or departures from reality that pervade modern literature and art. Thus, the fragmentary construction of T.S. Eliot’s ‘The Waste Land’, the symbolic metamorphoses of characters in Joyce’s ‘Finnegans Wake’ and Kafka’s ‘Metamorphis’ can be regarded as examples of Expressionism, but such an imprecise designation embracing so many disparate works, casts doubt on its usefulness as a literary description.

Woof Contest - Oct. 24

Top 5 writings in Woof contest hosted by PlotDog Press
Romeo - “The Natural World” - A short poem about nature and its beauty.Jennifer M Scott - “Seeking Sun” - An avant garde poem about fall.
About Words / Writing
Kimota (Jonathan Crossfield) - “Time, Productivity and the Writer” - A look at how writing isn’t necessarily as quick to produce as many outsiders believe. Taking three hours to produce 100 words might seem odd, but is perfectly legitimate to produce quality copy.
Ferox - “Is that a Dragon?” - Things must be observed to exist. Otherwise, they can be anything.
~willow~ - “it’s all a matter of perspective…” - …where a young girl knocks a new perspective into an otherwise downcast boy on a bright autumn day…

'Impressionism' in Literature

The term ‘Impressionism’ comes from the school of mid-nineteenth century French painting, which was in reaction to the academic style of the day. The Impressionists, as they called themselves, made the act of perception the key for the understanding of the structure of reality. They developed a technique by which objects were not seen as solids but as fragments of colour which the spectator’s eye unified. The basic premise involved was that “truth” lay in the mental processes, not in the precise representation of external reality.
The literary use of the term ‘Impressionism’ is, however, far less precise. Many of the French Symbolist poets have at one time or another been called Impressionists. In England, Walter Pater, concerned with aesthetic matters, used the term ‘impressionism’ in ‘The Renaissance’ (1873) to indicate that the critic must first examine his own reactions in judging a work of art. Arthur Symons felt that the Impressionist in verse should record his sensitivity to experience, not the experience itself; he should express the inexpressible. In Wilde’s ‘Impression du Matin’, perhaps influenced by Whistler’s painting, the Impressionist technique is apparent in the subjectivity of description.
In the modern novel, ‘Impressionism frequently refers to the technique of centering on the mental life of the chief character rather than on the chief character rather than on the reality around him. Writers such as Proust, Joyce and Virginia Woolf dwell on their character’s memories, associations, and inner emotional reactions. In ‘A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man’, for example, Joyce presents Stephen Dedalus’ unarticulated feelings but little of physical surroundings.

Jane Austen on Pride and Vanity

Jane Austen has been my one of my all time favourites ever since I was in school. Although we might say all of her novels have a limited area that they cover (as a critic has said 'she worked on six inches of ivory) but even in this restricted field she has given such valuable insights about human personality. It is not that we need a very wide canvas to convey our feelings and messages.
For instance, in her very famous novel 'Pride and Prejudice' she has remarked:
"Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us."
Now we can't have so clear a distinction between the meaning of the two words - Pride and Vanity - even from the dictionary itself.
So the next time you read a book by Jane Austen, locate the statements wherein lies the essence of reading the book. It is not whole book that we cherish later on after having read it. it is only for such meaningful statements that keeps it close to our heart.

'Brevity is Soul of Wit'

…brevity is the soul of wit,
The phrase ‘brevity is the soul of wit’ owes its origin to this celebrated play of the ‘Bard of Avon’. But the phrase gained currency and now it has become a part and parcel of the host of standard English proverbs. But due to this generalization being applied to this phrase, the original context has been somewhat distorted. While the character of Polonius (in the play ‘Hamlet’), who utters these words is of very high opinion about his ‘wit’ yet he is the least witty and the least brief of all the characters. Sigmund Freud even went on to call him “the old chatterbox”, in his essay ‘With and its Relation to the Unconscious’.
For understanding the essence of the phrase ‘brevity is the soul of wit’ let us first try to comprehend what wit really means. The meaning of wit has undergone periodic change. In the Renaissance the word ‘wit’ meant wisdom or ‘intelligence’. Coming to the seventeenth century, it came to mean ‘fancy’, implying the kind of thought and language used in the metaphysical poetry, composed by the likes of John Donne.
Sometimes the word ‘wit is now used synonymously with ‘humour’ but this is only partially true. In the modern times the word ‘wit’ connotes intellectually amusing utterances. So we can safely say that with is human with a tinge of intellectual element, that is, a mixture of humour and wisdom.
Alexander Pope, while defining a true wit, has remarked “What oft was thought, but ne’er so well expressed”. This brings us to the association of the element of brevity with the concept of wit. Even in our daily life we often stand witness to the situations like – sometimes a person cracks a joke but nobody laughs, while at other times only a statement consisting only of a few words clicks and is able to evoke roars of laughter. This is where the role of brevity in wit comes in. Pithy and precise statements can exercise the desired influence. As opposed to this, humour gets lost in the downpour of words. Verbosity can never be the basis and soul of wit.
So be careful, next time you say something to make someone smile, make it brief!

Arvind Adiga wins Man Booker Prize 2008

Arvind Adiga has won the prestigious Man Booker Prize for the year 2008. The winning novel ‘The White Tiger’ is his debutant novel. He is among the very few who pocketed this award for their respective first novel. With this achievement he has joined the camp of Arundhati Roy (for ‘The God of Small Things’) and DBC Pierre (for ‘Vernon God Little’). This time the other debut novel in the race was ‘A Fraction of the Whole’ Steve Toltz’s first novel.
Adiga is the fourth Indian born author to win this prize after – Salman Rushdie, Arundhati Roy and Kiran Desai, who won the prize in 1981, 1997 and 2006 respectively (V.S. Naipul is not to be counted because not an Indian by birth). Adiga was born in Chennai (Andhra Pradesh) and now in Mumbai (Maharashtra, India). His novel, ‘The White Tiger’ is about the journey of a man from his rural life in an Indian village to achieving success in enrepreneurship.
So grab a copy of ‘The White Tiger’ and enjoy! I am certainly going to do so.
Get your copy here: The White Tiger: A Novel

Nobel Prize for Literature 2008 Announced

And finally the winner of the most coveted literary award, the Nobel Prize for Literature, has been announced. The French writer, Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio has won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2008. He is the first French writer to have accomplished this deed, ever since the Chinese-born French writer, Gao Xingjian won it in 2000.

Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio was born on April 13, 1940. His father was a Mauritian doctor with a British citizenship and his mother was a French lady. He wrote his first novel at the age of 23, the book was entitled ‘The Interrogation’. Till date he has written more than 40 books, out of which 12 have been translated into English.
So what are you waiting for? Pick up a book by Le Clézio and bask in the glory of having read this Nobel Laureate, if you haven’t already.

'Waiting for Godot' as 'The Theatre of the Absurd'

The term ‘Theatre of Absurd’ was coined by Martin Esslin in his essay ‘The Theatre of Absurd’. The main exponents of this school were – Samuel Beckett, Arthur Adamov, Jean Genet. Although these writers oppose the idea of belonging to a particular school, yet their writings do have certain common characteristics on the basis of which they can be clubbed together in one category.
The term ‘absurd’ has also been linked to the mathematical term ‘surd’, which means a value that cannot be expressed in finite terms. In terms of literature, therefore, we can say that it refers to something that is irrational.
The concept of ‘absurd’ seems to have begun with Sartre’s philosophy. “The absurd is not a mere idea”, says Sartre, “it is revealed to us in a doleful illumination – getting up, tram, four hours of work, meal, sleep; Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday.” The idea is similar to what Camus expressed in his essay ‘The Myth of Sisyphus’. The point stressed here is, beginning all over again as if it were a new life. The actions of the absurd hero are meaningless and illogical.
In his play ‘Waiting for Godot’ Samuel Beckett presents before us a highly absurd situation of two tramps – Vladimir and Estragon – waiting for someone called Godot, who doesn’t come. Both the tramps follow the same routine everyday – come and stand under a tree, wait for Godot, indulge in some senseless activities, keep on waiting the whole day, decide to begin afresh the next day. Moreover, Act II of the play is a mere photocopy of the first act with only one or two changes. Lucky accompanied by his master Pozzo comes in the first act but in the second the situation is reversed – Lucky is the master, Pozzo is his slave, who is blind now. A boy comes to inform Vladimir and Estragon that Godot won’t come that day but he’ll definitely come the next day. In the second act too, a boy comes to deliver the same message. When asked by Vladimir and Estragon, he says that he’s the brother of boy, who came on the previous day. Through the repetitive pattern of the play, Beckett probably wants to drive home the point to the audience (now, readers) that the absurdity in man’s life makes him incapable of performing something new.
As far as the actions of the two tramps are concerned, they too are absurd. Estragon’s removal of his shoes, for instance, is an absurd as well as a funny scene. Their conversation also is on the absurdian lines of the ‘Theatre of the Absurd’. For example,

Valdimir: Let’s go
Estragon: Let’s go
(They both don’t move.)

Sartre was of the view that man is born in a void. The same idea manifests itself in the fact that Beckett’s characters stand outside the society. Here Beckett differs from the other ‘absurd’ writers, especially Adamov. Beckett’s characters stand outside the society as if rejected. But they converse with each other. On the other hand, Adamov’s characters stand within the society as outcasts and don’t converse with anyone.
It may however, be safely concluded that although the actions, event and dialogues are absurd, they are not completely meaningless. They do have a symbolic value. The theatre of absurd by presenting before us these ‘absurd’s situations wants to convey to us the essential absurdity of man’s life. Yet there is hope that ‘Godot might come tomorrow’.

Manuscripts Go Online

According to a report published in ‘The Independent’, the Manchester University’s John Rylands Library will enable access to many original medieval manuscripts (including portions of ‘Canterbury Tales’) online. This digitization will help to make available the manuscripts which are inherently fragile. For the first time it will be possible to compare our manuscripts directly with other versions of the text in libraries across the world. This will help to open new areas of research.
The process of digitization will begin in October this year. It will be done using a high definition camera. The results are expected by late 2009.
So we have a nice thing to look forward to!

More details at: The Independent

'Religion and Literature' - T.S. Eliot

The essay ‘Religion and Literature’ written by T.S. Eliot can be viewed as a reaction against the tradition of viewing a literary work from purely aesthetic point of view. Many critics, especially the New Critics, believed that literature is not to be valued for its ethical and theological significance. But T.S. Eliot held the opinion that only literary criticism was not sufficient. After a literary work has been viewed as a work of imagination, it should also be considered from ethical and theological point of view. It is all the more important in our age when there is no agreement on ethical and theological values. For ascertaining the greatness of a literary work, that work of imagination should be appreciated from ethical and theological angles.
Although literature has been judged from moral standards, yet it has been believed for a long time that there is no relationship between religion and literature. T.S. Eliot believes that there is and should be a relationship between the two. In his essay ‘Religion and Literature’ he has discussed the application of religion to literary criticism. According to Eliot the essay is not about religious literature, but he as a degression, mentions three types of religious literature. First, is the religious literature, which has literary qualities in it. For instance, the authorized version of the Bible or the works of Jeremy Taylor. Those persons, who describe Bible only as a literary work and talk of its influence on English literature, have been referred to as ‘parasites’. According to Eliot, Bible is to be considered as ‘word of God’. Secondly, he mentions devotional poetry. A devotional poet he says is not the one who treats the subject matter in the religious spirit, but the one who treats a part of the subject matter. Eliot considers poets like Spencer, Hopkins, Vaughan and Southwell as minor poets while Dante, Corneille and Racine as major poets. Thirdly, he states, are the works of authors who want to forward the cause of religion. These types of works come under propaganda, for instance, Chesterton’s ‘Man who was Thursday’ and ‘Father Brown’.
Eliot laments over the irrationality behind the separation of our literary and religious judgment. Exemplifying literature by the way of novel (as it has the effect upon the greatest numbers), he says this secularization has been a gradual process for the last three hundred years. Since Defoe the process has been continuous. The process can be divided into three phases. In the first phase fall the novels in which Faith is taken for granted and omitted from its picture of life. The author belonging to this phase are: Fielding and Thackeray. In the second phase novels, Faith is doubted, worried about and contested. It includes authors like George Eliot, George Meredith and Thomas Hardy. The third phase is the age in which we are living and authors included are all contemporary novelists except James Joyce.
This secularization is evident in the way a reader reads a novel – without caring for the effect it has upon one’s behavior. The common factor between religion and literature is behavior. Our religion imposes upon us ethics, judgment and criticism of ourselves, and our behavior with our fellow men. Literature too has an effect on our behavior. Whatever the intentions of the author, his works affect us wholly as human beings. Even if we read a literary work purely for aesthetic purposes (keeping our ethics and morality in a separate compartment), it affects us as human beings, whether we intend it or not.
Modern readers have lost their religious values. They don’t have the wisdom to be able to obtain knowledge of life, comparing one view against the other. Moreover, the knowledge of life that we obtain from fiction is not of life itself but is knowledge of other people’s knowledge of life. What adds to the problem is that there are too many books and the reader is confused. Only modern writers of eminence have an improving effect, otherwise the contemporary writers have an effect that is degrading. The reader must keep in mind two things – ‘what we like’, that is, what we really feel; and ‘what we ought to like’, that is, understanding our shortcomings. As honest men we must not assume that what we like is what we ought to like; and as honest Christians we should assume that we do like what we ought to like.
Eliot is mainly concerned with secularization of literature. It does not concern itself with things of spirit. It is simply oblivious or ignorant of the primacy of the supernatural over the natural world. Most of the books are written by people who have no real belief in supernatural order. Moreover, they are ignorant of the fact that the world has still many believers. It is the duty of the Christians to use certain standards in addition to those used by the rest of the world. If a Christian is conscious of the gulf between him and contemporary literature, he won’t be harmed by it.
Majority of the people consider economic ills as cause of all the problems and call for drastic economic changes, while others want more or less drastic social changes. Both types of changes are opposed to each other but a common point is that they hold the assumption of secularization. Some want the individual to subordinate his interests to those of the state. But Eliot does not agree with these people. Eliot does not complain about modern literature because it is immoral or even amoral but because it instigates people to try out every kind of experience and not to stay back or miss any. A Christian reader should add to the literary criticism followed by the rest of the world. He should, in addition, apply ethical and theological standards to it.