New College Literary Speech – 24.01.2018

தேதி: 23 Mar 2023
	Let me begin my address with Philip Sydney

	The Renaissance:
        Biting my truant pen, beating myself for spite, 
        ‘Fool’, said my Muse to me, ‘look in thy 
        heart and write.’ (English Poetry: 30)
                                  -	Sir Philip Sidney
                                  -	Astrophel and Stella

	While preparing for this, I was browsing through this book Poetry Politics and the English Tradition - L.C.Knights. 
It has some wonderful sparks for you students of literature, let me begin my address with L.C.Knights. An inaugural lecture can be a very grand affair, a public stocktaking in which a master of his subject defines its scope, purpose and methods, both in relation to the general field of knowledge and as a university discipline. Or it can be something much less ambitious; an occasion when a representative of a particular branch of learning produces a sample of his wares that he thinks may be of some interest to representatives of other branches. I have chosen to produce a sample rather than to take stock. My subject-matter here is just to knife a few thoughts and ideas about poetry, criticism and share a few translations of my poems.  
He further adds that, our first job as teachers of English is to help our students to cultivate the habit of disciplined attention to words through which the values of literature are revealed: there is no other way in which they can possess-really posses-the material of their study. (Poetry Politics and the English Tradition - L.C.Knights: 5)
	Canter-bury Tales or Middlemarch-we are interested in them because they all in different ways focus what Arnold called “the great question,-How to Live?”-they spring from a passionate interest in the general life and lead back to it. (Poetry Politics and the English Tradition - L.C.Knights: 6)
	The answer is “through arts & literature” you can make a living through a career, but you can live life only through arts and literature.
	The student of English is in the first place a student of literature, of works great and small in which something of permanent interest and value is embodied. But he is also-I think necessarily-a student of a way of life, changing with the years but with a recognizable continuity and tradition, and at all times capable of shedding light on questions that will confront him not simply as a university student, not simply as a student of literature in any restricted sense, but as a man living the common life of men. (Poetry Politics and the English Tradition - L.C.Knights: 7)
	Monastery story...	
	More and more mankind will discover that we have to turn to poetry to interpret life for us, to console us, to solace us. Without poetry, our science will appear incomplete; and most of what passes for religion and philosophy will be replaced by poetry. (Modern Literary Criticism - Irving Howe: 7)
	As a post graduate of the late 80’s was wounded by the critical tradition of T.S.Eliot, M.Arnold, I.A.Richards, F.R.Leavis.

Reference about Prof. Subba Rao, Thiagarajar College.

	As C.M.Bowra has observed in ‘The Creative Experiment’. Indeed his (Eliot’s) prepossessions with morality are more American than European, the product of New England and its Puritan tradition’. His obsession withself, his weariness  and frustration of the present and his mostalgia for the past found expression in his poetry... poetry in which personal feelings are masked under intricate allusions, unusual images and quotations in various languages. As a poet, therefore, Eliot’s attempt to transmute his personal feelings into something rich and strange in the realm of art. The generalizations from his own practice as a poet form a considerable part of his critical canons, and his criticism can be said to be a defence, conscious or unconscious, for the type of poetry he wrote.
	I stand before you as a rural poet. I belong to a landscape of dry black soil, which we term as “Karisal” in chaste Tamil.  Hot summer is the most prevalent season and I hail from an agrarian community – in which failure of monsoon and rains is fatal to farmers. My soil, landscape, vegetation, birds, poultry, cattle-stock and above all, the native talkative, intruding, nosy, yet humane and affectionate people with their worldly wisdom – form the crux of my poems.  I breath my village, though I am a bonsai plant in a metropolitan city / My alienation, diasporic longing, my inability to adapt to a pretentious culture – my oxymoronic being between living and existence – are the key themes of my poems / I evolve neither as a woman, nor as a man, but as a human being through my poems. It is just a voice – neither revolutionary nor reformative and declaring, but a firm, true voice – robust village voice, uncontaminated by any issues, or genres, but deeply immersed in the natural odour of  my earth and soil – with all its sweat, untidiness, barbaric but commune life. I declare myself as philistine poet, who hears the inner voice of my people, registers it in my soul and walks with it – uncorrupt by the artificially air-conditioned seasoning.

Dr.Krishna Nand Joshi & S.C.Agarwal opine that,
The inconsistencies in Eliot’s theory:
	Eliot’s theory of poetic process, as propounded by him in Tradition and Individual Talent has been criticized by different critics on various scores. Eliot’s essay suggests that emotions and feelings are two important components of poetry, but thoughts, ideas, intelligence are given no place as substance of poetry. Eliot uses the word ‘emotion’ in the sense of feelings aroused by the real experiences of life, while ‘feelings’ are associated with words, images or phrase. Some image, a phrase or a word, are linked in the poet’s mind with some particular feeling and certain feelings evoke a particular image or phrase. According to Eliot, the poet’s mind acts as a catalyst, while either under the stress of an emotion or without any emotion, the creative process is active. Even if the poetic mind is to be regarded as a medium, it is difficult to recognize with Eliot that the beliefs, thoughts and assumptions of a poet are not reflected in his work. 
	Another inconsistency pointed out by the critics in Eliot’s theory is that developed to its logical conclusions, it ends in the same romantic tradition as a protest against which it had been advanced. According to Eliot’s theory, art appears to be a permutation and combination, under certain conditions, of emotions and feelings. Eliot’s theory seems to regard the expression of these as an automatic release. The process of art, in Eliot’s opinion, transmutes the emotions and feelings present as the raw material of poetry, into something absolutely different from the original emotion. The difference between art and event is always absolute and as such no semi-ethical criteria can be applied to the former. In his own attempts at the evaluation of poets, Eliot more than once violates the rule of his own making. In his unjust condemnation of Shelley, he is using a semi-ethical criteria in judging the poet. The same criteria is used by him when he says that Browning and Tennyson had ‘often parried and often shallow’ knowledge of the human soul. (Tradition and Individual Talent, Functions of Criticism & Frontiers of Criticism - Dr.Krishna Nand Joshi & S.C.Agarwal: 66)

Has the poet’s conscious intelligence no role in poetic process?
	Eliot’s theory of poetic process also implies that poetry is a concentration of diverse experiences, a concentration neither deliberate nor conscious. The poet’s intelligence has thus no control over the content of his poetry: it is only the form of poetry that can be affected by conscious intelligence. None will deny that the greatest poetry is distinguished by the poet’s individual vision of life. Yet Eliot seems to deny to the poet any power to think for himself. In Shakespeare and the stoicism of Seneca, Eliot remarks: “We say, in a vague way, that Shakespeare or Dante or Lucretius, is a poet who thinks, and that Swinburne is a poet who does not think.... But what we really means is not a difference in quality of thought, but a difference in quality of emotion. The poet who ‘thinks’ is merely the poet who can express the emotional equivalent of thought. But he is not necessarily interested in the thought itself. We talk as if thought was precise and emotion was vague. In reality there is precise emotion requires as great intellectual power as to express precise thought.” In the same essay, Eliot speaks of every precise emotion tending towards ‘intellectual formation’. How can this intellectual formation take place if the conscious intelligence of the poet has no place in the substance of his poetry? (Tradition and Individual Talent, Functions of Criticism & Frontiers of Criticism - Dr.Krishna Nand Joshi & S.C.Agarwal: 67)

The inconsistencies resulting from Eliot’s views on thought
	The difficult situation Eliot puts himself in by relegating thought to a secondary position in his theory, emerges again and again, and has given rise to several inconsistencies in him. In the essay Shakespeare and the Stoicism of Seneca, Eliot categorically states: ‘In truth neither Shakespeare nor Dante did any conscious thinking---that was not their job: and the relative value of the thought current at their time, the material enforced upon each to use as the vehicle of his feeling, is of no importance.” Yet he admits that the difference between Shakespeare and Dane is that in Dante’s time thought was ‘orderly and strong and beautiful’. However, with the same breath he dismisses this fact as an ‘irrelevant accident’ from the point of view of poetry. It is difficult to reconcile what Eliot says here with the reason he assigns of his preferring the poetry of Dante to Shakespeare’s: In the Introduction to The Sacred Wood, he says: ‘I prefer the poetry of Dante to that of Shakespeare..... because it seems to me to illustrate the saner attitude towards the mystery of life.” How can ‘orderly, strong and beautiful’ thought behind poetry be an ‘irrelevant accident’? (Tradition and Individual Talent, Functions of Criticism & Frontiers of Criticism - Dr.Krishna Nand Joshi & S.C.Agarwal: 68)

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