In the absence of a centre

S.R. Vijayashankara’s Aprameya, a book of critical essays on Kannada literature, is a well-intentioned effort

Updated - December 02, 2016 01:13 pm IST

Published - November 03, 2016 01:21 pm IST - Bengaluru



APRAMEYA ,Collection of essays in literary criticism


Sapna Book House Rs.275

The first book of SR Vijayashankara, Manogatha, was published in 1985. He drew a lot of critical attention for his Nijaguna published in 2012. The present book, Aprameya published last month is his fifth book. The book has 37 essays covering poetry, prose and literary criticism in Kannada literature.

In the first section, the first two essays try to conceptualise the notions of ‘nationalism’ and ‘myth’ in Kannada context without any reference to the contemporary debates on the concepts elsewhere in the world. While the first section is dedicated to poetry, the second is on fiction writing, and the third is on critical writing.

It would be interesting to explore whether or not there has been a radical theoretical shift in Kannada literary criticism in general and Vijayashankara’s writings in particular during the last three decades (1985-2016). As observed in the preface by the author and in the foreword by H. Dandappa, Karnataka has witnessed a lot of social and political changes in the last two decades, which is reflected in the criticism practised here. there seems to be a lot of social, political and cultural changes taking place within Karnataka during the past two decades which are in some sense fairly well reflected in the criticism that is practiced here. Interestingly, even in this collection, the book is divided into three sections in terms of genres – poetry, prose (fiction & non-fiction) and literary criticism to prove that the texts are still examined as specific genres, not as products of discourses produced in particular socio-cultural-political contexts. It is possible to feel astounded at the wide reading that Vijayashankara seems to have made so far, particularly when he drops names with the zest of a graduate student. His unquestionable faith in Kannada literature appears to be of a religious nature. But nonetheless, some of the insights in the citations have not seeped into the discussion of texts in a big way. The views of MGK, Ananthamurthy and D.R. Nagaraj are well summarized, but they do not seem to have made any impact on the analysis undertaken.

Vijayashankara’s concept of “purnadrushti” (comprehensive view) has little to do with any of the citations made on Kuvempu’s writings in the essay. Perhaps he draws this from Jamesian notion of “solidity of specification”. Cultural criticism is also a literary theory which discards the distinction between high and low cultures, and Kuvempu’s novels are central to such analyses as is evident in the writings of D.R. Nagaraj and Krishnappa. Similarly applying a particular view of Damodara Rao (expressed in seventies that the ultimate intention of Ananthamurthy’s literary criticism is to create a particular readership for his own fictions) to the latter’s writings on contemporary culture is bizarre. There are many intertextual readings which look quite exciting. Comparison of HSV’s poem ‘Sri Samsari’ with Adiga’s ‘Ramanavamiya Divasa’, B.R. Lakshman Rao’s ‘Gundappa Vishwanath’ with Adiga’s ‘Moolaka Mahashayaru’, GH Nayak’s literary criticism with Ananthamurthy’s cultural criticism, are some examples. But, disappointingly, they just end up as descriptive class notes of a graduate student rather than unique insights on the individual concerns of the writers. And the comparisons made do not lead to the much needed evaluation of texts. In fact, what is conspicuous in all the essays is the lack of evaluation of writers even when they are consciously compared and contrasted.

Even the title – “Aprameya” is deliberately chosen to make the point that the literary texts are to be examined without any reference point. But what is to be noted is that any frame work, call it Leavisite or Marxist or post structuralist or subaltern or feminist or whatever, is meant to offer only a particular perspective and it does not intend to offer a comprehensive view. Each framework has a specific and also a limited way of looking at texts to elucidate a particular point of view. It could be remembered here that even committed Marxist critic like George Lukacs in spite of his strong reservations with what he called bourgeois writers, accepts Kafka’s world as real. However, it would be interesting to find out why despite the strong insistence on a ‘theoryless’ approach ( aprameya ), the book lacks the much desired literary rigour. The main reason could be the old-fashioned pedagogical approach which is a hotchpotch of hermeneutics and biographical criticism. The direction of the arguments is lost by some of the well-intentioned efforts like offering summary of the story/ arguments of the authors, asides which are most often loosely connected to the main arguments, self-citations, verbatim reproduction of the entire poem and a few printing errors.

However, the book is to be credited for its informative nature. Numerous titles are cited, sometimes with all the necessary bibliographical details which would be of good help for willing critics and researchers.

K. SundaraRaj

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