- By Arunabha Ghosh, Dept. Of English, Bhairab Ganguly College
The nature of life in the modern world and the human predicament of life in such a world form the themes of Eliot’s major poems. There were various social, political, religious and personal reasons that created a great impact on Eliot’s intellectual mind. Between the beginning of World war I and the end of World War II (i.e. the entire period between 1914 and 1945), the United States became a ‘modern’ nation, riven with internal fractures. Literature of the period struggled to understand the new and diverse responses to the advent of modernity. Some writers celebrated the changes; others lamented the loss of old ways of life. Some imagined future Utopias; others searched for new forms to speak of the new realities. In all, writers inquired into the connexions between art and politics. In the world of business and technology, rapid advances were made. The transition of “big sciences” and more complex, and ‘rational’ ways of thinking about space, time, matter, and the universe also began to take place during this era, eventually creating rifts between literary intellectuals and scientists. To some writers like Pound, Eliot, Wallace Stevens and William Carlos Williams, offered an alternative way of understanding the world, eventually giving rise to the idea of the “two cultures”—science and letters. Intellectual minds like Eliot’s were highly influenced by this.
Though being fully aware of the cultural, social, religious, and political world around him, Eliot’s poetry transcends all philosophical and religious boundaries of places, situations, and even time to get a coherent view of the fragmentary human existence. And we find how he borrows heavily from the Eastern (mainly, Hindu and Buddhist) myths in his poetry that give his poetry a new dimension. In his early poems like “The Hippopotamus” (1917) and “Mr. Eliot’s Sunday Morning Service” (1917), we find the poet satirising the spiritual apathy, materialism and meaningless ritualism and formalism of the Catholic Church. However, he details this alienation in poems like “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” (1917) and The Waste Land (1922), where he participates in search for reality that seemed to be veiled. His search actually landed him on the shores of the Ganges in India (“Ganga was sunken,” he says in The Waste Land), metaphorically seeking reality in the Hindu mythic-philosophical traditions of the East. With the Hindu and Buddhist sensibilities placed side by side with their Christian counterparts, Eliot’s poetry becomes a filigree of the myths of the Orient and the Occident. The Buddhist notion of the ‘obsession with the self’ and the Hindu myth of creation and that of Brahma are among many references of the East. We can cite Eliot’s use of the Sanskrit terms ‘Ganga’ for the Ganges and ‘Himavant’ for the Himalayas in the last section (“What the Thunder Said”) Himalayas of The Waste Land along with the sound “Da,” uttered thrice by Brahma to mean Datta, Dayadhvam, and Damayata (meaning—‘give,’ ‘sympathise,’ and ‘control’). Apart from this seminal text of Euro-American Modernism, arguably the most philosophical poem of the twentieth century, Four Quartets also shows Eliot’s Eastern borrowings. He recognises the root cause of all misery is nothing but the trishna that Buddhism has tried to explore in many ways. The ultimate happiness (paths to salvation) comes only when one ‘plucks’ oneself out of the fire of desire. Examples could be multiplied from his Texts, but to conclude we can say that Eliot’s inquisitive mind checked out all possible ways which can provide him the peace of mind that he lacked in a milieu of his time as well as in his private life.
I just read the book “Leaving Microsoft to Change the World” by John Wood and was fascinated to find how a rising executive at Microsoft took a vacation that ultimately changed his life. A trekking holiday in Nepal in the peaks of the Himalayas inspired him to leave his career to create Room to Read, which is an organization that has created a network of several libraries and schools throughout rural and disadvantaged communities in Asia and Africa.
While in Nepal, the author encountered a local educator and visited a school that had only a handful of books. He motivated his friends and family to collect books to donate to this school.
This book is a stimulating read that will inspire readers to consider donating his or her time and doing community service. Wood’s inspiring story is bound to motivate you to become a better person both in society and business. All librarians will appreciate how the author highlights the importance of libraries in children’s lives.
- Rita Sen Choudhury, Reference Librarian, American Library Kolkata
At the children’s corner in the American Library, we can read story books, we can use computer. It is interesting to know about America and the Americans from the books. They are very interesting and by becoming a member one can borrow books. But if not returned in time, one has to pay the fine. There are books on geography, history, fiction etc. The books are there for different age groups. You can also borrow CDs, DVDs and can browse the net. There are various programs organized for children. I like coming to American Library and enjoy here.
- Sidra Fatma, class IV student of Sri Sikshayatan School, Kolkata
History has always been His Story with women being relegated to footnotes or appendices. As women’s rights movement started gaining momentum in the twentieth century, feminist writers, scholars and academicians began to question the official versions of history. The political struggle for women’s liberation in the 1970s led the foundation of women’s studies which endeavored to establish women to their proper historical perspective.
Women’s History Month is celebrated during the month of March, corresponding with International Women’s Day on March 8, to focus on the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society. The right to education has been a continuous struggle waged by women from past to the present across the globe. 2012 Women’s History Month Theme is Women’s Education – Women’s Empowerment to recognize the pioneering works of women on the diverse areas of education. The year2012 is also the 40th Anniversary of the passage of Title IX of the Education Codes of the Higher Education Act Amendments, passed in 1972 and enacted in 1977, which prohibited gender discrimination by federally funded institutions. This landmark act transformed the educational landscape of the United States and became the primary tool for women’s fuller participation in all aspects of education from scholarships, to facilities and courses formerly closed to women.
Great Women of the Twentieth Century: A virtual exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery celebrates American women who made important contributions to arts, science, sports, entertainment, business and politics in the 20th century
Browse the site of National Women’s History Project for the history and issues of Women’s Rights movement.
This issue of eJournal USA encourages women to pursue their entrepreneurial ambitions. It cites the experiences of businesswomen around the world and features successful women entrepreneurs who can serve as role models. It also identifies barriers and best practices for overcoming them.
Herstory: A Woman’s View of American History by June Sochen. Historian Sochen surveys the major periods of American history in terms of the lives, experiences, thoughts, and achievements of American women.
In Their Time: A History of Feminism in Western Society by Marlene LeGates: A lively overview of Western feminist movements from the Middle Ages through the latter twentieth century.
The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women:the Traditions in English compiled by Sandra M. Gilbert & Susan Gubar. A collection of novels, stories, poems, essays, memoirs, diaries, and letters of more than 170 women writers.
You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby: Women, Politics, and Popular Culture edited by Lilly J. Goren: Framed by discussions of contemporary feminism, the volume examines gender in relation to sexuality, the workplace, consumerism, fashion, politics, and the beauty industry. In analyzing societal depictions of women, it illustrates how media reflects and shapes the feminine sense of power, identity, and the daily challenges of the twenty-first century.
(Books are available at the American Library Kolkata)
By Ujjal Singha, writer
I have been reading the works of American poets for the last thirty years and every day I am discovering new dimensions of their poetry. I have read Whitman, Frost and other classic poets and with equal interest the poems of Catherine Bowman (1957), Stephanie Brown (1961), Victoria Chang (1970), Shanna Compton (1970), Jamey Dunham (1973), Berth Ann Fennelly (1971), Arielle Greenberg (1972), Sarah Manguso (1974), and so on.
The new generation of American poets expresses their personal emotions through imagery drawn from the life around them. Some take their theme or subject from music; some derive their philosophical depth from the intricacies of modernist or post-modernist thoughts. Women poets draw on their own physical and mental sufferings. The poet Gabriel Calvocorossi speaking on her art says “Often, I begin a poem with a walk, or a song I hear that begins a movie of the poem getting made in my head.”
Prominent critic Alberto Rios analyzing the poems of Francis Aragon comments that “there, a line is a moment and a moment is intrinsically non-narrative, that is, a moment does not move forward”. This description gives an indication of the distinctiveness of form and language that marks current poetry. Contemporary American poetry is versatile, colorful, thought provoking, yet filled with the essence of pure poetry.
I really feel amazed when I consider the professions of some of these poets. Most of them are teachers, but there are also poets like Matthew Yeager, who works as a delivery truck driver and caterer. I wonder how he finds the time to create a poem like A Big Ball of Foil in a Small New York Apartment amidst his tough working environment. It starts with the words from a line of a Hopkins’ poem:”It will flame out..” and the entire poem gives faint traces of a storyline as we see in the last stanza:
“The night he was done, the night the ball
nudged up against his ceiling and his walls
(a coincidence so long foreseen it had lost its luster)
he pressed his teeth deep into its surface, as a signature,
leaned his confused body against it, closed his eyes,
and, listening to the car pass, wept a little bit.”
The month of February is celebrated as the Black History Month as a tribute to the achievements and contributions of the African Americans to U.S. society.
(Color in Freedom by African-American artist Joseph Holston)
Historian Carter G. Woodson and the organization he founded, the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH), which later became the Association for the Study of African American Life and History ASALH), conceived and announced Negro History Week in 1925. By the time of his death in 1950, Negro History Week had become an integral part of African American community. The Civil Rights movement in the 1960s focused on the subject of the contributions of African Americans to history and culture of the United States. In 1976, the nation’s bicentennial, the celebration was expanded to a month with President Gerald R. Ford urging Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every areaof endeavor throughout our history.”
The 2012 theme is Black Women in American Culture and History to commemorate the role of African American women in history of the United States of America. As activists, writers, artists, corporate executives and even as homemakers African American women have immensely contributed to the building of their nation. President Obama has remarked in his Presidential Proclamation : “As courageous visionaries who led the fight to end slavery and tenacious activists who fought to expand basic civil rights to all Americans, African American women have long served as champions of social and political change. And from the literary giants who gave voice to their communities to the artists whose harmonies and brush strokes captured hardships and aspirations, African American women have forever enriched our cultural heritage. Today, we stand on the shoulders of countless African American women who shattered glass ceilings and advanced our common goals. In recognition of their legacy, let us honor their heroic and historic acts for years to come.”
The Smithsonian presents the image gallery Let Your Motto be Resistance as a homage to some influential African-American figures in U.S. history.
Visionaries:African Americans Tell Their Stories focuses on some of the extraordinary Black women who have shaped America’s culture and history.
A New Generation of Black Women Leaders features contemporary African-American women who excel in a variety of fields.
Making Their Mark: Black Women Leaders: This issue of eJournal USA profiles African-American women of the 20th and 21stcenturies who have made significant contributions to many spheres of American life. It also offers insights into how earlier generations of African-American women serve as touchstones for the present generation.
Black Theater Today: Alive and Global talks of the new generation of black dramatists who are using historical insight to create a range of characters spanning the spectrum of social class and experience.
Source: IIP Digital
Our Stolen Future: Are We Threatening Our Fertility, Intelligence, and Survival? : A Scientific Detective Story
After Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring I have not read such a fascinating and cautionary tale relating particularly to environmental estrogens. The male sperm counts around the world have dropped by fifty percent in the last two generations. Many of the disturbing wild life reports involved defective sexual organs, behavioral abnormalities, impaired fertility, the loss of young or the sudden disappearance of entire animal population. The problems first seen in wild life touched humans too.
In the forward of this book Al Gore has remarked, “Our stolen future…forces us to ask new questions about the synthetic chemicals that we have spread across the earth. For the sake of our children and grand children we must urgently seek the answers. All of us have the right to know and an obligation to learn.” In fact, Theo Colborn, Dianne Dumanoski, and John Peterson Myers stuns the readers and rightly so.
Meet US at Kolkata Book Fair
The American Pavilion promises to be your favorite hangout in the 36th Kolkata Book Fair at the Milan Mela Ground near Science City.The American Library is participating at the Fair with a promise of something for allbook lovers, big and small. This year, the Library brings you an exciting collection of books for youngsters anda vernacular collection of books on the United States. On display will also be those eye-catching titles thatyou had always wanted to read. Enroll as members to win exciting gifts. For students aspiring to study in the United States, brochures and information will be waiting, courtesy the United States India Educational Foundation (USIEF).
By Ms. Shreya Sarkar, Lecturer of English, Gokhale Memorial Girls’ College
Thomas Lanier Williams, also known as Tennessee, was born to be a visionary. He primarily saw himself as a poet in a practical world. His poetry has long been overshadowed by his dramatic output. Yet Williams wrote poetry all his life. In 1944, he was included in the anthology ‘Five Young American Poets’ and he later published two solo collections, In The
Winter Of Cities(1956) and Androgyne, Mon Amour(1977). “Williams was very dedicated as a poet,” said Allean Hale, adjunct professor of theatre at the University of Illinois, who has written extensively on Williams’ early years. In fact, Tennessee thought of himself primarily as a poet rather than as a playwright, until he began working with the Mummers of St.Louis, a local theatre group that produced several of his plays.
He believed, good Art comprises of an inherent conflict, a feature common to all his works. In fact, in his own mental battlefield, the real was perpetually at war with the ideal; what was public, wrestled with what was private; what dragged men down, fought with, what drew them up. This struggle became an allegory, by which his inner conflict got reflected. This conflict again, gave birth to a morbid shyness in the playwright which ultimately turned into a phobia about the process of thought being “a terrifying complex mystery of human life“. He often treated his unaccountable fear as the subject of both his poetry and his plays. During the summer of 1928, when he was on a tour of Europe with his
grandfather Reverend Walter E. Dakin, Williams experienced three episodes of this phobia – in Paris, Cologne and Amsterdam. In his Memoirs, Williams mentions that the third and last incident of this phobia was lifted away solely by the composition of a little poem :
Strangers pass me on the street
in endless throngs: their marching feet,
sound with a sameness in my ears
that dulls my senses, soothes my fears,
I hear their laughter and their sighs,
I look into their myriad eyes:
Then all at once my hot woe
Cools like a cinder dropped on snow.
For Williams, a poet was a sort of a conjurer who could put up the “strongest resistance” to that which was false and impure both in himself and the world. And what urgently drove him to take recourse to poetry, was his sudden conclusion to his studies at the University of Missouri in 1932, when his father furiously dragged him home and put him to work in a shoe factory. Williams’ poetry and plays abound in autobiographical elements. For instance, Tennessee had a sublime bonding with his sister Rose, a slim beauty who was diagnosed with schizophrenia at a young age. As was common then, Rose was institutionalized and spent most of her adult life in mental hospitals. When therapies were unsuccessful, she showed more paranoid tendencies. In an effort to treat her, Williams’ parents authorized prefrontal lobotomy, a drastic treatment that was thought to help some mental patients who suffered extreme agitation. Performed in 1937 in Knoxville, Tennessee, the operation incapacitated Rose for the rest of her life. Her surgery may have contributed to Williams’alcoholism. In The Glass Menagerie, the figure of Laura Wingfield is based on Rose. Laura is presented as a painfully shy, nervous, morbid, sensitive and delicate person who is as fragile as her little glass ornaments and old phonograph records, which are her escape route from the outside world. An illness in childhood leaves her “crippled”, one leg slightly shorter than the other and held in a brace. From the beginning till the end of the play, she is presented as a sufferer like his own sister, Rose. The depiction of Laura is redolent of a poem that Williams composed about Rose which he named ‘ Elegy for Rose ‘
She is a metal forged by love
too volatile, too fiery thin
so that her substance will be lost
as sudden lightning or as wind
Williams composed another poem on Rose about her leaving home which again anticipates the memorable scene in A Streetcar Named Desire, when Blanche is led off to an institution. This piece is entitled ‘Valediction ‘
She went with morning on her lips
down an inscrutable dark way
and we who witnessed her eclipse
have found no word to say.
Thus to conclude, poetry did provide Williams with “ beauty everlasting “. As a university student, he was an active member of the College Poetry Society along with fellow poets such as Clark Mills and William Jay Smith. He was also majorly dedicated to design, mystery of colour and was a steady worshipper of beauty. He affirmed: “I believe in Michelangelo, Velasquez and Rembrandt; in the might of design, the mystery of colour, the redemption of all things by beauty everlasting and the message of art that has made these hands blessed. Amen.”
(Presented at the Book Club Meet on Tennessee Williams, January 17, 2012, American Center. Abridged)
Tolerance: The Road to Wisdom - Reading “The Bloudy Tenent” By Roger Williams
By Mrs. Chaitali Maitra, Guest Lecturer of English, Presidency University
The earliest settlers in America, who were British, were also Puritans. Among them, there were types – like the ones who broke away from the Church of England and some stayed within, with a hope to ‘purify’ it. The first ones, retained the same name – Puritans; the others had various names, the Baptists and the Methodists being the main ones. These were times, when on both sides of the Atlantic, a lot of cruelty was inflicted on men for very little violation of religious disciplines. Those perceived as heretics, were severely punished.
One of the most outstanding personalities who stood up against all this was Roger Williams, who came to America with a strong liturgical education and training from England in 1631, was banished from Massachusetts and survived a terrible winter with the help of the native Indians. In 1636, he established a new colony – Rhodes Island, which advocated the flourish of many religions. His subversive opinions find a peak expression in The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution for Cause of Conscience, published in 1644 in London. The book tries to uphold the issue of religious liberty in the tumultuous American backdrop, when the revivalist religion that emphasized the value of religious communities searched for a blend, with the character and the values of the frontier. It tries to show the importance of wise tolerance of the individual freedom, without which a lot of bigotry and dissension would prevail. During his residence at Plymouth, Williams learned the Indian language. Soon Mr. Cotton, a minister, landed at Boston, who would, eventually, be of different opinion about the same issues. The book incorporates the views of Mr. Cotton which is refuted by the author.
When he wrote this book, Williams was trying to highlight and understand the different aspects of religious liberty. The book is written in heavy, archaic diction and seeks to give the reader a sense of priority and serious choice, where the Bible is referred to, at many places. On the whole, it tries to establish the importance of religious harmony in a country sworded on only and merely religious grounds.
The book has many instances where Williams shows his close acquaintance with the Bible: “I acknowledge that to molest any person, Jew or Gentile, for either professing doctrine, compares Daniel (VI,16,of the Bible) with God’s people who ‘have shined brightest in Godliness, when they have enjoyed least quietness.”Although the work was written in haste, when he was occupied in obtaining a charter for Rhode Island, nature comes in splendidly in the life and experience of Williams. He speaks of a spot close to the Mohassuck River, as the ‘holy ground’, where he found Providence.
Throughout the book, a clever and cutting dialogue issues between Truth and Peace and Williams examines the probabilities and the chasms that exist between truth and peace as concepts:
“Peace – It will be said dear Truth, what the Lord Jesus and his messengers taught was truth; but the question is about error.
Truth – I answer this distinction now in discussion concerns not truth or error, but the manner of holding forth or divulging.”
So, the book points out the dangers of breaking the civil code, if the conscience (which is also synonymous with the ‘mind’ in socio-political sense), is not respected. Williams writes from a religious platform, but tries to point out the political spills that can threaten and eventually destroy the orderliness of the society. The biographies of Roger Williams, by both Perry Miller and Ola Winslow, mention of his criticizing the New England theocracy. His temporary departure to England in 1643, initiated another book called “Christenings make not Christians”, where he argues against converting the Indians or forcing them to abandon their religious practices.
Throughout the 19th century Transcendentalist wave, Puritanism was a cultural, not a religious force. The central emphasis of Transcendentalism was on the human ability to enter into a deeper relationship with the ultimate reality that underlies appearances. Coupled with this were the other isms like Unitarianism and Universalism. The flourish of many religions and faiths in America, would lead to one of the most important religious events of the 19thcentury – The World Parliament of Religion of 1893 in Chicago, which expressed the ideal of acceptance and brotherhood amongst many faiths in the world. This was a proud occasion for the Indians, with Swami Vivekananda as a speaker. Much later, Henry Adams would point out in his major work ‘Buddha and Brahma’ the depth of Asian religious traditions; all this would happen with the singular effort of the Unitarian Jenkin Lloyd Jones in the same year to strengthen understanding among the different sects. But tracing things back, would take us to the thinking minds of the 17th century amongst which, Roger Williams brilliantly stands apart. He stood up for the concept of ‘brotherhood of mankind and common fatherhood of God.’ His ideas anticipate the ideal of the commonwealth, with a spacious view of the government, in the new Nation State.
This is an abridged version of the paper presented at the Seminar: Rereading Seventeenth Century Prose Writings (November 28-29, 2011 American Center Kolkata)
The text of The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution for Cause of Conscience is available online at: http://www.archive.org/details/thebloudytenento00willuoft