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Editorial, Volume V, Number 3

With this edition (Vol. V, No. 3) the Rupkatha Journal on Interdisciplinary Studies in Humanities completes five years of its glorious presence online. The journal was conceived mainly as a scholarly platform seeking standardization of scholarship and research, and as an online experiment helped by the Web 2.0 phenomenon for dissemination and access in non-profit model on a user-friendly interface on the digital media. With the very first issue we took up measures for standardizing its publishing system following certain established global norms, and the journal began to be recognized by scholarly indexing, archiving and directory and library services like EBSCO, Elsevier Scopus, MLA, DOAJ, Archive-it etc. But the biggest recognition and acceptance came from scholars who contributed to it as readers, authors and editors. We have been trying very hard in spite of being a non-profit initiative, to improve the quality with every issue and introduced new user-friendly services following certain norms—scholarly, ethical, technical. New areas were selected for research and enquiry, and new scholarly voices were encouraged and promoted. Several special issues were brought out successfully with much enthusiasm from different parts of the globe.

Canonical Values vs. the Law of Large Numbers: The Canadian Literary Canon in the Age of Big Data

Carolina Ferrer, Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), Canada

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 Abstract

In this article, I propose an alternative technique to the traditional method of constitution of the literary canon. Instead of basing the determination of the canon on different values, I scrutinize the Modern Language Association International Bibliography database in order to determine the most cited authors and literary works. Specifically, I study Canadian literature. Thus, through the process of data mining, I obtain a sample of over 25,000 references that allows us to observe the chronological evolution and the linguistic distribution of the critical bibliography about Canadian literature. This quantitative technique yields a corpus of 151 titles and 295 writers that are cited more than 10 times in the database. Consequently, this bibliography is not the result of subjective selection criteria, but is based on the law of large numbers. Furthermore, this study shows that the quantitative analysis of bibliographic databases is an effective way to bring new light to the field of literary studies.

The Concept of Crisis in Art and Science

Eleni Gemtou,  University of Athens, Greece

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Abstract

The concept of crisis in art and science is to be investigated through two approaches: a historical-sociological and a philosophical-ontological one. In the framework of the historical-sociological approach, the crisis that has been affecting both the scientific and the artistic community, has been due to external sociological causes or to the psychological inabilities and personal ambitions of their members. The traditional notions of pure science and high value-laden art have been often neglected, as both scientists and artists deviated from the ideal principles of their working codes. This approach reveals common structures and behaviors in human communities, independent from the differences in subjects, methodologies and purposes they serve. The philosophical–ontological approach to art and science and to the course of their development leads, however, to the opposite conclusion: both art and science as rational systems are incompatible with the concept of crisis due to different reasons in each case.

Editorial: Special Issue on Performance Studies

In this edition of Rupkatha we have the privilege of incorporating an introductory essay by Richard Schechner, in which he once again valorizes the anthropological foundations of performance studies and goes on to refer towards the infallible necessity of observing behaviour as a kind of transbiological agency and of tracing its effects in theatre and other kinds of representations. Schechner belongs to a tradition of performance scholars who believed in a kind of large, scientific ontology for the arts, a tendency which is evident when he quotes a New York University scholar. Perhaps the objective vision of a performance continuum is instructive for the future, as it creates an immediate stance, of both engaging as well as transcending the flow of experience in our lives which are organized and controlled  by means of mimetically emerging actions. The performer acquires, in Schechner’s scheme, as a liminal activist, so wonderfully described by anthropologist Victor Turner, and analysed in the scientism of Geertz’ observations of culture as an influential medium in which the arts and performances get endowed with signification.

Stillness of star-less nights: Afghan Women’s Poetry of Exile

Rumpa Das, Maheshtala College, South 24 Parganas, India

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 Abstract

Contemporary English poetry by Afghan women presents a remarkable reading experience. Critical explorations, at ease with post-colonial conditions, minority solitude and feminist readings, have largely remained inimical to the unique, yet chequered history that women poets such as Zohra Saed, Sahar Muradi, Sara Hakeem, Fatana Jahangir Ahrary, Fevziye Rahzigar Barlas and Donia Gobar document in their works. Most of them write in their native Dari and Pushtun languages as well as in English and often their English compositions have smatterings of their native tongues. Even though individual experiences differ, these women delve into the collective memory of oppression, pain and unrest to give vent to their feelings, and seek to reach out towards a sorority of shared angst. This paper seeks to explore the complex cultural contexts which have given birth to Afghan women’s poetry in exile.

The Poetics of John Ashbery

Gargi Bhattacharya, Rabindra Bharati University

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Abstract

John Ashbery (1927- ) takes the postmodernist polysemy of meaning in interpreting a work of art and the polyphony of styles in composing as his forte. He questions the various linguistic codes and makes us aware of the artificiality of the language. All political, ethical and aesthetic imperatives are rhetorical constructs. The writer uses language to persuade the reader to accept the formulated truth and he intervenes in the process of perception by his/her politics of representation. Though his iconoclastic approach towards writing and individuality of style has kept him aloof from mainstream academic syllabi, yet he has now become a prominent figure in Contemporary American Literature. It is interesting to note how Ashbery’s poetry revives the Romantic sensibility while applying the digitalized methods and the postmodern syndromes of immediacy, indeterminacy, disjunctive syntax, open-ended and multiplicity of interpretations. This paper explores the aesthetics of John Ashbery’s poetry.

Bob Dylan’s Folk Poetics in the Later Albums: Telling the Story of America in Ruins in Simple Poetic Language

Matt Shedd, University of Oregon, USA

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Abstract

Bob Dylan’s recent albums have returned to a more basic sense of American vernacular and poetics, employing stock phrases that evoke a rural America of the past. However, the past does not provide any shelter from modern day angst and impending devastation. We see this particularly in the 2001’s Love and Theft, coincidentally released on the day of the Twin Towers attack. By foregoing concepts of radical artistic individuality, Dylan use more traditional folk poetics to provide a historical and communal account of the descent of the United States into what Dylan calls “an empire in ruins.”

The Astronomer’s Palace: an Instrument for the Observation of the Sky

Maria Elisa Navarro Morales, McGill University, Canada

Abstract

As a result of the improvement in observational astronomy in the seventeenth century, particularly with the advent of the telescope, astronomical observatories started to be built to house the instruments for the observation of the heavens. With Tycho Brahe’s Uraniborg as precedent in the XVI century, the astronomical observatories of the XVII century were mainly institutional buildings with a political agenda. In contrast, the project for an Astronomical Palace by Juan Caramuel de Lobkowitz (1678-9), was neither a building to contain instruments, nor did it follow an institutional program.  In Caramuel’s project, the building serves as an instrument for the observation and measurement of the celestial movements, integrating the instruments traditionally housed in the building and the building itself into a single structure.  The present paper will look at the Astronomical Palace as an instance of architecture as an instrument to inquire into the natural world. 

What is Performance Studies?

Richard Schechner, Tisch School of the Arts, New York University

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Because performance studies is so broad-ranging and open to new possibilities, no one can actually grasp its totality or press all its vastness and variety into a single writing book. My points of departure are my own teaching, research, artistic practice, and life experiences.

Performances are actions. As a discipline, performance studies takes actions very seriously in four ways. First, behavior is the “object of study” of performance studies. Although performance studies scholars use the “archive” extensively – what’s in books, photographs, the archaeological record, historical remains, etc. – their dedicated focus is on the “repertory,” namely, what people do in the activity of their doing it. Second, artistic practice is a big part of the performance studies project. A number of performance studies scholars are also practicing artists working in the avant-garde, in community-based performance, and elsewhere; others have mastered a variety of non-Western and Western traditional forms. The relationship between studying performance and doing performance is integral. Third, fieldwork as “participant observation” is a much-prized method adapted from anthropology and put to new uses. In anthropological fieldwork, participant observation is a way of learning about cultures other than that of the field-worker. In anthropology, for the most part, the “home culture” is Western, the “other” non-Western. But in performance studies, the “other” may be a part of one’s own culture (non-Western or Western), or even an aspect of one’s own behavior. That positions the performance studies fieldworker at a Brechtian distance, allowing for criticism, irony, and personal commentary as well as sympathetic participation. In this active way, one performs fieldwork. Taking a critical distance from the objects of study and self invites revision, the recognition that social circumstances– including knowledge itself – are not fixed, but subject to the “rehearsal process” of testing and revising. Fourth, it follows that performance studies is actively involved in social practices and advocacies. Many who practice performance studies do not aspire to ideological neutrality. In fact, a basic theoretical claim is that no approach or position is “neutral”. There is no such thing as unbiased. The challenge is to become as aware as possible of one’s own stances in relation to the positions of others – and then take steps to maintain or change positions.

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