Early America, American Theosophy, Modernity—and India

Mark L. Kamrath, University of Central Florida, USA


The history of East-west relations in general and between America and India in particular is one of cultural, literary, and philosophical encounter. Using a post-colonial and postmodern theoretical lens, this essay charts American intellectual constructions of India from the colonial period to the present, with an eye on how American transcendentalists, theosophists, and Hindu spiritual leaders negotiated Hindu and Christian belief systems. It argues that over time, as individuals and cultures came into contact with one another, the historical assimilation of their religions testifies to the dialectical, syncretic nature of modern belief.

[Key words: Philosophy, religion, East-West, theology, modernity, transcendentalism, post-colonial approach, postmodernism]

“For we have seen his Star in the East, and are come to worship him”

–Matthew II. 2, Bible

Early American contact with India

India has long been a source of fascination to the West, dating back to 1492 and Christopher Columbus’s plan to reach the East Indies and its riches by sailing westward over the Atlantic Ocean and establishing trade. Similar to how the “New World” was imagined by Europeans, over the centuries American travelers, missionaries, and writers have each looked to India with different motives and represented its history, people, and culture in a variety of ways.

During the colonial era, observes Susan S. Bean, “American merchants and their customers were familiar with Indian products,” including various spices, teas, and cotton and silk goods (Bean 31). As early as 1711, for instance, newspapers such as the Boston News-Letter regularly advertised “Hollands for Shirtings and Sheetings, fine Cambricks, Musings, India Chints” (1711: [2]) and “Garlix, Sugar, Cotton, India Counterpanes, & c” (1716: [2]).Booksabout India were published in Londonand also part of the commercial exchange.

In terms of non-commercial interest in India though, Cotton Mather’s pamphlet India Christiana. A Discourse Delivered unto the Commissioners for the Propagation of the Gospel among the American Indians which is accompanied with Several Instruments relating to the Glorious Design of Propagating our Holy Religion in the Easter as well as the Western Indies. An Entertainment which they that are Waiting for the Kingdom of God will receive as Good News from a far country(1721) was among the first to represent India or the East, like the wilds of America, as a territory needing the word of God and spiritual salvation.

Several decades later, after the American Revolution, India was largely viewed through the eyes of missionaries, British travelers or military personnel, and other figures and depicted as an object of cultural marvel, appropriation, or conquest. To be sure, newspapers provided accounts of the East India Company, and oriental tales increasingly appeared in periodicals in the 1780s and 1790s. Publications such as Donald Campbell’s A Journey Overland to India, partly by a Route never gone before by any European (1797) intrigued American readers with accounts of shipwreck and imprisonment with Hyder Alli, along with other adventures.

By the beginning of the nineteenth century, however, India became a major focus of missionaries. A sermon on February 26, 1809, by the Reverend Claudius Buchanan (1766-1815) of India at the Parish Church of St. James in Bristol,England, for the benefit of the “Society for Missions to Africa and the East” ran into no less than twelveAmerican editions. Entitled “The Star in the East,” it explained how the “ministry of Nature” led three eastern wise men to Jerusalem to honor Christ’s birth and how such prophecy was foretold in the “ancient writings of India” (Buchanan 4-5).In addition, some American editions added an appendix entitled “The Interesting Report of the Rev. Dr. Kerr, to the Governor of Madras, on the State of the Ancient Christians in Cochin and Travancore, and an account of the Discoveries, made by the Rev. Dr. Buchanan of 200,000 Christians in the Sequestered Region of Hindostan.” By 1812, the publication was expanded and retitled as The Works of the Rev. Claudius Buchanan, LL.D. Comprising his Christian Researches in Asia, His Memoir of the Expediency of an Ecclesiastical Establishment for British India, and his Star in the East, with Three New Sermons. To Which is Added, Dr.Kerr’s Curious and Interesting Report, Concerning the State of Christians in Cochin and Travancor, Made at the Request of the Governor of Madras.

In India around this time, Raja Rammohun Roy (1772-1833), a Brahmin who alienated himself from his family because of his willingness to forgo traditional beliefs and who pushed for social and religious change, published A Defence of Hindoo Theism in reply to the attack of an advocate for idolatry at Madras, along with A Second Defence of the monotheistical system of the Vedas. In reply to an apology for the present state of Hindoo worship (Calcutta 1817). According to Joscelyn Godwin, Roy was “the first Brahmin to fall under the spell of Enlightenment ideas, and the first emissary from India to the West” (Godwin 312). He upset Christian missionaries because while he admired the teachings of Jesus and the gospels, he also embraced Islam and Hinduism. His actions, however, might also be understood in light of what Homi Bhaba calls a strategy of “hybridity,” a position in which the colonized subject takes on the values and language of the colonized in order to subvert them (Bhabha 112). In that sense, Roy was accommodating Christian colonizers by sanitizing Hinduism through the lens of Western monotheism…Access Full Text of the Article

An Unfinished Perfection: The Unfinished Swan Examined Phenomenologically

Soham Ganguly, Independent Scholar, Kolkata


This paper critically examines The Unfinished Swan, a videogame released for the Play Station 3 platform by Giant Sparrow Entertainment, as an existentialist narrative. With this aim in mind, the various devices used in the game for the purpose of narration and virtually representing the imaginary world in which the story takes place, i.e, within the fairytale world of an unfinished painting, are studied. Their cumulative effect is considered through the lenses of existentialism as laid down by Jean-Paul Sartre’s Being and Nothingness. Whether a virtual representation of an existential quest for meaning is possible is at first examined, after which, the focus is shifted to how far this is realized in the game.

Right from its outset, in terms of its title as well as its back-story, The Unfinished Swan harps incessantly on the fundamental problem that carries the narrative of the game forward, that in it, there is something dominant that remains unfinished, namely the world of the painting that the protagonist enters, and the player plays in. As part of its back-story, we find that the protagonist, Monroe is left with one of many paintings that his mother created, all of them left unfinished. The one left to Monroe is that of a swan, unfinished as well. The game begins with Monroe following the footprints of the aforementioned swan through a magical door in the wall.

The property of the painting of the swan being unfinished gives the protagonist the reason to proceed to do so. We may define this as a fundamental lack at the heart of Monroe’s being and hence, fuelling his eternal striving towards the goal of solving the enigma latent in the narrative-

We must further understand that the intentions aim at appearances which are never to be given at one time. It is an impossibility on principle for the terms of an infinite series to exist all at the same time before consciousness, along with the real absence of all these terms except for the one which is the foundation of objectivity. If present these impressions even in infinite number-would dissolve in the subjective; it is their absence which gives them objective being. Thus the being of the object is pure non-being. It is defined as a lack. It is that which escapes, that which by definition will never be given, that which offers itself only in fleeting and successive profiles (Sartre, 1966, p.28).

Indeed a phenomenological study of The Unfinished Swan demands that the portrait be unfinished in order to provide the protagonist the reason to set out into the world of the painting. The game is replete with existential symbols, apart from being, in the ludological sense, full of possibilities and paths of action.

The goal of the boy is to follow the trail of the swan. The swan embodies a primary existential symbol in the course of the game. Having its origin as a creation of the boy’s mother, the swan stands for the past, and in the life that the boy lived prior to setting out in the game’s central quest of the swan hunt, it formed his present, and as he seeks to find the swan it becomes his future possibilities all put together.

A fresh, white slate of a world is given to the player, which forms the “ground of experience” (Sartre, 1966, p.73), and the matter of Dasein or “being in the world,” as conceptually laid down by Martin Heidegger and examined by Sartre, immediately comes into play (Heidegger, 1962).

To start with, hence, we need take a look at Being, and how it stands in this context- “’Being is. Being is in-itself. Being is what it is.’ Being includes both Being-in-itself and Being-for-itself, but the latter is the nihilation of the former. As contrasted with Existence, Being is all-embracing and objective rather than individual and subjective” (Sartre, 1966, p. 592).

The white world which greets Monroe upon first starting the game, or even at the beginning of each chapter or level, may be likened to a state of pure being, because it is, and no more may be said about it. Though there might be scruples of it not entirely being Being because it can stand by its chromatic, visual properties as being not-black on not any other colour, one may reason that since it is a visual approximation of the principle of Being-in-Itself, this is pretty much the nearest the game designers could get to it….Access Full Text of the Article

Rupturing the ‘political’: Socialist-Utopian Performatives in Satyajit Ray’s Seemabadhha (Company Limited)

Dwaipayan Chowdhury, University of Amsterdam


The article delves into Satyajit Ray’s film Seemabadhha (1971), as a pamphlet for social critique in the politically turbulent decade of 1970s Calcutta, with the aim to decipher the possibilities of the socialist-utopia it carries.[1] The focus will be on the politics of Ray’s film aesthetics that project the vision of socialist-utopia on the audience community and predicate an emancipatory potential for the future. In doing so, the focus will be on the film’s aesthetics that rupture the fortified notion of the ‘political’ and catalyse a process of mobilisation through the redistribution of the sensory experiences.[2] By socialist-utopian performatives, I mean – those performative nuances contained in the sensory registers of the medium of film, which crystallises hope for a more just future. The ethical-intellectual drive in Seemabadhha does not let the audience (the social agent) remain shrouded in pure contemplation. Instead, the audience becomes the active community, who see the representations of “configurations”[3] in the cinematic space with an immanent quality of approaching a fulfilment, which forms the basis of what should come, which is, the emancipatory promise generated by the socialist-utopia.

Seemabadhha stands out in the entire Ray repertoire for it spells out the paradox, in vivid detail, of the post-independence Indian civil society by portraying the dialectics inherent in its construction, from the perspective of the urban white-collared middle class, which is completely absorbed by the State, so much so that it snatches from this class its identity.[4]It is through this dialectics that Ray challenges the “aggregation” of the history of post-independence India.[5] Ray’s aesthetics in Seemabadhhastands out in its disagreement with the homogenous linear model of development of the Nehruvian socialist dream and are manifested in the film through various devices such as- acting strategies, camera positioning and sharp cuts.

Ray’s Seemabadha and the other two films of the Calcutta trilogy, were representative of the conception of a decade marked by exponentially growing rates of economic investments from the Western countries in India, increasing expenditures on the processes of militarisation, public announcements of growing antagonisms across international boundaries, unemployment, inflation, failure or exceptional delay in implementation of government policies. The decade of the 1970s were part of the process of a massive democratic impulse in West Bengal, which had seen a recent large-scale peasant uprising in Naxalbari in 1967.[6] The collapse of the movement resulted in further fractures within the Indian left. Such disjunctures within the left democratic movement on the one hand, and on the other hand, the anticipations of massive political upheavals provided the backdrop to Ray’s Seemabadhha, which has to be seen within the larger process of the democratic cultural mobilisation of the decade. However, my study here is concerned withthe subversive impulses that the film generates,contextualising it within the ambit of socialist-utopia, pertaining to specific moments in the film.

            Here one must deal with the concept of utopia as a paradox. Firstly, it negates its own possibility. Secondly, and most importantly, out of its self-negation it becomes discontent with the ‘here-and-now,’[7]thus initiating a promise of material change. It is in the constant reiteration of utopia that the emancipatory potential of humankind is strengthened. It needs to be mentioned that, this article does not deal with the concept of socialist-utopia within the purview of “The utopian socialists” of the early nineteenth century Europe. Nor, is utopia here associated with the narcissistic view of the private individual.[8] My enquiry is to look at socialist-utopia through the notion of emancipation in the Marxist-Leninist trajectory.[9]

Rolling, Camera, Action

Seemabadhha opens with the shot of the employment exchange in Calcutta. We see the long shots of the youths stranded on the roadside sitting idly on the stairs of the pavements, or with applications forms they are filling up to get their names registered in the exchange in front of the closed doors of the colossal buildings. All the while, we hear the honks of the roadside vehicles, which whizzes past the screen on the horizontal axis thereby hindering the sight of the stranded youths momentarily. From the beginning, Ray harps on the invisibility of a large section of the populace. This is contrasted with the close-up shot of a high-rise in the city, from where the camera is zoomed out at a massive diagonal towards the audience. The spatiality of the audience here coincides with the street view of tall high-rises as is seen by the pedestrians. We then go inside the building and observe the name of the company limited. A close up of a hand is seen, cleaning the nameplate with the words written on it which reads as follows.

[1]The English title to film was given as Company Limited. It was the film rendition of the novel by Bengali writer Mani Shankar Mukherjee of the same name, who adopted the pen name Shankar. However, this article only deals with the film version.

[2]   By “fortified notion of the ‘political’ I connote to the concept of police through which the transformative potential of the political society is thwarted by imposition of stringent structures by the State. The politics of the private individual are negated in favour of a ‘political’ determined by public visibility that places the concept itself in the public sphere regulated in and by a civil society absorbed by the State.

[3]   Jill Dolan in “Utopia in Performance” (2005).

[4]   This dialectics is the confrontation of the politics of the police which I refer to as the ‘political’ which is ruptured by Seemabadhha, and the politics of the “autonomous domain”. (Guha 2005).

[5]RanajitGuha in “On Some Aspects of the Historiography of Colonial India” (2005).

[6] The Naxalbari movement was a massive peasant insurgency in the northern part of West Bengal.

[7] Madhava Prasad in “Satyajit Ray: A revaluation” Economic & Political Weekly (January 19, 2008).

[8] Ruth Levitas in “The Concept of Utopia” (2010). By the nineteenth century “utopian socialists” in Europe I mean here Levitas’s reference of Saint-Simon in France, who envisioned a more just society by the “harmony” of “three human types”, namely the “scientists, artists, and producers”, Charles Fourier, also in France who schematised a just social structure in terms of “harmonious community” by deriving “810 different temperaments” of humans, and Robert Owen of England who tried to solve unemployment by planning the “model factory at New Lanark”.

[9] V.I. Lenin in “State and Revolution: Marxist teaching about the theory of the state and the tasks of the proletariat in the revolution” in 1978. Lenin forwarded the concept of Marx’s dialectics by conducting revolutionary class struggles in the domain of emancipation which firstly implies the proletarian takeover of the bourgeoisie state followed by the abolition of the concept of state resulting in the formation of socialist communities.

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Political Propaganda in the Feature Film Industries of Nazi Germany and Maoist China

James D. Decker, Middle Georgia State College & Patrick S. Brennan, Middle Georgia State College


This interdisciplinary paper examines important similarities and differences in the way that Maoist China and Nazi Germany used political propaganda in their national feature-film industries. The first of part of this paper examines the film industry in the People’s Republic of China during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976. The Chinese communist regime used the power of film to perpetuate communist themes and to educate the masses about the heroic nature of the Chinese revolutionaries and Marxism. Mao believed through popular film the Chinese Communist Party could educate, entertain, and indoctrinate the Chinese population and could ferret out capitalist and bourgeois elements which he believed were infiltrating Chinese society. The second case study examines how Kolberg (1945), the very last feature film released in Nazi Germany, communicates key elements of Nazi ideology: the Leadership Principle, the celebration of Blood and Soil, and the call for total war, especially as expressed by Reich Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels in his 1943 “Total War Address.”Kolberg demonstrates both the power of Nazi political propaganda and its limitations as a political tool.

The twentieth century saw a marked increase in totalitarian states. These states, in seekingcomplete control of their populations, each deployed what the French Marxist Philosopher Louis Althusser has termed Repressive State Apparatuses and Ideological State Apparatuses. According to Althusser (1971/2009), a Repressive State Apparatus controls the populace through physical violence and threats. It contains such institutions as “the Army, the Police, the Courts, and the Prisons” (p. 302). The Ideological State Apparatus controls the populace through ideology. It relies on private institutions, such as family structures, churches, political parties, and communications industries, to represent “the imaginary relationship of individuals to their real conditions of existence” (Althusser, 1971/2009, p. 304). The boundaries between the Repressive State Apparatus and the Ideological State Apparatus are somewhat porous. The Repressive State Apparatus relies on some form of ideology for its structure, and the Ideological State Apparatus relies on some form of violence for its implementation. Still, it is the Ideological State Apparatus that offers citizens a sense of belonging and purpose. It recruits the people’s active participation in the state’s goals by constructing and proposing imaginary relationships between them and the state. In the twentieth century, an important tool of any state’s Ideological State Apparatus was its film industry. This paper will examine how two of twentieth century’s most repressive totalitarian regimes, Maoist China and the Third Reich, deployed their national feature film industries as propaganda tools, which aimed to spur their citizens to support the state’s ideological goals.

Maoist China

In May of 1966, Chairman Mao Zedong launched The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. Its stated goal was to enforce communism in the country by removing capitalist, traditional and cultural elements from Chinese society, and to impose Maoist orthodoxy within the Chinese Communist Party. During the years from 1966 to 1976, this movement became the biggest non-wartime concentrated social and political upheaval in world history. Following Mao’s edicts, a nation of over 800 million responded to the whims of one man to purge the country of noncommunist, revisionist thought and art (Clark, 2008).

The revolution marked the return of Mao Zedong to a position of power after the failed Great Leap Forward. The movement paralyzed China politically and significantly affected the country economically and socially. Millions of people were persecuted in the violent factional struggles that ensued across the country, and suffered a wide range of abuses including public humiliation, arbitrary imprisonment, torture, sustained harassment, and seizure of property. A large segment of the population was forcibly displaced, most notably the transfer of urban youth to rural regions during the Down to the Countryside Movement. Historical relics and artifacts were destroyed. Cultural and religious sites were ransacked (Tsou, 1986; Dreyer, 2000).

The success or failure of communist regimes to transform the attitudes and behavior of populations is an apt example of the use of propaganda within the wider application of political culture theory. Gabriel A. Almond (1983) proposed that political culture theory ascribes some importance to political attitudes, beliefs, values, and emotions in the explanation of political, structural, and behavioral phenomena such as national cohesion, patterns of mass cleavage, modes of dealing with political conflict, the extent and level of political participation, and the compliance with authority. The communist experience has been particularly important as an approach to studying propaganda and political culture theory application because from one point of view it represents a genuine effort to “falsify” it. The attitudes that communist regimes encounter where they seize power are often viewed as false consciousness, which may include nationalism, religious belief systems, ethnic subcultural propensities, or economic views. These attitudes have been viewed as the consequences of preexisting class structure and the underlying mode of production, which are transmitted by the associated agents of indoctrination. Communist movements/regimes seek to eliminate or to undermine the legitimacy of these preexisting processes and frameworks and replace them with a new and thoroughly penetrative set. The goal is to reshape the society and transform the thinking of its citizens toward a new paradigm of education and actions.

According to Dittmer (1977), one of the main purposes of the Cultural Revolution was to change the people’s ways of thinking and relating to one another, a pragmatic objective concerning the trinary relationship among elites, masses, and the target to which considerations of political theory and propaganda were focused. By drawing attention of the masses to the target’s deviation from the norm, and by dramatizing that deviation by means of exaggerated contentious symbolism, the elites sought to persuade the masses to embrace and incorporate the norms. Another benefit was to permit the masses to displace regressed negative emotions against the target. This allowed elites to seek enhancement of solidarity within the community and increase the masses’ support and commitment to the societal norms. The implications of this propagandistic process for the target were that that he should rectify his deviation through self-criticism and reintegrate himself within society. In the end, the target may hope to atone for his sins and become a model of the type of moral transformation expected by the masses…Access Full Text of the Article

Sex, Sexuality and Gender in the Delhi Metro Trains: a Semiotic Analysis

Anuj Gupta, St. Stephen’s College, University of Delhi, India


This paper explores the way sex, sexuality and gender are constructed in Delhi, India by using a semiotic understanding of reality whereby an individual is thought of as being subjectivized due to his being embedded in the socio-semantic text of a city full of signs which he/she interprets and appropriates. Within this socio-semantic text that the individual interprets, there are various determiners of interpretation and gender is one of them. The text of analysis is the collection of signs in the Delhi Metro trains and the methodology used is loosely based on the works of Roland Barthes. The purpose of this essay is to determine the ways in which the citizens of Delhi think of sex, sexuality and gender and analyze the ways in which these notions are reproduced on a daily basis through microcosmic texts like the signs in the Delhi metro trains.

Introduction: A “bookish” understanding of reality

The idea of a book serves as an appropriate metaphor for a semiotic understanding of “reality”. In such an understanding, both a book and reality are texts or collections of signs that the individual subject interprets though his faculties of interpretation, conditioned through his identity. However, it must be kept in mind that the text of reality and the interpreter are porous categories which constantly pour into and mould each other i.e., while the subject’s interpretation constantly reproduces reality, the very tools of perception that the subject has are shaped by social factors or determiners (that which the act of perception/interpretation will then go on to reproduce), creating a cyclical rather than a linear or causal model of the creation of the self and society. A circle has no origin, which is why it is virtually impossible to pinpoint which came first; the self or the social, parole or langue, the chicken or the egg.

There are various determiners that influence this hermeneutical act of creation of meaning and being which are spread out throughout the text of reality, both inside the individual and outside in the society. In simplistic terms, one could say that the primary schools of cultural criticism today (like Feminism, Marxism, Post Colonialism etc.) are oriented to the study of one such determiner of interpretation each and then through that determiner they postulate about this entire process. (For example, a post-colonial school of criticism would ideally focus on the significance of the determiner of race or ethnicity in the meaning created in a cultural artifact (like say Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart), through which it would then go on to postulate larger theories about how this is connected to the ways in which people generated “meaning” and modes of being in the socio-cultural semantic realities from which this text emerged (In the case of the Things Fall Apart, this would perhaps refer to the interpretative communities of pre and post colonization Nigeria).

Ideas about these determinants of interpretation do not magically emerge hierarchically from “centers” of power (like the state, or the church or the police) as was thought traditionally. Foucault’s thought shows us that power rather operates in a horizontal manner and is present everywhere (Foucault 1980). It would thus be wise to rechristen these erstwhile “centers” of authority as “lenses” of authority. They should be thought of as convex lenses which concentrate certain ways of orienting these determinants onto the society in which they exist at a given time. When the individual comes into being in this socio-semantic space, his/her ways of interpreting it and orienting his/her self are influenced by such lenses of authority. Barthes’ essay, The Death of the Author argues that reading a text while keeping in mind what the author must have meant is a kind of censorship of meaning (Barthes 1978). Such a reading of a text restricts whatever meanings one might have produced. The writer figure should be thought of simply as the conductor of the textual symphony rather than its composer. If we transpose this argument onto the semantic text of reality, then just like the prominence of the intentional fallacy in the creation of meaning in the reading of a book, individuals in society too are usually influenced in their acts of interpretation of reality by the “author”otative lenses of power discussed above. Revolution in this sense would be a radical new interpretation of this text of reality that defies the meanings generated if one dutifully orients one’s interpretations in accordance with these lenses of ‘authority’…Access Full Text of the Article

Psyche and Hester, or Apotheosis and Epitome: Natural Grace, la Sagésse Naturale

Anthony Splendora, Independent Scholar, Pennsylvania, USA

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Human interpretation fails, for a turbulent life-situation has arisen that refuses to fit any of the traditional meanings assigned to it. It is a moment of collapse. We sink into a final depth — Apuleius calls it “a kind of voluntary death.” . . . This is the archetype of meaning, just as the anima is the archetype of life itself.

Carl Jung, Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious (1934), p. 66

. . . if it is true that man is capable of everything horrible, it is also true that the horrible always engenders counterforces and that in most epochs of atrocious occurrences the great vital forces of the human soul reveal themselves: love and sacrifice, heroism in the service of conviction, and the ceaseless search for possibilities of a purer existence.

Erich Auerbach, Mimesis (1946), p. 59

Somewhere, if not in the New England of his time, Hawthorne unearthed the image of a goddess supreme in beauty and power.

Mark Van Doren, Nathaniel Hawthorne (1949), p. 154

Overview: Striking Isomorphism

A literary creation of profound cultural significance, the courageous and attractive, healthily libidinous young woman of whom I write is rhetorical to a time and artistic milieu earlier than her author’s and much earlier than ours. Projected novelistically in a tale of waywardness, epic but sublimated love, suffering, exemplary penance, fortitude and triumph, she appears at the end of one epoch and the beginning of another. She is referred to internally as a “destined prophetess” – externally as the “emergent divinity” of that latter, dawning era, and her forbidden love affair with a divine, fair-haired boy of the conservative, male-dominated religious establishment, her engagement in quite specific disobedience to its strictures, has echoes of other famously fallen, transitional women of incalculable cultural-historical sentence. Punishment for the complications arising from her transgression, a hieros gamos, is forthcoming, as it is to those other notorious females, but her godly, complicit lover suffers a grievous wound as well. Imbued by Nature, however, with the earthy, miraculous virtues and resilience of organically natural grace, she endures her initiatory ordeal and eventually prevails. Moreover, her recognition as harbinger of the forthcoming awareness, and her adherence to its mandate, elevate her to fulfillment of her own prophecy: hers is an ascension that heralds the decline and final collapse of the consecrated establishment that sanctioned her. In being doubly mythologized – for ideologically-defined immorality before her ascension and in universal sanctification after, her experience also carries allegorical implications specific to the troubled time of her authorial creation. In addition, her secretive liaison with divinity results in the production of a famous and aptly-named child, a projective symbol of life and fulfillment transcending that superannuating ideology.

Confused Reality: The War Masks in Japanese Author, Hikaru Okuizumi’s The Stones Cry Out and Argentine Author, Jorge Luis Borges’ “The Garden of Forking Paths”

Rachel McCoppin, University of Minnesota Crookston

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Carl Jung connects the idea that the mask is the persona one presents to the world; “the persona acts…to conceal the true nature of the individual.  It is a social role or mask which acts as a mediator between the inner world and the social world, and which constitutes the compromise between the individual and society” (Hudson 54).  The concept of the mask as persona is common in literature, and global modernity is no exception.  Oftentimes characters are so enveloped within false or unreliable personas that they fool and confuse the reader.  The masks they wear serves as a front to society and the characters they interact with, but sometimes characters are so effectively masked that they become unclear of their own realities, and become unreliable narrators. 

The Importance of Being Postmodern: Oscar Wilde and the Untimely

Jonathan Kemp, Birkbeck College, University of London
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“It is to criticism that the future belongs”

– Oscar Wilde[1]

 “In protesting the independence of criticism,

Wilde sounds like an ancestral …Roland Barthes”

– Richard Ellmann[2]

 “Postmodern is not to be taken in the periodizing sense”

– Jean-François Lyotard[3]

 The above three quotations delineate the typography of a particular trajectory within literary theory which covers more or less the entire span of the twentieth century.  Wilde’s prediction in 1891 seems to find its answer in Lyotard’s claim less than a hundred years later that postmodernism must not in any way be understood as a temporal marker, but rather as an aesthetic attitude or position.  For, if we are ‘in’ the postmodern we are in it precisely because we always already inhabit the possibility of its recognition, presentation or expression.  As such, texts or artworks that predate the critical emergence of the term can nevertheless be understood to be postmodern – and usefully so.  For it gives us permission to name, once again, though differently, perhaps, a particular phenomenon, or a particular convergence of phenomena; one we most typically name the avant garde.  In this essay I would like to use the above three quotations as markers for the trajectory of my argument.  In this sense, I will be using Wilde and Lyotard as both meetings points and end points for an arc that loops around to create a circuit, or a band, upon which – or within which – we might usefully place the concept of the postmodern/avant garde in ways which will shed light upon the notion of the untimely.  I would suggest that the postmodern and the untimely are, in short, other ways of naming and apprehending the avant garde as that which emerges without consensus, but which contains within it the criteria for its own assessment.  As Ellmann comments, Wilde seems, in his formulation of a new kind of art-criticism, to express something that Roland Barthes would develop sixty odd years later[4]: the self-sufficiency of criticism as an end in itself, or as a new form of aesthetic expression.  In this sense, Wilde’s work will be understood as posthumous, or untimely.[5]  That is, avant garde.

The Concept of Crisis in Art and Science

Eleni Gemtou,  University of Athens, Greece

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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.

Rules of Language in Rules of the House: Study of Tsering Wangmo Dhompa’s Tibetan English Poetry

Shelly Bhoil, Research Scholar, Barzil

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The displacement of Tibetans in exile has also displaced the Tibetan language to some extent among the new generation of Tibetans who are born or educated in exile. However, with the new languages and forms of expression in exile, they are negotiating their culture, identity and aspirations. Tsering Wangmo Dhompa, the first Tibetan woman poet in English to be published in the West, is one of the representative voices of New Tibetan Literature in English (NTLE). Her first book of poems Rules of the House was a finalist for the Asian American Literary Awards in 2003, and brought NTLE to academic attention. This paper is a thematic study of the philosophical and the social aspects of language in the poems from Rules of the House.

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