(Not) Naming the Other: Altering the Conceptualization of Difference in Lyric Poetry

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Asit Kumar Biswal


When we are called upon to reimagine literatures of the world and re-evaluate categories like the global and the local or the mainstreams and the margins, it begs the question: for whom? Or from whose perspective and from what spatio-temporal location? What is considered as local by one might not be so for another and what is considered as marginal from one point of view might be central from another perspective. Ideas like the centre and the periphery, world literature and regional literature(s), the global north and the global south, postcolonial literature et al which often from a part of our engagement with literature come from particular contexts and relate to the question of location in space and/or time. These categories often tend to function dichotomously and hence homogenize large bodies of literary texts from diverse cultural locations by putting them in one of the two possible brackets in order to interpret them and limiting the multiple possibilities or ways of reading them. This homogenizing tendency reduces difference embodied in the other to known terms ignoring its essential singularity. Openness towards the other and an ethical approach to difference are essential to the practice of comparative literature and we must rethink our existing categories while dealing with literature. Comparative literature is a situated interpretive practice predicated upon plurality which takes into account the question of location in reading. And we must use categories that facilitate this located reading without being reductive or homogenizing. This paper is an attempt to articulate some ideas on how the practice of comparative literature be grounded in the reality of plurality, on an ethical approach to difference and on a dialogue with the other so that we can look beyond binaries and dichotomies and foreground the joy of understanding that literature gives us.

Published: Nov 14, 2022

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