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Across Literary and Linguistic Diversities

Essays on Comparative Literature

Goethe Society of India, Madhu Sahni and Mazumdar Shaswati

Comparative literary studies face new challenges today in a world marked by the migration of people, languages, ideas and texts across diverse and increasingly porous borders. The field is restricted by conventional notions of comparativism born in the era of nationalism and colonialism. However, scholars are now provoked to rethink these notions as a result of the social, economic and political forces that drive the contemporary world, which simultaneously draw it into an ever tighter global network and create new, or reassert persisting, lines of division.
What are the conceptual and methodological questions that must engage our attention if comparativism, as recent debates suggest, has to revive its critical potential and chart afresh the future of literary studies? The essays in this volume attempt to rethink comparison in this context through theoretical reflections and concrete comparative analyses. They investigate similarities and differences, connections and references, across diverse literary and linguistic cultures in Indian, German and other European literatures.
This volume is the 2014 Yearbook of the Goethe Society of India.
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The location of the spiritual: Narcissus in an early fragment of Mahesh Elkunchwar


← 108 | 109 → VAIBHAV ABNAVE

Dem Vorwurf der Selbstsucht (ātmarat) begegnete Mahesh Elkunchwar, einer der renommierten zeitgenössischen Dramatiker Indiens, zu seiner Rechtfertigung (ātmamagna) mit einem Rekurs auf Narziss, der Figur aus der griechischen Mythologie, was zugleich eine Verteidigung des Narziss erfordert, nicht als das Andere, sondern als das Selbst. Der vorliegende Essay bietet eine genaue Interpretation dieser ‚Hinwendung zu Narziss‘ durch einen postkolonialen Dramatiker als eine Form von ‚Mimikry‘, die ungeachtet der Intentionen des Autors einen Zustand der Unentscheidbarkeit eröffnet, einen Zustand, in dem die ontologische Relation zwischen dem ‚Selbst‘ und dem ‚Selbstbildnis‘ grundlegend verändert wird. Elkunchwars misslungener Versuch, diese historische Unentscheidbarkeit zu verschleiern, verlegt unseres Erachtens seine Identifizierung mit bzw. Aufhebung in den Bereich des Transzendentalen, in dem das Spirituelle nur in mystischen Begriffen erörtert werden kann und Selbsterkenntnis nur als möglich erscheint, wenn ein archimedischer Punkt außerhalb des historischen Kontexts angenommen wird.

Narcissus, one of the most popular of the Greek mythical figures and Mahesh Elkunchwar, one of the eminent playwrights of the modern Indian theatre, share an intimate and interesting relationship with each other. Narcissus comes to Elkunchwar or, to be precise, Narcissus is being brought to Elkunchwar as an adjective, ‘narcissistic’, a label from outside, an accusation, which signifies ‘self-indulgence’ (ātmarat or ātmalubdha), an attribute of a socially disengaged and consequently, a regressive writer.1 One could keep aside the question of legitimacy or the so-called profundity (or the ← 109 | 110 → superficiality) of such an accusation for a...

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