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Published in the 1-15 July 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Asia through the eyes of critics
By Manzar Imam

New Delhi: Jamia Millia Islamia’s Department of English and Modern European Languages organised a function on June 1 to release Critical Theory: Perspectives from Asia, a collection of critical essays and articles by prominent scholars from different universities of India. The book is edited by Prof. Naqi Husain Jafri and has been published jointly by JMI and Creative Books, New Delhi.

Syed Shahid Mahdi releasing the book; to his right is book editor Prof. Jafri

Syed Shahid Mahdi releasing the book; to his right is book editor Prof. Jafri


The composite culture of Asia is reflected through interaction of poetics of different languages, but this aspect has been completely neglected by Indian universities. The unique feature of the book is that it focuses on the interaction of poetics of Arabic, Persian, Sanskrit, Tamil and Urdu, some of the major Asian languages.

Asia is home to a variety of cultures and cultural traits, with a history of their own. One of the means of knowing these cultures is translation.

Prof. Jafri observed that colonised nations had gone through a cultural amnesia. In course of time, however, they recovered their culture, and recovery of literary criticism was similar to that recovery. The recovery of poetics is the recovery of that part of cultural treasure. He quoted a famous hadith of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that there is a magical effectiveness in some speeches and that there is wisdom in some poetry. He also referred to some oft-quoted verses of the Qur’an by Baqillani and other scholars which are fine examples of terse and succinct expressions.

Critical Theory is the second book in the series, "Studies in Literature and Ideas". The first was Translation: Poetics and Practice, edited by Prof. Anisur Rehman, which was published in 2002.

Speaking about the prevalent linguistic phenomenon of Asia, Prof. Shyamala of JMI’s English department said that Asian languages have kept their studies personal, while we have deviated from old tradition. The number of contributors of our own department in the book was just two while most universities keep 75 per cent of the contributors from their own universities. Our criterion has been to maintain standard, she said. Prof. Shyamala commented on the crucial role of the book in attracting attention to Asian traditions of responding to literature.
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