Year 2016 marked the four-hundredth anniversary of the beginning of the investigation by the Roman Catholic Church into Italian astronomer and physicist Galileo. Galileo had run afoul of the Church, the final arbiter in matters of faith in Christendom then, with his endorsement of the Copernican theory of the solar system in which the sun and not the earth is the center (heliocentrism), a theory the Church regarded as heresy. Galileo was summoned by the Roman Inquisition in 1616 and left with a warning not to espouse heliocentrism. However, sixteen years after his first brush with the Church, Galileo published, in 1632, his treatise Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, which cogently established the truth of the Copernican system over the Ptolemaic one, proving beyond doubt for the first time that the earth revolves around the sun and not the other way around. An infuriated Roman Inquisition summoned Galileo and made him stand trial. By the end of the trial, under threat of death by burning, Galileo recanted his scientific findings, saying that he “abjure[d], curse[d], and detest[ed]” them—a retraction that caused him immense anguish but which saved him from being burned alive at the stake. The infamous encounter between Galileo and the Church (a symbol of Power) has been one of history’s most enduring emblems of conflict between science and faith, reason and dogma, liberty and power.
Like scientists, artists too have had run-ins with Power since time immemorial. However, while scientists no longer have to fear publicizing their scientific theories and findings, thanks to the emergence of secularism and the decline of the hold of the clergy over the rulers, artists still find themselves at the mercy of fundamentalists and rulers even in democracies. Totalitarian and dictatorial regimes still seek to police and shape the creative processes of artists in an effort to politicize aesthetics and aestheticize their perverse politics. Since artists enjoy a certain status in the society and their art holds specific values, they are sought to be enlisted in the service of these regimes to help synthesize ideas and ideologies and foist off an edible illusion to the masses that all is well. Here, the acceptability and respectability enjoyed by art and the artist among the masses are used to lend legitimacy to the ruling establishment, to help it retain power. To Power, all art is propaganda.
Artists who submit to Power’s diktats and mortgage their art are rewarded for their allegiance, and those artists who resist and raise their voice against the attempts to fetter their art are persecuted and even obliterated. Some, like Galileo or Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich, who choose to sell their souls to Power spend the remaining days of their lives in utter shame at having yielded to the coercion and intimidation of oppressive regimes.
Karam Nayebpour explicates, with reference to Julian Barnes’s The Noise of Time, how Shostakovich, in a desperate attempt to ensure the survival of his art (music), tries to balance his art with the expectations of Power, represented by Stalin’s totalitarian regime that uses trauma as a dominant political apparatus.
Rakhi Deshmukh and Jaya Dwivedi explore how Amish Tripathi’s Shiva trilogy highlights the gendered and ethnically underlined identities of the female characters, who, though culturally rooted, are strong individuals that contest the traditional norms and establish their authority in a society that is arrayed against them.
Jaswinder Singh and Rano Ringo read in the writings of Guru Nanak and Kabir the Bakhtinian elements of laughter and carnival that seek to subvert dogma and celebrate freedom and renewal and the creation of a new people-oriented consciousness.
Lekha Roy sees in the to-or-not-to dilemma that predominates Hamlet’s soliloquies in the Shakespearean play the incompatibility between the ideals that govern Hamlet’s inner (Motaignian) world and the political intrigues of the external (Machiavellian) world of Denmark which results in the inevitable debilitating psycho-spatial imbalance that negates action.
D David Wilson examines some of the theatrical techniques, namely, literarization, historicizing, alienation, change in the actor’s role, and gestus, employed by Brecht in his plays to achieve the alienation effect with a view to provoking a socio-critical audience response.
Tanima Kumari and Rajni Singh trace the origin and growth of African American women’s poetry and its various forms and trends to highlight how it has evolved from orality to faith in the “power of poetic language” to the contemporary tradition of “egalitarian values” and “diversity of voices.”
S Rukmini discusses the advantages of Content-Based Language Learning (COBALL) for technology and management students and the implications of its integration with communicative approach to language teaching for the creation of ESL (English as a Second Language) curriculum.
D Praveen Sam shows how humor can be used as a motivational and engaging element in an ESL classroom with examples pertaining to various techniques of humor and preparation and presentation of content.
Zeeshan Ali argues that English Language Teaching (ELT), with a curriculum that includes sustainable development as a topic, can help promote sustainability literacy and awareness among engineering students.