National Seminar on “Reading and Interpretation”

November 27-28


A Report


The National Seminar on “Reading and Interpretation” organized by Balvant Parekh Centre for General Semantics and Other Human Sciences during 27-28 November provided an intellectual platform for examining varied nuances of the reading and interpretation of different types of texts.


Sitanshu Yashaschandra, Convener of the Seminar

The convener of the Seminar was Sitanshu Yashaschandra. Prafulla C. Kar, the Director of the Centre played a vital role in making the Seminar a reality. Scholars from many parts of the world and the country actively participated in the Seminar through paper presentations and discussions.

Prof. Kar, Director of the Centre

The Inaugural Session commenced with the welcome speech by Prafulla C. Kar who put the Seminar theme in perspective. Kar also spoke of the activities of the Centre for Contemporary Theory and Balvant Parekh Centre for General Semantics and Other Human Sciences and the unique modus operandi which enables these Centres to work in tandem with each other.                                                                                                                                 

Sitanshu Yashaschandra, in an erudite manner gave a thematic introduction to the Seminar by illustrating various hues of the poetics and politics of reading and interpretation. He explored reading and interpretation as process and experience and examined diverse theoretical positions and methods of interpretations. Both these speakers made a special mention of the praiseworthy support provided by Balvant K. Parekh and his family in sustaining an environment of knowledge and scholarship. Narendra Parekh remarked fondly about his elder brother’s commitment to the Centre, appreciated the efforts of the trustees and shared his dream of taking the Centre to new heights of excellence.

Andre Reszler, Department of History, University of Geneva delivered the keynote address. His address was chaired by Sitanshu Yashaschandra. Reszler mapped the cultural terrain of European literature across time and geographical boundaries.

The tradition underlying the diversity of ‘writing’ and ‘reading’ in Europe was substantiated with examples from literary works.  Reszler observed that for many English, French or German men of letters or literary critics, the notion of European literature touches an uncharted ground. In spite of a common Greek, Roman and Christian heritage and centuries-old mutual influences, the literature in European countries seems to be confined within various national frameworks.  He pointed out some of the most important common features (such as myths, archetypes, etc.) which underlie literary creation on an all-European level and which influence also the experience of reading. In the discussion which followed, Reszler opened pathways to new approaches to and outlooks on European Literature and its unities and diversities.


The Panel Discussion on 28 November, chaired by Bharat Chattoo brought a variety of texts under the rubric of the process and experience of reading and interpretation. Chattoo expounded the techniques of reading and limitations in understanding the ‘Language of Genes’.  Trying to avoid scientific jargon so that the participants understand the structure and function of genes, Chattoo spiked his presentation with humorous and philosophical observations.  Martin Sweeney, Assistive Technology Network, Los Angeles read disability as a text. Against the background of powerful visuals that communicated the disturbing language of disability, Martin discussed issues of adaptability, social acceptability and tactics of social inclusion as far as physical or mental disability is concerned. When he described several complex aspects of coping with disability in the light of his experience as the parent of a daughter with disability, participants caught a glimpse of what disability could mean in personal, subjective and experiential realms.


Thomas Pantham’s illuminating analysis of ‘Gandhi’s Trial Speech of 1922’ was an attempt to read between the lines of a powerful critique of colonialism. Picking up statements from Gandhi’s speech and emphasizing his daring opposition to colonialism with the weapons of ideas and non-violent resistance, Pantham threw light on Gandhi’s strategies of challenging the British Imperialism. He illustrated how Gandhi could sensitize masses and mobilize them through the sheer power of words and deeds. 

Participants who came from different corners of the world and the country presented theoretical perspectives on and practical applications of reading and interpretation. Strategies of reading texts like literary works, creative writing, art, films, newspaper reportage, ethnic violence, text books, theatre, history and community were explored in the Seminar.

Political, sociological, cultural and aesthetic theories were made use of for engaging with these texts. The thrust was not merely on hermeneutics and theories of aesthetics. On the first day, participants’ presentations were grouped into sessions entitled “Theoretical Tools and Aesthetic Perspectives”, “Principles and Strategies of Reading and Interpretation”  and “Media and Entertainment: Towards the Aesthetics and Ethics of Interpretation.” As the titles imply, emphasis was on the theoretical aspects of and possible approaches to reading and interpretation. Sessions on 28 November were titled “Regional Literature: Nuanced Readings, Interpretation and Adaptation”, “Fiction: Techniques of Reading and Interpretation”, and “Reading History and Culture and the Politics of Interpretation” (refer to annexure I for details). The emphasis was on the process, politics and problems of reading and interpretation. The discussions unraveled the beauties and mysteries of reading and interpretation, besides probing the socio-political, cultural and aesthetic implications of the Seminar theme.

  Since there were participants from Europe, America and Sri Lanka, the Seminar was international and on the basis of the issues it discussed, multi-disciplinary in orientation.


Annexure I

Participants’ Presentations


27 November

12.15 - 1.30pm                        Session I: Theoretical Tools and Aesthetic Perspectives

Chair: Andre Reszler


Prashant Bagad:                        “The Rasa Aesthetics and Interpretation”


Sebastian Vazhapilly:                “Reading the Classics: Construction and Constitution of the Classical and the Classics as Privileged Access to Cultural and Epistemic Domains”


Yogini Nighoskar:                     “Interpretation and Analysis”


2.30-4.00 pm                           Session II: Principles and Strategies of Reading and Interpretation

Chair: Jyoti Rane


Santanu Majumdar:                   “The Consequences for the Modern English Novel of the Privileging of Sensation over Emotion in Recent Epistemological Theories: Phenomenal Qualia, Emotional Qualia and the Novel as Exploration of Consciousness” 


Neeti Singh:                              “A Feminist Reading of Girish Karnad’s Nagamandala”


Rajan Barrett:                           “The Great Indian Middle Class: Anxiety and Desire”


4.15-6.15 pm.                          Session III: Media and Entertainment: Towards the Aesthetics and Ethics of Interpretation

Chair: Prashant Bagad

Jyoti Rane:                                “The Indian Context and the Community Text”


Gita Viswanath:                        “Writing War: An Analysis of Newspaper Reportage”


Michael Fernando:                    “Semiotic Aspects of the Discourse on Ethnic Conflict in Sri Lanka”


Javed Khatri:                            “Devdas to Dev D: A Journey of Modern Man”


28 November

10.00-11.30 am                     Session IV: Regional Literature: Nuanced Readings, Interpretation and Adaptation

                                                Chair: Rajan J. Barrett


B.R.Khachriya & Ketan Vyas: “Multi-layers Reading and Interpretations of Shirish Panchal’s Bhanumati


Manisha Shah:                          “Reading Girish Karnad’s Nagamandala for the Commerce Undergraduates”


Minakshi Jain:                           “Retelling a Tale: A Study of Vijaydan Detha’s Duvidha


2.30 -4.15 pm                          Session V: Fiction: Techniques of Reading and Interpretation

                                                Chair: Gita Viswanath

Aruni Mohapatra:                     “On Coetzee’s Summertime”


Sadhana Desai:                         “Interpretation of Novella: Jonathan Livingstone Seagull”


Sravani Biswas:                        “R.K Narayan and the Holy Man: An Endless Dialogue”


Titiksha Dhruv Urman:              “R.K Narayan’s The Guide: A Contemporaneous Yet Futuristic Indian Story ahead of Time”


4.30-6.30 pm                           Session VI: Reading History and Culture and the Politics of Interpretation

Chair: Thillainathan S.


Bini.B.S.:                                  “Into the Snares of Chastity: Reading the smarthavicharam in History and Literature”

Brian Mendonça:                      “Reading and all that Nonsense”

Imran A.K. Surti:             “Subaltern Reading of History in Rahi Masoom Reza’s A Village Divided