The Department of English, Maitreyi College, organised their annual literary festival and national seminar, Ekphrasis, on 18th and 19th March, 2016. It included many engaging and riveting paper presentations and talks by renowned scholars and proficient student researchers.
The first day started with a keynote address by Professor Christel Dewadawson, a Ph.D. scholar from the University of Cambridge and the head of the English Department at St. Stephen’s College, University of Delhi. She began with a demonstration of pictorial satires and spoke about the relationship between sacred and secular contours. She explained how the emergence of pictorial satires in India deliberately sought and found new worlds to conquer, and gradually grew into a thoughtful platform that represents and responds sensitively to both personal as well as national issues of grief and morality today.
Dr. Shanta Roy, Professor of English at Maitreyi College, then welcomed the new Editorial Board of their Literary Newsletter, Dialect, with Dr. (Prof.) Richa Chilana, Swarnima Narayan and Nimisha Sinha as chief editors, along with Anna Dasgupta, Illica Ratan, Anubha Gautam, Navya Kanwar, Srishti Chaudhary, Varsha Sharma, Arushi Sundaram, and Yasmeen as the rest of the editorial team.
The first session of paper presentations titled ‘The Visual: Effects and After Effects’ was shared by two speakers. Rustam Singh, a renowned poet and philosopher, elucidated on the nature of different kinds of visual objects and believed that the void essence behind objects can be easily deciphered through one sole look. Sohum Mandal, a Ph.D. Scholar in English, from Jawaharlal Nehru University, spoke about the role of street art as an urban space making practice. Considering each viewer to be unique in their perception and articulation of visual representation, he says “Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” He further distinguishes graffiti (spray painting) being a form of spontaneous, politically motivated act of vandalism from the legitimate profession of Street Art which involves beautification of architecture through sanctioned governmental operations.
The second session, titled ‘Envisioning the Nation’ was chaired by Dr. Manish Sharma and lead by the speaker, Kalsang Yangzom, a Researcher at University of Delhi, who presented a literary visual analysis on the protests of Tibetan struggle for freedom, wherein the subject of self immolation, “marked by nationalistic value and used as cultural symbols” was also discussed. This was followed by two more speakers, Mr. Sanjib Goswami, a researcher from Guwahati University, who gave an enthralling analytical study on the folk arts and crafts of Assam, along with Debrati Roy, a researcher from Ashoka University, who unveiled the history of Palestine Journalism through a visual documentation.
The third session of the day, titled ‘Visually and its Other’ included a paper presentation on the colorful visuals of Visconti Tarot Cards by Payal from Kamala Nehru College which depicted how representations of women’s bodies stroke a meaningful connection with their role in the Pre- Renaissance period, and Saurav Chatterjee, a researcher from Jodavpur University whose paper described the birth of freedom struggle and feelings of nationalism through the Bengali Comics of Naraya Debnath’s ‘Batul, the Great!’ which portrayed Batul as an epitome of a national superhero.
The day ended with a guest appearance of Kanupriya, alumni of Maitreyi College, who gave a visual representation of the French artist, Franz Kafka’s collection of sketches and doodles which provided a powerful illustration of his psyche, state of transcendence and his willful interpretations of the world. According to her, Kafka was known, “not only for expressing a great deal of solitude in his sketches, but also for getting fully dissolved in it”.
The second day of Ekphrasis included a line-up of paper presentations by student researchers, and chaired by Sakshi Vasn, a Ph.D. scholar in English at the University of Delhi. The session began with Shantam and Snigdha Roy’s paper presentation on the topic ‘Death of an Artwork’ through which Snigdha emphasized Vivan Sundaram’s brilliantly infused artwork of memorials and T.V. Santosh’s exceptional paintings which mostly tackled the relentless themes of war and global terrorism. His painting of 2008 Mumbai Terrorist Attacks was critically acclaimed. Swarnika, an undergraduate student of English at Hans Raj College, Delhi University, was next to present her research paper on Yaoi Genre, Japanese graphic (anime) novels based on simplified notions of love, life and masculinity in the romanticism of heterosexual and homosexual relationships. Pertaining to an 85% of female readership, these visual stories were such that they illustrated a subjectivity of homo-eroticism and painted a rosy view of happy endings. The last paper was presented by Mantra Mukim on the visual analysis of Raj Comics, which were introduced in 1980s and were transnational in nature. He also enhanced animals as essential elements in graphic novels as they not make the comic’s popularity among child readership stronger, but also put everyone in a state of captivation.
The event was followed by a talk by Vishwajyoti Ghosh, a graphic novelist, known popularly for his work in ‘Delhi Calm’, a gripping political graphic novel set in 1970s that re-imagines the city of Delhi during the period of Emergency in India. He also presented a graphic documentary film named ‘This Side, That Side’ that revolved around instances of restoring collective memories that like everything else, have too, been “partitioned”, the negotiations around borders, stories of lost love and friendships, the prejudices, etc, all of which were successful in keeping the audience glued to the screen and getting goose bumps appear on their skin. He ended by reflecting on the need to encourage children to read and make graphic novels more popular in India by getting them published in vernacular languages.
The event also hosted a couple of fun, informal events such as Beg, Borrow and Steal, a workshop on comics by Payal AP, debate, treasure hunt and a literary quiz basing ‘Snape as a Hero’ for all Harry Potter die-hards. These saw a great number of student participation from colleges such as Hans Raj, Ramjas, PGDAV, Deen Dayal Upadhyaya among others. Overall, the two day festival of literature was fruitfully engaging and visually appealing.
Featured Image Credits: Vibhana Kanwar for DU Beat and Shubhra Arora