Narrativising a Department of English
The Department of English in a country like India too often witnesses contestations of varied kinds. Debates range from Macaulay's prod to the madness of the method and beyond. Identity crisis - that of the department and that of its members - is one such problematic context. Sidestepping desires to sing notes of self-congratulation, this paper attempts to self-reflexively critique the values, aspirations, practices and its resultant consequences in the Department of English, Christ University, Bangalore. Such a critique will look at specific issues, concerns of, and about English Studies at Christ, based on three experience-enabled narratives. The first narrative aims at exploring 1. complexities of a fresh “pocopomo” (postcolonial-postmodern) English Studies teacher in such a reputed, metropolitan institution, 2. complexities of locating Cultural Studies within an English Studies framework in the institution, and 3. complexities of studentship in such a context.
The personal is always treated with a sense of suspicion and accompanied by a supposition that it may not be authentic. Humanities - despite the growing disrespect it faces - is one of the last bastions where the personal is not looked downupon. However, when it comes to research, even Humanities expects the shedding of the experiential and the personal, assuming that critical rigour is likely to get compromised. As the authors of this article, it is our firm belief that listening to personal experience will open doors to unexplored critical insights. We are deeply aware of the dangerous terrain we are treading in and hence we have titled it as "narrativising...", signifying the subjective takes involved. Further, the idea of giving multiple accounts coming from different standpoints (that of a new faculty, a moderately experienced faculty and a student) is to highlight the plural nature of experiences and perspectives.
Keywords: English Studies; Higher Education; Cultural Studies; English Departments