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Module 1: Poems from World Literature

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Borges and A Rose For Emily

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(Refer Slide Time: 13:46) The name Albert makes its appearance first in this story through a name found on a telephone book. He is also (Refer Slide Time: 13:54) a Sinologist. And we have another character Richard Madden (Refer Slide Time: 13:59) who is Irish. He is an English spy. He is currently pursuing (Refer Slide Time: 14:04) Yu Tsun. And in this complicated scheme of things we are introduced to certain other notions of the concept of time, (Refer Slide Time: 14:12) the idea of the labyrinths and (Refer Slide Time: 14:17) this framework of this being a spy story. And to make things more complicated and complex we also have these rivalries between German spy (Refer Slide Time: 14:29) and English spy and also about the idea of betrayal, the idea of choice, the idea of loyalties to particular nations and how nations become more significant than individuals and humans. These are many, many possible and complicated things which this story introduces to us. We have already taken a detailed look at the story. I do hope that these references make a lot of sense for you. Coming back to the title of this work, (Refer Slide Time: 15:02) Garden of Forking Paths, it is a title of the short story. It is the title of this novel that Tsui Pen wrote and Albert recreated. There is also this real garden (Refer Slide Time: 15:14) which Tsui Pen aspired to create. (Refer Slide Time: 15:17) This reference to this imaginary book written by Tsui Pen, that is a narrative trope that we find Borges using in many of his literary exercises. And he has spoken at length about this idea of imaginary books that he uses. In Borges' own words, “The composition of vast books is a laborious and impoverishing extravagance. To go on for five hundred pages developing an idea whose perfect oral exposition is possible in a few minutes! A better course of procedure is to pretend (Refer Slide Time: 15:52) that those books already exist, and then to offer a resume, a commentary... More reasonable, more inept, more indolent. I have preferred to write notes (Refer Slide Time: 16:02) upon imaginary books.” This is what Borges is doing in this story. He presents this as a convenient technique, a convenient fictional trope that he is using. He is talking about this imaginary book written by Tsui Pen and recreated by Doctor Albert and Borges uses his power as the author to give notes on these imaginary creations. (Refer Slide Time: 16:27) And about the idea of the labyrinth, it is a recurrent image in most of Borges stories. He has written an entire collection of stories and essays titled Labyrinth published in (Refer Slide Time: 16:37) 1962. In this story The Garden of Forking Paths, which of these elements best constitute, best represent an idea of a labyrinth? Is it the forking paths in Tsui (Refer Slide Time: 16:52) Pen's novel? Or the forking paths leading to (Refer Slide Time: 16:54) Doctor Albert? All of them are labyrinths. Once you get caught in this as Yu Tsun does, it is difficult to find one's way out. And there is only one way out. And these different forking paths, depending on which path you take, it will take you to different endpoints and different destinations. In reality, the choices that Tsui Pen made or Doctor Albert made or Yu Tsun made, there are only one possible choice and one possible destination. But in the imaginary setting which labyrinth offers the possibility of talking about, it encompasses past and future extending (Refer Slide Time: 17:37) to the stars That is what the story tells us. Labyrinth in this story, it can be possibly inferred that it stands as an allegory for time. And Borges is talking about the possibility of occupying different time slots, the possibility of having different futures at the same time. The story itself can also be seen as a labyrinth where many narratives are diverging and converging and it can be read in different ways which is why it is also easily translatable as a hypertext fiction. When you look at the story as a labyrinth and place Yu Tsun at the centre we realize there are different choices which are available for him. For example, right from the beginning, he can choose to surrender or go on to execute his mission very well knowing that he is anyway going to be caught. And when he is going to Stephen Albert's house again he has got two different choices, either to kill Albert and convey the message to his Chief in Berlin or not to kill Albert, enjoy this newfound relationship and go into custody, go on to work on to his death sentence feeling good about how well he behaved with Stephen Albert. But here we find him making this difficult choice of being loyal to the nation than being loyal to this one man whom he considers greater than Goethe who had resurrected the work and life of his ancestor, his great grandfather. And even at the end, he has two different choices available before us. Either to tell us the truth in the deposition, tell us the truth or not to tell us the truth. The beauty of this narration is that we have no way of knowing whether Yu Tsun is actually telling us the truth or recreating another fictional story based on his figment of the imagination. (Refer Slide Time: 19:47) We find the reference to Newton and Schopenhauer in this story. There is a statement. “In contrast to Newton and Schopenhauer your ancestor did not think of time as absolute and uniform.” His ancestor is Tsui (Refer Slide Time: 20:00) Pen, the one who wrote this imaginary novel. The reference is to Einstein's theories refuting Newton's theories of time. Borges was infinitely fascinated by the idea of relativity which Einstein proposed and it is said that Mister Albert is a character modelled after Einstein. Here we find Borges making a comparison between scientific theory and fictional framework and presenting it as if it is the most commonplace thing to do. People have, critics, have remarked that there is a way in which you can compare Quantum Theory to Borges’ tale and also there have been multiple references to Schrodinger's cat where it was a thought experiment as most of you know. It talks about how two outcomes can be interpreted as occurring in alternate universes with equal validity. The question is whether the cat is alive or dead, and both the possibilities, both outcomes have equal validity and the equal possibility of occurring in alternate universes. And Borges we find rejecting linear or absolute time and again we find him trying to fit this fictional framework within the many things which are happening in terms of science and new inventions and discoveries of those times. And this is again a post-modern possibility which Borges begins to explore from the 1940s onwards; much, much before the post-structuralism and post-modernism came (Refer Slide Time: 21:34) into vogue and practice. A small footnote which is given at the end of the story which also offers certain corrective information about the death of a Viktor Runeberg, one of the other spies who was also working for Germany along with Yu Tsun, this footnote has a significant role to play here. It makes us wonder whether Borges wants to place this to give it a non-fiction report. (Refer Slide Time: 21:59) It also draws our attention to the narrator who in this case is the manuscript editor and he is standing right behind Yu Tsun, editing, excising, adding, modifying. So we really have no way of knowing whether this is really Yu Tsun's version or whether this has been modified for whatever reason. And we also find Borges himself emerging here (Refer Slide Time: 22:21) as a writer and he is standing right behind the narrator or the manuscript editor. And he is the one who is manipulating and formulating the plot, introducing characters, making them make certain decisions or not letting them do certain things. He is the one who is influencing the setting. So there is a narration inside the narration and the footnote can be seen as an inner narration. (Refer Slide Time: 22:51) It is drawing our attention to many non-fictional elements within something which is presented to us as fiction. So ultimately this act (Refer Slide Time: 23:01) of introducing the footnote, the manuscript editor and these historical references and corrective information, all of this amounts to confusing the fiction of the story which is what Borges perhaps tries to do. And again the question that (Refer Slide Time: 23:19) we began to wonder about. Even Yu Tsun's account may they. He is a spy. He can manipulate things and he is used to living convincing lives undercover. And at this turning point where, if we had to believe this story, the ultimate mission that he lets out is to convey the name of the city to his Chief in Berlin. The story tells us that his ultimate loyalty rests with his occupation as a spy. It is all about conveying the right kind of information to the one who had commissioned him. So even if we begin to wonder whether his accounts are trustworthy it could not be entirely refuted. (Refer Slide Time: 24:09) Before we wind up this lecture I want you to be familiar with one of how this story can be read in the post-modernist framework. Deleuze and Guattari spoke about the idea of rhizomes. And rhizomes (Refer Slide Time: 24:22) can be explained like this. Unlike a top-down structure of a (Refer Slide Time: 24:26) tree, rhizomes have fairly organic (Refer Slide Time: 24:31) kind of growth and existence. It is difficult to find where it has a starting point and where it ends, unlike the tree where there are these definite roots (Refer Slide Time: 24:43) that you can identify. Here we find that it is an extension, and there are no (Refer Slide Time: 24:49) entry or exit points. And there is no way in which we can say this is the limit. (Refer Slide Time: 24:55) The dimensions cannot really be predicted or be framed. Rhizomes have a kind of an organic existence where one thing leads to the other. So this is a theoretical (Refer Slide Time: 25:07) framework which Deleuze and Guattari introduced and rhizomes were used to talk about many post-modern elements and the possibilities. This story also in that sense has multiple entries and exit points. There are no hierarchies or binaries. It is difficult to say whether, for instance, Yu Tsun's character is superior to Albert. Or Madden's character is inferior to Yu Tsun. And again with this intervention of the manuscript editor, we even begin to suspect whether Yu Tsun is telling us the right thing about Viktor Runeberg, whether we are being forced to look at Madden from a different light because this story is being told to us through the eyes of Yu Tsun. So there are no hierarchies or binaries. There are no single entry points and exit points. There are multiple ways in which we can enter the story, different kinds of interpretations and then we can look at them in whichever way we want and exit from whichever point we want. So the idea of the rhizome which can be used as we talk about this story, it talks about its post-modern, decentralized and kinetic worlds. And that is, and the story is being seen as one of the perfect examples of these post-modern decentralized and kinetic worlds which were introduced within the framework of fiction. As remarked earlier, this is a story which is, which offers multiple interpreted possibilities so there could be other ways of looking at this work. There could be other frameworks which could be used to analyze this. I leave you with those possibilities. I thank you for listening and look forward to seeing you in the next session. Hello and welcome to today’s session of this course, today we shall be looking at this short story title A Rose for Emily written by William Faulkner. (Refer Slide Time: 00:20) William Faulkner was an American writer, he was also Nobel laureate in 1949, some of his important works include Novels, such as The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying, Light in August, and Absalom, Absalom! He has been particularly noted for this depiction of the fictional county which he named as a Yoknapatawpha, this is quite similar to the way Narayan, the Indian writer had created Malgudi as a fictional village. Yoknapatawpha County is based on the Lafayette county Mississippi, Faulkner himself had spent a lot of time in Mississippi and it is considered that Faulkner is the only Nobel winner, who was born and lived in Mississippi. The setting of most of Faulkner’s work was in the American South, he talks about the American South and the many details of it with a mix of reverence and criticism. The themes that we find strong across the various range of his works, they are mostly about the old American South before the civil war. It talks within the context of the old economic and social order the old aristocratic, the decaying settings, the cultural values etcetera, we will also see much of it getting reflected in this short story a rose for Emily that we shall be taking a look at. (Refer Slide Time: 01:45) ARosefor Emily is a 1930 short story this was the first short story written by Faulkner and it was also published in the national magazine titled the Forum, the story is about a woman’s great tragedy as the title implies it is about Emily and it is considered that this short story is one of the most famous an American has written. The title Faulkner himself has referred to this as an allegorical title, the object Rose it itself does not appear even once in the short story, there is no direct or indirect reference to a Rose but the meanings as Faulkner himself has stated -it is allegorical, there are layered meanings and multiple meanings that we can attribute to the rose. The rose could be a tribute to Emily who at the outset of the short story itself in the first sentence itself we get know that she has died, the rose could be a reference to Homer’s body being perhaps compared to a dried rose, it could also be a reference to this Latin term sub rosa in Greek legends it indicates a gift of secrecy and confidentiality, ‘sub rosa’-the literal meaning is under the Rose which means under secrecy, under confidentiality. The narrator in this context we get to know that he keeps the secrets of Emily, the secret life of Emily as very confidential with a lot of secrecy until her death. It is only in the last segment the final segment of the short story we get to know the dark secret that Emily had been hiding all this while. A Rose for Emily can be summed up as a story that deals with the reluctance of the south to part with it is old ways after the civil war. We will find Emily’s character being exemplified in that sense, the reluctance that she shows in becoming a part of the new order in letting go we will see all of those things in the short story. (Refer Slide Time: 03:56) The context of the story is very important, it is only in this social-historical context the meaning of the story becomes more accentuated, it is set in this period after the American civil car which happened from 1861 till1865 at the term which us is postbellum after the civil war and the major characteristics as we know of the civil war. What the civil war made possible was the abolition of slavery. So we find a transition in the following decades because there was an end of this previous slave labour-based economy. This story is set during the period of Reconstruction approximately between 1861 and 1933 and in the story, we also get to know that it is around the same time that Emily is born as well. And we find a certain sense of Southern nostalgia personified in Emily’s character, in the way the other characters respond to or deal with situations we find this nostalgia for the traditions of the past, for the old glory and privileges and we will find that in the persona of Emily we also find a certain kind of nostalgia even for dead bodies. (Refer Slide Time: 05:12) Emily is a lead character about whom this entire story is getting written. She belongs to an aristocratic family in the south and she is also part of thisfamilytheGriersons. The Griersons the entire the family the household itself can be seen as a symbol or relic from the past kind of a living symbol of the decaying Southern aristocracy. We get to know that she is white, she also has a Negro servant, though it’s set during a time when slavery has already been abolished. The intricacies of Emily’s character we shall be taking a closer look at when we try to read through the short story. (Refer Slide Time: 05:50) And we have the narrator whois the one who is introducing this entire story to us, narrator but interestingly the narrator does not use I, we find we, ours and our throughout that is also something about the perspective the storytelling perspective that we shall be noticing and there is also enough evidence in the story through which we can assume that it is a male narrator. (Refer Slide Time: 06:15) There are multiple symbols in this short story, the Griersons family home itself is the most visible and the most dominant symbol over here and we find that Emily’s father and her relatives the figure of the negro, Emily herself they all represent and personify different things. The taxes in Jefferson we find at least three or four references to the mode of tax payment and then how Emily is affected in that process, we find it through these references we find Faulkner very effectively mapping a transition period from the old order to the new order. And there are these references to bodies, dead bodies to be precise and we also represent the decay this difficulty to let go and we will find that the personal and the socio-historical those elements are intricately woven in these symbols and Emily’s hair itself emerges as a very predominant symbol and that also comes across as a kind of a reference and indication of Emily’s sexuality and we find that the presence of her hair, it also serves this purpose of unravelling the mystery of the story as we would see towards the end. (Refer Slide Time: 07:38) It will be really useful to take a look at this short story to notice how particular elements are used to accentuate the meaning-making process and it also gives us a sense of the kind of master storyteller, the master craftsman that Faulkner was how he could bring in a lot of minute details, place them strategically in different points of the story so that as a whole it begins to fit in really well. The story begins with this statement: “When Emily Grierson died, our whole town went to her funeral” so we also know we already know what the setting is, and the gravity of the vent. We already know the setting also get to know about the recent event Emily’sdeath. Notice the use of our right from the beginning, the narrator is not really alone here it is more like a collective rendering, the narrator is also telling us about what the entire county the entire province perhaps thought about Emily and her life and in the first paragraph, you also get to know that Emily’s house itself is this major attraction in that area and nobody has seen that house at least in last 10 years. So there is a sense of enigma, a sense of suspense which is already getting built into the story. We will find this continuous use of the pronoun us and our continuing to indicate that the narrator is partaking in this collective narrative process and this is how Miss Emily begins to get introduced. (Refer Slide Time: 09:29) “Alive, Miss Emily had been a tradition, a duty and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town, dating from that day in 1894 when Colonel Sartoris, the mayor -he who fathered the edict that no Negro woman should appear on the streets without an apron-remitted her taxes, the dispensation dating from the death of her father on into perpetuity.” This information is important to give us a sense of how things were before and how things are going to change, he talks about a mayor, Colonel Sartoris who was perhaps working hand in hand with the aristocracy, who had come up with sartorial codes and rules for the Negro women and who also had exempted Emily’s father from paying the taxes and when Emily continues to not pay the taxes, totally oblivious to this change of order and the change of roles, welcome to know that Emily continues to live in this old order, which was in certain ways more comfortable and very convenient for her. We find the use of the term Negro throughout the story and it is also a way in which the South had continued to address the black person and towards the end of this paragraph we find this: “Only a man of Colonel Sartoris’ generation and thought could have invented it, and only a woman could have believed it.” Because Colonel Sartoris comes up with this strange logic that Emily’s father had loaned money to the town and this was a way of repaying them by exempting them from taxes and when the narrator tells us that only a man of Colonel Sartoris’ generation and thought could have invented it and only a woman could have believed it, we get another two things about the narrator. One he does not to believe it himself, he does not begin they belong to the older generation, he belongs to the newer generation which beliefs in the new order of things, the new economic order, the new social-political order and who believes in this historical thing which happened abolition of slavery which brought about a significant change in the way things were structured in and around America and when he says only a woman could have believed it, he is also perhaps indicating that he is not them. So we get to know that a narrator is a young man who believes in the new order of things, who does not belong to the old generation and it is a man. (Refer Slide Time: 12:02) When we look at how Emily Grierson gets described, we also pay attention to how her own physical frame had changed, there is a reference to this incident when the Aldermen after having a special meeting of the Board of Aldermen they come to Emily’s home to collect taxes and this is how she is described: “a small fat woman in black”, and we find in a later segment of the story, one of the earlier descriptions about Emily she is a small, a thin woman wearing white. So we see this transition also affecting how perhaps Emily responds to the changing circumstances, the changing socio-economic conditions and the shifting value systems. (Refer Slide Time: 12:53) When these men came toEmily’shouseto demand for taxes she has the audacity to tell them “I have no taxes in Jefferson” because she continues to believe in the old order where her father was exempted from taxes and we also get to know that she is totally unwilling to change with the times and she is extremely insensitive to the law of the land and she thinks that she continues to enjoy certain privileges and certain positions and certain exemptions which were handed down to her over generations. And we also get to know that the way Emily’s character is portrayed particularly in this instance where she refuses to pay taxes, we do find that Faulkner is being critical of this attitude but there is also a sympathetic way in which this gets portrayed because it is about a woman, who was at some point part of the aristocracy, enjoyed certain powers in that context and now she is extremely helpless and that helplessness comes out in the form of this defensive attitude, this arrogant attitude. The sympathy with which Faulkner, presents and portrays Emily is very hard to miss and quite admirable. (Refer Slide Time: 14:05) If you look at the structure of the story we will find that it is divided into different segments, when we come to the second segment we are introduced to a different time period altogether and this is how the time period is qualified it is 30 years before the smell, the smell and the details around it from where the smell came and what it had led to that also forms the crux of the story. I would try not to include any spoilers in this, I would encourage you to read that your own, read the story on your own and figure out what exactly the smell was about and what role this smell played in this story. We do get a lot of these indicators about the timeline. The second segment begins to talk about 30 years before the smell and two years after her father’s death and a short time after her sweetheart, the one we believed would marry her, had deserted her. While giving the timeline we are also being made privy to various incidents that happened in Emily’s life that is the smell episode, it is 30 years before the smell, it is two years after her father is death and a short time after her sweetheart had deserted her. (Refer Slide Time: 15:21) Then we also find people complaining about the smell and how the lot tries in to intervene and not to intervene and how the local people also take it upon themselves to get rid of the smell. (Refer Slide Time: 15:34) I will not go into the details of it and then the story tells us after a week or two the smell went away and here there is a description of her, Emily this was 30 years before the smell, two years after her father had died. Emily is as lender figure in white, she got to be thirty and was still single that certainly is a concern, it is the American South it is the period after the civil war -the end of the 19th century, its a conservative attitude towards single women, so the town the entire town is concerned that she is 30 and she is still single and we also get to know that and just before the second segment ends we are being made privy to another horrific detail after her father is death Emily refuses to part with the dead body, she is adamant and insisting that her father is not dead. (Refer Slide Time: 16:32) We will wrap up this session by drawing your attention to the last segment in this second part. “We did not say she was crazy then we believed she had to do that we remembered all the young men her father had driven away and we knew that with nothing left she would have to cling to that which had robbed her as people will” when the narrator is telling us that we did not say she was crazy then it also implies that now at the time of narration, the narrator believes that she is crazy now. So now itis important for us to keep these details in mind which would also help us and lead us towards a better understanding of the rest of the story. I encourage eyou to read through the entire story before we complete this discussion, thank you for listening.