We have notions of engaged pedagogy and enlightened pedagogy in relation with higher education. But an organic and compassionate pedagogy would be something new and exceptional. In the evocative and argumentative deliberations and teaching of Prof P N Prakash the students experience such engrossing moments of learning, realizing and knowing in a critical sense. This master-teacher’s classes equip the students to seek self knowledge and the knowledge of the other. The worldliness of the text and the textuality of the world are always present in his class. There is a keen inter subjective dialectics and ethics in the pedagogic discourses of Prof Prakash.
After his graduation from Kerala he went to Sagar University in Madhya Pradesh for his M A in English in the late 1960s. He began his teaching career in Madurai in an arts college under TN Government in 1970. Soon he joined the Kerala Government college service and taught in most of the leading colleges in Kerala including Govt Brennan College Talasery, Maharaja’s College Ernakulam, Govt Victoria College Palakad etc. He retired from Govt College Thrissur in 2003. He leads a research centre for studies in English and literary studies ever since his retirement at Thrissur where he lives.
Prof Prakash accepted our humble invitation and came to Tirunavaya in late March 2014. He was talking about Indian theatre in English, especially Tagore, Karnad and Tendulkar at the English Department of S S University Tirur centre. It was a three hour long master class in which he invoked the shared history of theatre from Aristotle to Brecht.
He focused on the women characters in the plays of these illustrious authors in Indian English writing and elaborated the socio cultural milieu of these characters and their quest and struggle for a human self, rights, cultural desires and identity in the complex world of unending differences. His comparative and cultural perspectives and analyses were ingenious and instructive.
His compassionate pedagogy includes the marginal and shadowy characters of other women and untouchables in the texts and contexts with an ethical and organic passion for theatre and life. Theatre and ethics matter as life matters. Through an analysis on drama he was talking about the greater theatre of the diverse world and its “exits and entrances” even invoking Shakespeare as a dramatic genius from the British tradition. His expertise as an ardent theatre goer and critic was a great resource for the new students; and teachers like me also benefited immensely by his profound exposition and critical re-engagements with canonical texts with a contemporary poetics and politics.
Dr K M Sherrif, Associate Professor of English at Calicut University is a profound scholar and academic in new literatures in English and in the theory and practice of translation. His translations from Gujarati and Marathi dalit writings were pioneering efforts in the making of new and minor cultural discourses in India and Kerala. His early works like Ekalavyas with Thumbsstill hold the ground in the field of literary, cultural and political translations in India.
Dr Sherrif visited the new English department at S S University Tirur Centre and delivered a lecture “New Trends in American Literatures” on the 3rd of October 2012. He elaborated the current contexts of hegemony and neo imperialism and the development of new minor sensibilities and subjectivities in the American world. He focused on Key canonical as well as new authors in the M A English syllabus to develop his arguments towards the shift in the paradigms and perspectives in a changed world after the 9/11 attacks.
The lecture was done in a free and flexible way with a touch of dialogic and polyphonic spirit. The kind of critical pedagogy practiced by Dr Sherrif seems to be moving closer to the newer and de-centered democratic interactive practices that are gaining momentum in the marginal and minor locations of culture and politics. He enlightened us on the new trends and tendencies emerging within the American literary cultures that are making it more inclusive and egalitarian like the writing of native Americans, women, blacks, contested groups and sexual minorities.
The three-hour talk provided newer insights and outlooks to the students and reoriented some of the traditionalist biases and short sights regarding the canon and critical practice. He has shifted the whole debate from literary into cultural and political. His fresh rethinking of Faulkner, Angelou or Morrison provides the much needed break and critical impetus to the intelligent students of literature and culture.