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‘In-Conversation’ with Ms. Shivangi Kanaujia: Literature, Arts and Reading Your Favourite Books!(II)

Welcome to the next edition of ‘In-Conversation’. For this edition, we have Ms. Shivangi Kanaujia a student of English Literature Honours at Lady Shri Ram College for Women, in New Delhi. You can find us discussing and exploring the domains of literary thought and educations systems in India, while also reading about societal inclinations and political imprints on literature. With a critical analysis of multiple challenges pursuing a Literature degree, and also with an in-depth analysis of various intricacies, the interview is filled with fun facts, information and details about literature, studying literature, the media and more!

Definitely, an engaging and conversive interview, without adieu do read on!

(You can find Part One here)



(Kaushik) Of course our education system needs a lot of reform. Where do you think are the major changes required, if any and where do you see the future going towards?

(Shivangi) Reforms, always happen at various levels, in my opinion which often intersect and influence each other. To begin with, a country needs a huge amount of reform in the way education is perceived by the citizens. Seen as the mere tool in social mobility or as an economic investment, present day education system forces many young students to make a career choice incongruous to their personality and cognitive capabilities. Secondly, the quality of education and resources required for it are highly questionable. I believe that reforms in educational sector are intricately linked to many other societal issues like gender prejudices, class and caste dynamics etc. Thus, a holistic and interlinked approach is needed to bring about a reform.

(Kaushik) For me reading has been quite beneficial in the way I have developed my spoken and written skills. This has helped me tremendously in academics as well as in other aspects of my life. How do you view literature as a tool for education to impart soft skills and also as a development of various factors in a growing teen, or child?

(Shivangi) Literature, in my opinion, is one such field that is capable of giving the reader a very humanist and wholesome development. It not only allows you to perceive the world in a more deep and critical way, but it also provides students a release and medium to outpour their innate personality, making them much warmer, and understandable towards their fellow beings. It can almost be therapeutic to some. Especially for growing teens and children, reading literature can provide them a firm standing in life, shaping their opinion making capability and perception towards things, both animate and inanimate.

(Kaushik) Among contemporary literary growths, which trends have you seen that you really like and want to see more of?

(Shivangi) I am very much inspired and hopeful for the growth of subaltern understanding in the literary sphere, giving voices to those who have been unrepresented since ages.

(Kaushik) While assessing a piece of literature in essence you can feel the state of mind the writer may have had when they put pen to paper. How impactful do you find the effect that certain elements of the psyche has on literature? Some texts you recall having such elements clearly infused in them?

(Shivangi) Undeniably, the psyche of both writer and reader plays a very pivotal role in the interpretation of the text. Even, the psyche of the age in which that text has been written influences the thematic and critical positioning of the piece. For instance, in the postmodernist writing, one recurring theme is the idea of fragmented existence filled with anxieties and doubts. This idea is very much the effect of horrors of the two world wars that the world faced in the twentieth century. What I mean to say is that, it is these psychological underpinnings of the writer and society in general which form an important segment of the piece of writing. Later on, when the reader encounters these narratives, his/her psychological standing adds another layer in the understanding of the piece. Sons and Lovers by DH Lawrence is one such text which deals with psychoanalysis in a great detail.

(Kaushik) For the literature growth in the context of India, many contemporary writers are there who are immensely popular and have multiple best sellers to their name. India has a stellar history of stalwarts in the literature field as well, with many authors, poets, playwrights and artists, some of the many, who have gained international acclaim. From current writers and from people in the past, how do you see the Indian literature developing over the decades and centuries? Which direction do you see it going towards in the near future?

(Shivangi) Indian Literature in itself is a very contemporary and diverse phenomenon. Being a site of many foreign invasions and having a colonial past, India’s literary traditions has been vastly influenced from the outside, be it the Mughals or the Europeans. Thus, even the diverse reginal literary traditions have the hint of intermingling and hybridisation. This situation becomes even more complex when one tries to look into the tradition of Indian Literature in English because being a second language to us, the literature written by Indians in English has been questioned on grounds of relevance and authenticity. Nonetheless, we indeed have come a long way since independence and have a much longer way to go, providing for ourselves a separate identity in literature written in English and Regional languages.

(Kaushik) Some of your favourite texts from Indian authors and poets?

(Shivangi) Almost all the works of Premchand have been especially precious to me since childhood. Other than that, Salman Rushdie’s, Midnight’s Children has been another favourite of mine for its brilliant magical realism. Arundhati Roy’s, The God of Small Things and Anita Desai’s, In Custody are next in my all-time admirable list of Indian Literature.

(Kaushik) There is a requirement often for countries and communities to curb the spread of certain speeches as well as certain texts. This leads to a host of texts banned from public consumption, and a lot of materials censored. Yet, there is also the possibility that these restrictions are often in excess, and certain political aspects can also be behind their particular adoptions, or non-adoptions as the case may be. How do you view censorship, and these particular systemic challenges?

(Shivangi) Well, since ages censorship has been the very controversial and debated aspect of the literature. It can have all sorts of biased backgrounds to it- gendered, political, ideological, etc. Nonetheless, in my opinion, I view this interplay between censorship and literature as one which is both capable of generating meaning and suppressing meaning. Certain texts which might be hurtful or sensitive to a community, especially which is prone to marginalisation can qualify under the positive impacts of censorship. On the other side of the coin, censoring literature to strategically manipulate thought process of the readers can count as an objectionable step. In both these cases, in my opinion, it becomes imperative to judge and analyse the motives and extent of censorship decision.

(Kaushik) With the advent of the internet and connected technologies, there has been a huge surge in the demand and consumption of materials. There has also been a proportionate, unimagined growth of interconnectivity between various domains. How do you thing this draws into the debate on misrepresentation, social responsiveness and responsibility as well as the regulation mechanisms? Do you believe the growth of these technologies has advanced the way literature is perceived, or changed the way it is shared as some potential impacts?

(Shivangi) Definitely, the advent of internet and connected technologies has affected the way literature has been perceived, both for good and bad. While on the one hand, it has in a way democratised this whole universe of literature, increased the accessibility and opened up avenues for writers to experiment and gain their fair share of reception within the audience. It has on the other hand, made humanity much more vulnerable to manipulations through all sorts of written, documented information present out there. This undoubtedly calls for critical and reasoned consumption on the readers part and some unbiased, well-augmented regulation mechanisms on the part of online platforms that act as the medium between the writer and the reader.

(Kaushik) Visualisation and the perception of a writer or a poet is paramount to his ability to produce a work of art. There are various tools, and various methods different authors and poets have applied over centuries. Some have formed rituals in themselves when they set out to create a new work, or start a project. These tools also have seen a drastic change say, from what was present a decade, or even a century back. From quills, to pens, to typewriters and computers, with completely digital coverage, there have been massive changes. Do you find any such rituals when say, you are writing, or even reading certain works? How do you see the evolution of these ‘writing tools’ over the decades and centuries and where do you see these going? Are there say any probable changes which you are opposed to?

(Shivangi) Well, to provide a justified answer to a question like this can take up a good number of hours. To begin with, undoubtedly there have been all sorts of literary and art movements all over the world, prevalent at different points in time. From Indian Natyashashtra to Greek Theatre, from European Realism to Imagism, from Modernism to Postmodernism, there are countless number of literary traditions that have emerged with their unique set of perspective and methods influencing the writing of that period. Often these movements have a very strong political, social, historical and a psychological background to them, for instance the advent of television in the twentieth century influenced how Eliot perceived the image of modern men in his poetry. To put the long story in short, writing of a certain period of time is the reflection of the then society and thus the characteristics of these writings keep changing, evolving and adapting as the time passes by. In my opinion, with the increased interest in Artificial Intelligence in the present, there are high chances that writings in the near future will take up themes and modes around how humanity can and should embrace these changes, their psychological, emotional, social and political ramifications on the mind of people.

(Kaushik) There have been seminal texts which have brought much acclaim and even social changes, and political ideologies being developed. The ‘Communist Manifesto’, ‘Republic’ would be just two of a sea of such works. How do you see these sorts of texts as prevalent in societies during their time, and how strong a tool do you believe works to be in terms of their ability to bring system changes and political, social shifts?

(Shivangi) Undoubtedly, literature has a very very important role in social shifts of all sorts. However, as far as the reception of socially realist texts is concerned, I must bring this to your notice that many a times such works have been perceived as ‘socially unacceptable’, ‘vulgar’ or ‘misleading’ during their times because of the simple logic that anything out of the convention is seen as a threat. Nonetheless, they have managed to carve their way into the psyche of people, eventually making them question and strive for a change. Premchand, and Ambedkar can be few such instances in Indian Literary context.

(Kaushik) Literature is again divided into Fiction, Non-Fiction, Poetry and Drama. Which in particular interests you the most?

(Shivangi) Both Fiction and Non-Fiction are dearer to me than the rest of the two categories. However, from time to time, I keep on reading almost all sorts of literature.

(Kaushik) Any particular works from each of these categories which are especially memorable to you?

(Shivangi) In the category of Fiction, I am especially fond of psychological thrillers, of which Crime and Punishment is a very memorable part. As far as non-fiction is concerned, Simon De Beauvoir’s, The Second Sex has been an amazing experience for me. And for the poetry section, I am an admirer of Sylvia Plath and Kamala Das, quite remarkable female authors I must say. In the category of Drama, I have an inclination towards Greek Tragedy and Theatre such as Plautus, Sophocles and Homer.

(Kaushik) As a literature student, there is often an association with being a good writer as well, so inevitably I ask, do you write?

(Shivangi) Well, that’s a tricky question because as a student of literature we are anyways forced, or pushed in a positive way, to write as much as we can through all sort of academic activities. However, in terms of personal inclination towards writing, I am afraid, I haven’t been able to be involved in it as much as I am involved in reading.

(Kaushik) Certain portrayals in the media and the current media coverage on many instances globally showcase how a responsibility is thrown on what is covered and how. Still there are lots of accusations, misplaced comments, misrepresentations which most unaware people consume. How persistent a challenge and a problem do you believe this to be?

(Shivangi) Actually, with the advent of a variety of platforms from where knowledge and to be more specific, news can be consumed, it is becoming a humongous task to maintain the credibility of the piece of the information being shared. This culture of quick and easy availability of information has made the psychology of a reader very prone to falsities or misinformation, there are very few people who actually try and put in efforts to fact check a certain piece of information or analyse it critically. I think, it is this attitude of being an unconscious consumer of information without actually paying heed to what has been fed into your own brain, which makes the problem even more persistent.

(Kaushik) Thank you for that insightful discussion, where we were able to explore so many different dynamics including societal discussions, discussions on literature, and politics. It was a pleasure talking to you and I look forward to having you with us again in the future for a discussion.


- Part One can be found here.


You can find Shivangi here:

LinkedIn: Shivangi’s LinkedIn


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