The Need for Subaltern Literature

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Importance of subaltern literature- a teleological approach
Dear and Rev. Father Principal, respected staff, my beloved students, friends, ladies and gentlemen. I feel a bit circumscribed in to stand before you to deliver this keynote address. I feel so, because I am not a literature student, nor am I in any way connected to literary world except as a lay person who loves literature and its richness in bringing out human emotions, values, and worldviews. But at the same time, I am honored to be here because this will help me in some way or other and indeed, did help me to pore over some solid literature works to learn more about what literature is and how I can get more involved and interested in literature. To this effect, I must thank Rev. Fr. Paul Rajkumar for having invited me to enter into the portals of literary forts and collect some pebbles to twist my tongue to tune to the richness of literature. I also am sure that if I have the patience to dive deep into the literary ocean, I can find the finest pearls that I can treasure. I only wish that I have the patience and bent of mind for such extravaganza of the intellectual thirst for literature, the mirror of human motions and emotions. I would like to share with you something on “subaltern literature”, as it makes more sense than any other literary form today, to make literature relevant and an instrument for social change. Pondicherrry has been in the limelight, for more than two centuries as regards subaltern thinking and making impact upon the life of the marginalized. At the turn of the last century, great personalities like Bharathi, Bharathidasan, and the then political fugitive turned philosopher, Sri Aurobindo all of whose writings both in prose and poetry forms in Tamil as well as English added beauty and splendor not only to the literary world but also to Pondicherry and whose literary genre fostered the realization of, and gave an orientation to freedom struggle and rendered a platform to work for the nation.

Even today, novelists and fiction writers like Prabanjan and Rajgowthaman make great impact upon the young minds in understanding human relationship full of complexities and complications both in the internal and external forum and try to make literature the stuff of the next door neighbor. But there is something that makes me feel intrepid because literature could be the first cousin of philosophy and I am a philosophy student and scholar. So, this feeling gives me consolation and encourages me to brave to take up this work with boldness. There is an added reason for me to accept this as most of the best literary pieces were authored by people from non-literature disciplines. Literature – definition

As I understand, literature is a tool to mirror the society and its various aspects of life, its composition and characteristics, the social landscape and mapping human reality in its internal and external layers and labyrinth. Literature is also an approach to look at the society from the point of view of different groups living in it. It becomes much more pronounced and imperative to look at the society from the marginalized sections point of view, the race, sex, caste, creed, etc. It is the expression of human existence in all its dimensions: ugliness and beauty, woes and joys and so on. As for me there is no good literature or bad literature in the ethical sense, but only relevant and irrelevant in the teleological sense, in the social milieu. Literature is the tool to set in motion creative and critical consciousness in the society by picturing realities as they are.

I look at literature in three stages, not in the historic sense nor in its style, but in the evaluative sense. My line of thinking needs to take a complete deviation from the popular understanding of the discussion. 1. Infantile Literature: This type of literature deals with things that are completely removed from everyday realities. It is meant to amuse people,...
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