Archive for June, 2007


Just out at:
is the latest issue (22-1, March 2007) of ORAL TRADITION, the journal
of the Centre for Studies in Oral Tradition (Columbia, Missouri).

ORAL TRADITION is now an all-electronic, free-of-charge journal, and
gradually making the full back issue contents of the old print edition
available on-line. The journal’s mission statement is at:

Issue 22-1 concentrates on the work of Bob Dylan, and brings together
the papers from the colloquy BOB DYLAN’S PERFORMANCE ARTISTRY,
held at the University of Caen (France) in 2005. All the articles
can be read in .pdf format.

The editors are Catharine Mason (Univ. of Caen) and Richard Thomas
Catharine’s own contribution is on Dylan and the blues tradition,
and Richard’s focuses on Dylan and the
Greco-Roman world. Among the other contributors are Gordon Ball (Virginia
Military Institute)
on ‘Dylan and the Nobel’, and Todd Harvey (Library of Congress),
who examines Dylan’s interpretation of the folksong ‘Man of Constant
You will also find my own paper on Dylan and the Spanish-speaking world:

Note added 14 May 2008:

This number of ORAL TRADITION was reviewed by Antonio Iriarte, in ‘The Bridge’, Spring 2008, No 30, pp 109-112:

"’Are You Talking To Me?’ – An Interdisciplinary Approach to Dylan’s Work"

Note added 15 September 2009:

This issue, including my own article, was on the programme for detailed discussion on 6 October, 2009, as the main subject-matter for that day’s session of ‘After Postmodernism’, an seminar for anthropology majors at Grinnell College, Iowa, USA, taught by Prof. Katya Gibel Mevorach: (see entry on this blog, 14 September 2009)






Just out is the 2006 issue (Vol XII, No 2) of SUMMERHILL, the journal of
IAAS (the Indian Institute of Advanced Study), based in Simla. This is a
high-level publication with in-depth articles representing ongoing research
projects (the Institute also offers research fellowships). Subjects covered
include Indian literature, history, sociology and philosophy.

Among this issue’s contents may be noted:
‘Ambivalence, Colonial Text and Tagore’ – Tapas K. Roy Choudhury
‘Religious Orthodoxy and Secularization in the Development Milieu’ – S.R.
Review of Rabindra K. Swain, ‘Silent Tongues: Writings in Contemporary
Indian Poetry’ – Jaydeep Sarangi

Also included (pp. 36-37) is my own review of Jaydeep Sarangi and G.S. Jha,
eds., ‘The Indian Imagination of Jayanta Mahapatra’, as earlier noted on
this blog (3 Oct 06 entry) and available online at:


Almost as soon as I’d heard the news of Salman Rushdie’s knighthood, I
posted a note on this blog, which you can see just below this one. In the
days that followed, my prediction that the Queen’s act would prove
controversial was amply borne out by the protests in Iran and Pakistan.
To put all this in intelligent perspective, rather than commenting
further myself I would like to point you to the post just up on
the blog of Sunny Singh (herself híghlighted elsewhere in this
blog), London-resident Indian novelist and author of ‘With Krishna’s Eyes’
‘Nani’s Book of Suicides’:
Sunny’s post begins:

‘Okay, so I am not a huge fan of the monarchy (product of a republic, you
see) or for that matter ridiculous honours from the Queen that can
apparently be purchased for a good price. So when the news broke that
Salman Rushdie had made the Queen’s annual list of honours being banto-ed,
I smiled at the thought of “Sir” Rushdie, spent a brief minute imagining
the paroxysms of joy “Lady” Padma must be experiencing, and then flipped
the page.

Then came the inevitable flurry of news reports …’ (CLICK ON HER LINK AND

Sunny Singh has offered an intelligent, eloquent and passionate defence of
Rushdie’s (earlier) work and his stance in the world in general, as seen
from the viewpoint of a fellow Indian, practising writer and citizen of the
world. Do read it, it’s far more interesting than what you’re likely to see
on the matter in the British press!


Please also see my blog entries on Sunny and her work for 3 December and 18 October 2006!


NOTE ADDED 6 Jul 07:

A Spanish-language version of Sunny"s piece was published by EL PAIS on 29 Jun 07:


On 18 July 07 Sunny posted a second article on her blog, in response to negative

messages received from anti-Rushdie folk of various tendencies, Western "liberals" included.

I support her stand. Read Sunny’s second piece at:


On 16 June 2007, Queen Elizabeth II, the reigning monarch of Britain and
head of the Commonwealth, named the recipients of her 81st birthday
honours, and among them was – honoured for his ‘services to literature’ –
Salman Rushdie, born in Bombay to Indian parents, today a resident of New
York City and, by a twist of colonial history, a British citizen (see:

As the Times of India pointed out, the monarch also honoured a clutch of
other non-resident Indians, but it is Rushdie’s that will prove the most
controversial. Officially, he is now Sir Ahmed Salman Rushdie, a Knight
Bachelor, and his wife Padma is now Lady Rushdie.

Rushdie has had two waves of fame in his career, for two different novels
and for totally different reasons in each case. In 1981, in the literary
world, ‘Midnight’s Children’ catapulted him to prominence and instantly
became a canonic work, enshrined as such by both general readers and
postcolonial critics, of the wave of postcolonial literature that is often
placed under the heading ‘The Empire writes back’ (indeed, that very phrase
was coined by Rushdie himself). Seven years later, in the wider and
non-literary world, ‘The Satanic Verses’ brought him a very different kind
of fame, for the reasons that the whole world knows, or thinks it knows
(including that part of it that doesn’t read literature).

Unusually so for even a controversial writer, Rushdie is the subject of
polemic on both right and left. To some on the right, he is an ungrateful
troublemaker who, by attacking Margaret Thatcher or institutional racism in
Britain, has bitten the hand that fed him (notably with police protection).
To some on the left, he is, with his acerbic comments on issues such as
Islamic dress or press freedom in Denmark, a traitor to the new absolutes
of cultural relativism and ‘respect for religion’. To others still, he has
become an icon – if not THE icon – of secularism and free speech in the
contemporary world.

The knighthood seems to mark an outbreak of peace between Rushdie and the
British establishment, but some of those who admire ‘Midnight’s Children’
must surely be asking if it is really appropriate for a post-colonial,
post-imperial writer to accept accolades from that establishment. Rushdie’s
last novel, ‘Shalimar the Clown’, centred on Kashmir, which attacked, about
equally, authoritarian and dehumanising attitudes in India, Europe and the
US, certainly found him recovering the restless, radical edge that had been
lost in its immediate predecessors, but whither now for Sir Salman?

There is a significant, and perhaps disturbing, precedent in the annals of
British knighthood, and it concerns another major name in Indian
literature, indeed none other than Rabindranath Tagore. Rabindranath, whose
main language of expression was not even English but Bengali, is still the
only India-born and India-resident writer to have been awarded the Nobel,
well before the first flowering of Indian Writing in English and long
before postcolonial studies had (or could) be invented. A subject of the
British crown in India, Tagore too was knighted – in 1915, by King George
V. However, in 1919 he returned his knighthood in protest against colonial
repression in India. The Tagore precedent should surely remind us that a
British knighthood is not an innocent honour. Yes, the Queen’s decision
represents high official recognition for the merits of Indian Writing in
English. But will there be a price to pay, and have we seen the last twist
in the story?

One thing does appear certain: the British establishment, by honouring
Rushdie, has come down on the side of freedom of speech. We may, meanwhile,
expect harsh words on Rushdie and his knighthood in the next weeks from
that section of the British left which today all but rejects that freedom
as a tainted relic of ‘universalist Western values’. Amid all these
complexities, if there is anyone I am missing today to make sense of all
this it is the late Edward Said. No-one could doubt the anti-imperial and
postcolonial credentials of Said, the author of ‘Orientalism’, founder with
Daniel Barenboim of the transcultural East-West Divan Orchestra, and
arch-defender of the Palestinian cause. Said was, however, also an
arch-defender of Rushdie and an unshakeable believer in free speech and
secularism. If anyone’s remarks on Sir Salman would have been worth reading
it would have been his, but, alas, leukemia took him from us when he was
still in his prime. May some young and rising intellectual step into Edward
Said’s shoes and begin now on the task of understanding what exactly
imperial recognition of the postcolonial does and does not mean in our ever
more complex globalising world. Meanwhile, of course the world also awaits
Sir Salman’s own thoughts on the Empire that Knights Back.


Año II, No 6 – Abril 2007, pp. 59-62, la versión española de mi reseña del
Shyama Prasad Ganguly, en la excelente traducción de Esther Monzó, de la
Universidad Jaume I de Castellón. La versión inglesa ha aparecido igualmente, en la India:
RE-MARKINGS (Agra), Vol 6, No 2, Septiembre de 2007, pp. 105-110.

Just published in HOLA NAMASTE, the magazine of the Indian Embassy in
Spain, – Year II, No 6 – April 2007, pp. 59-62 – is the Spanish version of
FROM SPAIN, ed. Shyama Prasad Ganguly, in the excellent translation of
Esther Monzó, of the Universidad Jaume I de Castellón. English version: RE-MARKINGS (Agra, India), Vol 6 No 2, Sept 2007, pp. 105-110.

Detalles del libro / Details of book:
Shyama Prasad Ganguly, ed.,
Quixotic Encounters: Indian Responses to the Knight from Spain
Nueva Delhi: Shipra Publications, 2006, encuadernado en pasta, xv + 162
p., ISBN 81-7541-312-3

The entire magazine, including my review, is on-line at /
La revista entera, mi texto incluído, está en línea en:
The English version of the review is on-line at:


Don Quijote, la obra maestra de Miguel de Cervantes a la que muchos
consideran no sólo la primera sino también la mejor novela escrita en el
mundo occidental, es además un libro que transpira intertextualidad y
traducibilidad y que, desde sus páginas, invoca otras culturas y otros
textos. En el capítulo sexto de la parte I (publicada en 1605), encontramos
al barbero y al sacerdote censuradores recogiendo (y salvaguardando) un
volumen de un autor que no es otro que Miguel de Cervantes; en el tercer
capítulo de la parte II (1615), Don Quijote toma en sus manos un ejemplar
de la primera parte de la misma novela de Cervantes en la que aparece él
mismo; y desde el noveno capítulo de la primera parte, Cervantes adscribe
oficialmente el texto a un escritor árabe ficticio, Cide Hamete Benengeli,
con lo que transforma el libro en una mera traducción, en la que un morisco
anónimo vierte en Toledo la narración desde el árabe hacia el español, para
confiársela después al mundo a través de Miguel de Cervantes. De este modo,
el libro daría a entender que se trata de la traducción de un texto de otra
cultura, y con ello, por muy estrafalaria y arbitraria que pueda parecer
tal reivindicación, se sitúa definitivamente desde sus inicios en el primer
término de un potencial diálogo intercultural a través de la traducción y
la localización.

En este entramado, la historia de la recepción, traducción y apropiación
del Quijote debe de suscitar gran interés en una cultura tan vasta como es
India, en especial al tratarse de un país en el que el inglés está
ampliamente extendido como lengua de lectura, donde se encuentran
fácilmente libros escritos en este idioma y en el que la novela de
Cervantes cuenta con difusión desde hace tiempo, si no ya en castellano
–hay que tener en cuenta que estamos hablando de un país con pocos
conocedores de este idioma–, sí en las distintas traducciones sancionadas
al inglés. El Quijote, además, ocupa una situación especial dentro de la
literatura hispánica, puesto que es todavía la pieza literaria más conocida
de las originadas en España, con Miguel de Cervantes –un autor que sigue
siendo el escritor español de mayor prestigio fuera de las fronteras del
país (sólo el nombre de Lorca podría comparársele de algún modo)– como
abanderado de la producción literaria de toda una cultura nacional. Pese a
la patente importancia del tema, con este nuevo volumen, editado por S. P.
Ganguly, catedrático de estudios hispánicos en la Universidad Jawaharlal
Nehru, de Nueva Delhi, se nos presenta el primer estudio dedicado a las
aventuras de Don Quijote y Sancho Panza en la India. Se trata, por
consiguiente, de un proyecto innovador dentro de los estudios literarios y
culturales, cuya significación no puede infravalorarse; en este sentido, el
valor de la obra es refrendado, de hecho, por un halagador prólogo del
embajador de España en la India, S. E. Rafael Conde de Saro, quien, entre
otras cuestiones, incide en la oportunidad de una aventura que le sigue la
pista al cuarto centenario de la publicación de la primera parte del
Quijote, en el año 2005.

BOB DYLAN: wins Spain’s Prince of Asturias Arts Prize / gana Premio Príncipe de Asturias (Artes)

On 13 June 2007 Bob Dylan was awarded the Prince of Asturias Prize for the
Arts in Spain.
El 13 de junio de 2007, Bob Dylan fue galardonado en España con el Premio
Príncipe de Asturias (variante Artes).

Detailed news in English:

Información detallada en castellano:
lpepucul/20070613elpepucul_3/Tes (El País, 14 de junio de 2007).

Dylan joins Woody Allen, Pedro Almodóvar and Paco de Lucía on the roll-call
of this major Spanish prize, whose International Cooperation variant went
this year to Al Gore.

This award is certainly not surprising in view of Dylan’s high profile in
Spain and the Spanish-speaking world generally. Those interested in
knowinbg more about that subject might care to look at my own study,
‘Guitars and Tarantulas’, at:



I have written an article on this award / He escrito un texto sobre este premio.

Details / detalles:

      ‘Bob Dylan and Spain’s Prince of Asturias Prize for the Arts’, The Bridge (Gateshead, UK), No. 29, Winter 2007, pp. 73-80; on-line at:; versión española,

      ‘Bob Dylan y el Premio Príncipe Asturias de las Artes’, 2007,




I think it’s worth letting my fellow researchers in whatever field know (if
they’re not already aware) that Google Book Search has greatly improved
recently. If you look up a particular book, you are now likely to find
sections (with links) entitled: Reviews, References from Web Pages,
References from Books and References from Scholarly Works (up to ten in
each case). I have tested these functions and find them genuinely useful,
unearthing information and references I was not aware of. Also, I found
numerous references and links to my own and my friends’ publications.
Google Scholar has also improved: it is less well organised but now has a
lot more material, not all of it available on Book Search.
I do strongly recommend that you check out these tools, as they could
substantially enrich your research!


My conribution to “The Salt Companion to Harold Bloom” (see separate blog
entry, also for today) is called ‘On the Stone Raft: Harold Bloom in
Catalonia and Portugal” (pp. 149-169)and concerns Bloom’s interest in
Catalan and Portuguese literature (in the latter case, especially José
Saramago) and the reception of his work in the corresponding language areas.

The full text is on-line at:

Here is am extract:

In 1986, José Saramago – the Portuguese Nobel laureate whom the American
critic Harold
Bloom believes is the greatest living novelist – wrote ‘A Jangada de Pedra’
(‘The Stone Raft’), a magic-realist fiction in which the Iberian peninsula
breaks away from Europe and drifts out into the Atlantic, until it halts at
a location off the Azores, halfway to North America. More recently, the
Yale Professor of Humanities and author of ‘The Western Canon’ and
‘Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human’ has paid significant literary
visits to the Iberian peninsula – Portugal in May 2001, Barcelona in May
2002 – and has both times been welcomed by a reception considerably warmer
than he would be likely to find in his home country, where the antagonisms
persisting between him and much of the university
establishment are notorious. Indeed, Bloom’s trajectory in Portugal and
Catalonia conjures up images of the septuagenarian critic standing on the
‘stone raft’, a lone mariner facing the hostile sea-spray.


Roy Sellars and Graham Allen, eds., THE SALT COMPANION TO HAROLD BLOOM,
Cambridge (UK): Salt , 2007, xxvi + 505 pp., ISBN 978-1-876857
** (description of
book + table of
(extract including complete preface)

This is a brief notice of a collective volume in which I myself have a


No living literary critic and few living intellectuals can aspire to the
controversy rating of the Jewish-American Professor of Humanities at Yale,
Harold Bloom, a figure who over four decades of critical practice has
generated the most striking (or fecund) contradictions around himself. His
defence of the Western canon has caused him to be seen by some as an
opponent of progressive forces (a while back the Argentinian newspaper
‘Clarín’ even referred with a straight face to ‘the conservative Harold
Bloom’) and caused some to see him as all but
New Right, yet he is a fervent opponent of George W. Bush and Christian
fundamentalism. He has made a major contribution to religious studies,
biblical and Kabbalistic, yet warns apocalyptically of a coming ‘New
Theocratic Age’. He is a bête noire in certain feminist circles, yet claims
that key parts of the Old Testament were written by a woman. He is the
author of a literary theory, that of influence anxiety, which is among the
most cited of our times, yet in recent years has championed the common
reader against the dictates of Theory. He is castigated by some as a
turned fogey, yet continues to defend the writers and texts he always has.
He is attacked as the proponent of a narrow canon, as if he were some kind
of F.R. Leavis, yet in his more recent writings has paid attention to more
genres and writers (fiction, drama, and essays; writers from non-anglophone
traditions) than when he was seen as an avant-garde figure while
concentrating almost entirely on anglophone poets.

In reality, Harold Bloom is too large a figure to be tied down to the
Procrustean bed of any single belief-system. The red-rag-to-a-bull
that his name elicits in some quarters are all too often based on a
decontextualised (mis)reading, quite likely at second hand, of one brief
Bloomian text, the preface to ‘The Western Canon’. As a corrective to such
reductionist readings, those seriously interested in textual exegesis may
now turn to the bulky and wide-ranging tribute now on the market, edited by
the devoted Bloomians Roy Sellars and Graham Allen, under the title ‘The
Salt Companion to Harold Bloom’.

The volume consists of a preface by the editors, nine tribute poems (their
authors including Geoffrey Hartman and John Kinsella), 21 critical essays
and an Afterword by Bloom himself. The critical studies of course make up
the greater part, and cover a remarkably wide range of perspectives,
equitably divided between the earlier and later Bloom (a few straddling
both), including reasoned (feminist and gay) critiques and covering both
strictly literary and the more philosophical and theological aspects of the
Bloomian oeuvre. Since this is not a review, I will confine myself to
stressing the recurrent presence across the essays of Freud, Nietzsche,
Derrida and the Kabbala, but also the relative absence of comparisons
between Bloom and other key twentieth-century intellectuals (here Lukács,
Benjamin and Said all spring to mind as possibilities for a fertile
confrontation of texts). More could also have been said on Bloom as a
of literatures other than those in English, and here I would like to think
that my own contribution, ‘On the Stone Raft: Harold Bloom in Catalonia and
Portugal’, points the way forward (how many are aware that Bloom, famous as
an admirer of Milton, Shelley and Whitman, thinks the Catalan poet Salvador
Espriu deserved the Nobel and believes Portugal’s José Saramago is the
greatest living novelist)?

What comes over unforgettably from this book is the sheer richness and
irreducible diversity of Bloom’s work – and how he is one of the great
connectors: in the words of one of the contributors, the Jewish theologian
Moshe Idel, ‘a thinker whose gift for discovering unsuspected affinities
between apparently unrelated corpora is unparalleled’ (371). Finally and
above all, there also transpires from these pages the (unfashionable)
quality that, ultimately, if anything does can be said to define Bloom,
namely the love of literature and the concomitant commitment to its
teaching and defence: as Bloom himself says in his Afterword, ‘I will go on teaching
until I am carried out of my last class’ (487). Meantime, ‘The Salt
Copanion to Harold Bloom’ awaits a suitably aware and polymath reviewer.


NOTE ADDED 19 Feb 08:
In fact, my wish concerning a suitable review for this book has now
effectively been granted, from Brazil – see:

Recensão de: Sellars, Roy, e Allen, Graham (Orgs.). The Salt Companion to Harold Bloom. Cambridge: Salt, 2007. 505 páginas.

Sandra S. F. Erickson

Professora adjunta do Departamento de Letras da UFRN.

Revista "Princípios", Natal, v. 14 n. 21, jan./jun. 2007, p. 294-302.


Note added 28 July 2010:

Details of another review:

Alistair Heys
The Salt Companion to Harold Bloom (review)
The Byron Journal – Volume 38, Issue 1, 2010, pp. 99-102