Thursday, 13 January 2011

Joenerosity and Prof. Gayatri Spivak

   "In having graced us with his presence and given so amply of his talents and his time, Prof. Chatterjee has displayed, not personal generosity merely, but- pray pardon the pun- professional joenerosity!'
   It was, the late, Vice Chancellor Soundarajan Malaiperumal, still referred to as the Mahaffy- Oscar Wilde's whilom mentor and mirror of wit- of Mysore, who addressed this charming compliment to Prof. A.M. Chatterjee on the occassion of his resignation from the Annamalai faculty.
   The audience of under-graduates, which included my esteemed Great Uncle, the late 'Hitler' Sheshadri, became utterly incontinent with laughter at the pickled Vice Chancellor's piquant paronomosia.
   Prof. Chatterjee, however, was not amused.
   Indeed, his appreciation of Tamil humor had declined in inverse proportion to his perfervid umbrage at the College magazine's incorrigible and ergodic exegesis of Common Report's reiterated assertion that his research on Shakespeare's role in the management of the Mermaid was motivated entirely by a, characteristically and exclusively, Bengali preoccupation with the erotic possibilities suggested by not the  human upper, but the hilsa lower, half of that mythical beauty of the briny Deep- ribald comment regarding which dominated the dissertations of the Doctoral candidates under his supervision, to the permanent depravement, it is tragic to note, of their vegetarian commitment in later life- as, per example, 'Hitler' Sheshadri, my revered Great Uncle, whose habit of raining down rotting fish-heads, from 'the Gods',upon sub-standard performers secured his position as the doyen of the Carnatic Music Critic fraternity- that too at the lowest recorded tariff of professional perjury.

   Taking up teaching duties at Calcutta, Prof. Chatterjee- happening to rescue a child-widow from the flames of a Suttee fire (a habit his Cambridge education had inculcated) - absent mindedly averred, perfunctorily apostrophizing Enlightenment, to his still unassuaged anguish at his Dravidian debacle while haranguing the little girl. The South Indian habit of laughing heartily at the boss's bad puns- especially when they were entirely meaningless- like 'joenerosity'- had cut his heart to the quick. The feudal mind-set, the practice revealed, militated against his dreams of progress for India. The little girl- glad that she hadn't been rusticated for being caught smoking a cigarette- lucky for her, the Professor had swallowed her story that, being a ghoti Refugee, this was the only means to self-immolation her in-law's stratitened means permitted- was profoundly impressed by the great Scholar's diatribe.


   There and then, she resolved to leave India and become a Professor at Columbia. That little girl's name was Gayatri. By her own dogged efforts and no inner direction- other than that afforded by her own feral instincts- she strategically out-sourced and tactically espoused a rare breed of Spivak- for reasons now opaque- such, then, being the Spirit of the Times- but rather bridle than bridal- with the breaking of that hymen- a Chakroborty, alas!, she restively remains. But, no, more, not a mere Chakravatin, it is as an Avenger- so to speak- of Prof. Chatterjee, that mightily she has risen.


   As a scholar of Yeats- that 'landless landlord'- she steadfastly scorned to acknowledge the truth of what Joyce- that 'shiftless tenant'- had had to say to him, and, by the same token, failed to see that the highest wit is characterized by irrelevant allusion, the highest criticism distinguished by impassable, incompossible, cognition, the highest literary theory not neither literary nor theory- like her own work- but, itself heteroclite to its project, being univocally linked to its object by but- as per example- my great Uncle 'Hitler' Sheshadri's unceasing belly laugh at the Vice Chancellor's 'joenerosity'.

1 comment:

Shiela said...

Joenerosity- refers to Uncle Joe- Joseph Stalin.
The pun is actually of American provenance- it was a covert way of suggesting that a person or organization which appeared to be disinterested in its philantropy or opposition to institutionalised injustice, was in fact a 'fellow traveller' or Communist front.