Monday, September 8, 2008

East is East .....

In our course, we are encountering Western treatments of an entirely different civilisation and thus some puzzled is expected at first engagement.

The intention is to allow you to encounter a foreign civilisation .... as a foreign civilisation. The (to me unsatisfactory) alternative is to intellectually colonise the other civilisation - to facilely experience that culture as if it were merely an exotic outpost of one's own. The following passage from
C.S. Lewis, concerning the reading of old books, applies nicely, mutatis mutandis, to these two alternatives:

There are, I know, those who prefer not to go beyond the impression, however accidental, which an old work makes on a mind that brings to it a purely modern sensibility and modern conceptions: just as there are travellers who carry their resolute Englishry with them all over the Continent, mix only with other English tourists, enjoy all they see for its 'quaintness', and have no wish to realise what those ways of life, those churches, those vineyards, mean to the natives. I have no quarrel with people who approach the past in that spirit. I hope they will pick none with me. But I was writing for the other sort.
For my own sensibility, I recoil from the philistine manner in which ideologies (-isms, -ologies, -ianities) self-righteously and unfeelingly plough under the subtleties & individual delights of any cultural or artistic entity unfortunate enough to beome their target of, quote, study, unquote.

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