Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Newsletter Feb 2013

Chandigarh 8-10 Feb 2013

The 12th international conference of MELOW on “Patterns of Story Telling: Traditions, Innovations, Visions and Revisions” was held at Panjab University, Chandigarh. This year it dovetailed into the Fourth Chandigarh Festival of Letters (organized by the Chandigarh Sahitya Akademi) which was inaugurated by Sh KK Sharma, Adviser to the Administrator. Presiding over the event was the Vice-Chancellor of Panjab University, Prof AK Grover.  

Prof Cheryl Johnson, from the Miami U of Ohio, gave the keynote for the MELOW Conference. Her presentation was entitled “A Simple, Awful Truth: African American Storytelling and the Pursuit of Freedom” and the subject was slave narratives. She focused on the agony, pain and fear in the writings of AfroAmerican memoirs. The keynote set the tone for the conference which focused on different aspects of story-telling, adaptations and revisions. The opening session was followed by four parallel sessions in which twelve different papers were presented by visiting delegates. 

In the evening a special programme was held for the visiting delegates. Irshad Kamil, lyricist-poet who is an alumnus of Panjab University, interacted with the audience in a late evening session. He spoke of popular and elitist literature, talked about the difference between poetry and film songs, critiquing the reasons why there is sometimes a bias against the latter. Irshad's session was greatly appreciated by the audience who wanted him to recite more and more of his poetry.

The second day began with several parallel sessions that were conducted smoothly, keeping to a strict time schedule.  By lunch time more than forty registered delegates of the conference had presented papers on different aspects of the theme. These were divided into fifteen parallel sessions that ran back-to-back through the morning. The post-lunch sessions were devoted to Conference papers again, with fifteen more scholars presenting their papers in six different sessions.  Chairing these sessions were senior scholars from Chandigarh and also from other parts of the country. Several foreign delegates also presented papers.

The highlight of the evening was another interactive CSA session with two budding creative writers who have scaled the heights of success: Vikram Sampath from Bangalore, best known for his novel My Name is Gauhar Jaan, and Siddhartha Gigoo, author of the acclaimed novel The Garden of Solitude. Listening to these two very young writers was a delightful experience.  Present at the evening session was Shri KK Sharma,  the Adviser to the Administrator, who evidently enjoyed the sessions with the writers.

On the final day of the MELUS-MELOW Conference there were more than thirty scholarly presentations in nine parallel sessions and one plenary. The highlight of the day was the special Isaac Sequeira Memorial Session in which three outstanding papers by young scholars were presented.  In memory of the late Professor Isaac Sequeira (of Osmania University) who was a leading academician and the patron of MELUS-India and MELOW, the ISM Award is given to a scholar below forty years of age for the best conference presentation. It is essential that competing scholars should meet all necessary deadlines for submission of abstracts and full papers. Thereafter, the written papers are evaluated by a panel of senior professors and three best papers are selected for presentation in the ISM Session of the conference. The award is highly prestigious and hotly coveted by younger scholars.

This year there were 27 abstracts submitted for the ISM Award, of which 10 were long-listed. The ten full papers were then evaluated and three were shortlisted for final presentation.  Navreet Sahi, PhD scholar from the English Dept of Panjab University, competed for the award with Garima Williams of Kanpur and Sangeeta Singh of Hamirpur. The competition was very close as all three presentations were outstanding and it was very difficult for the judges (senior professors: Sushila Singh of BHU, Mukesh Williams from Japan, and Meera Malik from Chandigarh) to arrive at a decision. Finally the award went to Garima Williams but the other two candidates were also highly commended by the judges. The award comprises a certificate and a cash prize of Rs. 5,000. Professor Sushila Singh delivered the special ISM Lecture. Her subject was  'Art of Self-Telling: Reading Annie Besant's An Autobiography' and it blended well with the conference theme.

The final Vote of Thanks brought to a satisfactory conclusion the three-day festival of letters. There was a glow of happiness on all faces, the sense of satisfaction that comes from an enriching experience.

A General Body Meeting was held in which several decisions were taken. The main points discussed are listed below. 

·       The GBM began with a statement of accounts by the treasurer, Anil Raina, which was passed by the General Body.  Although the society is in good financial health, it was proposed that there was a need to increase the delegate fee for future conferences. The exact amount would be decided by the host institution after working out the costs.
·       Revised papers of this conference (2013) should be submitted for possible publication to by the 1st of March 2013.
·       The venue for the next conference was discussed. There were several delegates from Jammu who volunteered to hold the conference at Jammu University.  A proposal also came in from Lovely Professional University, Jalandhar.  The house discussed the matter and it was decided that (i) the next international conference in 2014 would be held in Jammu; and (ii) LPU may think of hosting a smaller regional / local conference / seminar. Formal proposals need to be submitted, however, detailing the time schedule and the format of the proposed events.
·       The theme for the next conference has to be finalized. Tentatively, the house agreed on “In a Wired World: Literature in the Age of Information Technology”. The final title along with the concept note will be circulated soon. Meanwhile suggestions from delegates are welcome.
·       Time and date:  the host institution will decide on the date of the next conference and convey the same at the earliest. Deadlines for abstracts, etc will be announced thereafter.
·       The following Office Bearers were elected for the next two conferences:

President: Prof Sushila Singh, BHU, Varanasi.
Vice-President: Prof Anil Raina, PU, Chandigarh.
Secretary: Prof Manju Jaidka, PU, Chandigarh.
Jt. Secy: Dr Manpreet Kaur, IPU, Delhi.
Treasurer: Dr Meenu Gupta, PU, Chandigarh.

Executive Members:
§  Prof Ashis Sengupta (Darjeeling
§  Dr Vijay Sharma (Delhi)
§  Dr A. Hari Prasad (Hyderabad)
§  Dr Roshan Sharma (Solan, HP)
§  Dr RG Kulkarni (Sangli)
§  Dr Pranav Joshipura (Gujrat)
§  Dr Seema Bhupendra (Rajasthan)
§  Dr Neela Sarkar (WB)
§  Dr Ravinder Singh (Jammu)
§  Dr Jyoti Mishra (CG)
Advisory Board:
• Prof Paul Giles, Oxford University 
• Prof Mukesh Williams, Soka University, Japan
• Prof Sushi Dutta-Sandhu, U Mich, Kalamazoo, USA
• Prof E. Nageswara Rao, Hyderabad

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