Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Report of the 13th International MELOW Conference

Report of the 13th International MELOW Conference

The 13th International MELOW Conference on “In a Wired World: Literature in the Age of Information Technology” organised by Department of English, University of Jammu in collaboration with MELUS-India (The Society for the Study of the Multi-Ethnic Literatures of the United States-India Chapter) and MELOW (The Society for the Study of the Multi-Ethnic Literatures of the World) was inaugurated on 21st Feb 2014 with great fervour and enthusiasm at Zorawar Singh Auditorium, University of Jammu. Prof Mohan Paul Singh Ishar, Hon’ble Vice-Chancellor, University of Jammu was the chief guest and inaugurated the Conference by lighting the traditional lamp. The inaugural function was attended by Prof Sushila Singh, President MELOW, Prof Anil Raina, Vice-President MELOW, Prof ManjuJaidka, Secretary MELOW, Heads of various departments, faculty members, officials from administration, research scholars and the students.
A formal welcome address was given by Prof Satnam Kour, Head, Department of English, University of Jammu.She stressed on how the theme of the conference holds an ultimate significance in present times. She also remarked that with the rise of technology traditional methods of teaching have become a passé now. Prof Manju Jaidka gave background of MELUS-MELOW Association and highlighted how it began with only 7 people and has progressed now with more than 700 members. Prof Anil Raina acquainted the audience with the theme of the conference and focused on how technology has led to a sea-change in the dissemination of literature in the present times.
The inaugural ceremony progressed further with the release of souvenir of the conference and MELUS-MELOW Journal by the chief guest, Prof M.P.S. Ishar. He also congratulated the Association and Department of English, University of Jammu for organizing a conference on such an innovative theme. The inaugural ceremony concluded with a formal vote of thanks by Dr Ravinder Singh, Organizing Secretary of the Conference.
The first plenary session was chaired by Prof ManjuJaidka wherethe presidential address was given by Prof Sushila Singh. She spoke about the novel ways of teaching that are coming up in the digital world of today. She concluded her presidential address with an open question whether we should accept the new methods of teaching and learning or should we yearn for the traditional ones? Thekeynote address was given by Prof Girish Nath Jha, Associate Professor, Computational Linguistics, Special centre for Sanskrit studies, JNU.He talked about the diversity of Indian languages and literature, and their competition with dominant languages of the world. He enlightened the audience by emphasizing the role of Information Technology in promoting Indian languages and literature.
The plenary session was followed by parallel sessions,in which around 17 scholars and students from across the nation presented their papers on a variety of topics related to the theme of the conference.The topics covered included relationship between arts and politics, use of blogs in promoting literary works, cinematic and television adaptations of literature, impact of poetry on popular music culture,negative impact of Techno-Science on Contemporary Literature, impact of Post-Modern age upon the creative sensibilities of writers, and many more. Each parallel session was followed by scholarly discussions on the papers.
The evening was rounded off by a cultural programme. The chief guest for the occasion was Mrs Leda Singh Isher. Honourable Vice Chancellor Prof M. P. S. Ishar also graced the occasion with his presence. Prof Satnam Kour, Head, Department of English, University of Jammu, along with dignitaries, faculty members, scholars and students were also present on the occasion. The evening commenced with mesmerizing Ganpati Vandana which was followed by the Kashmiri,Ladakhi&Dogri folk dances depicting the traditional glimpses of the three parts of the state, Jammu & Kashmir. The other attractions of the evening included modeling in traditional attires and the performance of a play on the theme of domestic violence based on the plays of G.B.Shaw, Mahesh Dattani and Tennessee Williams. The cultural bonanza concluded with an energetic and entertaining Punjabi Bhagra performed by the students of Department of English, University of Jammu.
Day two of the Conference began with the Parallel Sessions in which 13 papers were presented on the topics that covered relationship between print and digital media, impact of virtual reality on the narratology, moral and ethical values of comic books, camera as a metaphor in fiction, adaptation of myths, folklore and fairy-tales into animations and feature films, young adult literature, adaptations of literature as critiques and many more.
The Parallel Sessions were followed by first Plenary Session of the day which was chaired by Prof Sushi Datta-Sandhu. The speaker in this session was Dr T. Ravichandran. He presented a paper titled “Posthuman/Transhuman: The Human Erasure or the Cyborgian Future?” In his paper, he talked about the impact of cybernetics, artificial intelligence, robotics, genetic engineering and nanotechnology on the study of literature, culture and society today. He opined that due to cyberculture human beings are transformed into cybernetic organisms or Cyborgs, and replicants.
The second Plenary Session was chaired by Prof ManjuJaidka in which the Isaac Sequira Memorial lecture was delivered by Prof DeepsheekhaKotwal. She presented her paper titled “Teaching Shakepear and G. M. Shah: The Dilemma of English Language Teaching”. Her main focus was on the change English language and literature has experienced over the last three decades. In a diverse country like India accent of people from various regions would be different but language should not be corrupted. According to her, internet provides information but at the same time it also leads to disinformation. Technology can be a boon but only when it is put to a thoughtful use. She enthralled the audience with the anecdotes from various experiences of her life.
ISM lecture was followed by the paper reading by the scholars who were nominated for the ISM Award. The session was chaired by Prof SatnamKour.The first speaker was DrMeenu Gupta. The title of her paper was “A Fairy-tale in the Wired World: A Study of LittleRed Riding Hood” in which she talked about fairy tales doing well in Electronic Age which have undergone transformations not only in form but also in content. The second speaker was MsNeepa Sarkar who presented a paper titled “Misty Memories in a ‘Technologised’, Global World: Looking at the Select Works of Anzaldua, Marquez and Pamuk. In this paper, she looked into the link between memory and globalization in a technologically driven time. The third speaker was DrDebayan Deb Barman and he presented a paper titled “Re-reading Shakespeare’s Macbeth through Film: The Case of Akira Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood (1957) and Vishal Bhardwaj’s Maqbool(2003). In the age of films, adaptations and re-interpretations of literary classics have become significant creative-critical enterprises and his paper focused on two classic film adaptations of Macbeth. The last speaker of the session was DrSangeeta Singh whose paper was titled “Defining, Re-fashioning and Preserving Literature in the Digital World: Gains and Intimidations”. Her paper examined how literature is re-fashioning itself with the transition from print to hypertext in present times. The session was followed by scholarly discussions on the papers presented. In the end DrMeenu Gupta was declared the winner of the ISM Award by Prof SatnamKour.
The evening was rounded off by a bonfire arranged by the department of English in which students of the department displayed their musical talent by playing songs on guitar.
The third day of the Conference began with the parallel sessions in which 20 papers were presented on various topics like Graphic Novels, strength of media in giving literature a second life, reinterpretation of classics in modern times through film adaptations, pros and cons of using technology in research, future ramifications of the machine-man relationship, decline of oral tradition in the present scenario, genre of Science Fiction, use of audio books as a means of imparting literature, representation of partition trauma through cinema & television and many others.
Later in the day, a panel discussion was held which was chaired by Prof Sushila Singh. She spoke about the future of literary culture in the present age of technology. She also raised a question whether printed books could be totally replaced by technology. The first speaker of the session was Prof Roshan Sharma who talked about a new approach to literature brought by technology. He stressed on the need to understand the changes in Post- Human era caused by changing media. The next speaker Prof ManjuJaidka focused on how technology helps in research works by keeping a check on plagiarism and connecting people all over the world. The last speaker Prof Anil Raina remarked that books are not under threat in the immediate future. The job of good literature is to give expression to new things and technology is an additional tool for literature to survive. The panel discussion concluded with the remarks of Prof Sushila Singh who said that with the help of technology classics are made available even to those who do not read the classics but there is a need to re-interpret classics to suit contemporary times.
Panel discussion was followed by the General Body Meeting of the MELOW in which the venue and theme of the next conference was decided. The next conference will be held in February 2015 in Chandigarh and the theme will be “Damn The Book: Gag The Voice: Literature and Censorship”

Report compiled by:

Dr. Sadaf Shah, Sr. Assistant Professor, Department of English, University of Jammu

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