Poetry in a Time of Terror

Rukmini Bhaya Nair
Publisher's Name: 
Oxford University Press
Publication Date: 
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Physical Description: 
Hardcover, 231 pages
About the book: 
If the law of poetry is that it is ambiguous, then, equally, the law of terror is that it equivocates. Poetry in a Time of Terror explores the fundamental conflict between these two seemingly similar but in fact dramatically different codes invented by human society. Literature survives in all human cultures because it acts as an evolutionary safeguard against that fatal terror of 'the other' that has always led the human race to wage war against itself. The essays in this volume dwell on the poetic stances assumed by 'terror' in relation to nation, language, translation, borders, gender, sexuality, and other forms of difference. Rukmini Bhaya Nair's original insight is that terror in its various forms is not necessarily best probed by military intelligence alone but by types of 'counter intelligence' belonging to quite another realm of the human imagination. Poems, Nair argues, even the most everyday ones, are our first language when confronted with the incomprehensible, with sublime joy, or with terror out of the sky. They are veritable texts of crisis. A number of challenging questions arise from this foundational premise. What connects our 'new' postcolonial, transnational anxieties to the rampant celebrations of cruelty and torture that have been the subject of poetry from humankind's earliest epics? How can an individual poet define her voice in the face of the overwhelming presence of earlier, often dead, poets' voices? is poetry the antithesis of terror or is it terror's very essence? Written in a lyrical and inviting style and supported by writings ranging from Freud, Hegel, and Barthes to Bhartåhari, Kabir, and Tagore, this book will appeal to lovers of poetry, as well as to scholars and researchers in the fields of literature, philosophy, linguistics, history, and gender and cultural studies.