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Boston Review: Poetry Reviews

Sakhawat Hossain is currently an assistant professor at the Department of English, Rajshahi University. He obtained his BA Hons. Sakhawat has an extensive reading on Joseph Conrad. Fahmida Rahman completed her BA Hons. He presently works in the Literature Department of Kenyatta University. Murimi has been involved extensively in drama productions, and has special interest in postcolonial studies, folklore and storytelling performance. Namrata is a poet, painter and script-writer. He had graduated from the same University. He has specialised in Literary Theory and Translation Studies, and has published a number of articles in these areas both in Bangla and English.

For his doctoral research he is dealing with the issues of culture, politics and authenticity in the theory and practice of Translation.

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Mamun has a vast reading in Bangla literature, and he writes poems in Bangla some of which have appeared in different literary magazines. He completed her BA Hons. He is particularly interested in Cultural Studies, and in fictional narratives from the British and American canons as well as writings in other Englishes. Besides, Tariq has expertise in Translation Theory and Practice.

He is interested in New Literatures in English, especially fictional narratives from the South Asian Diaspora, on which he has published several papers in reputed journals. At present he is working on an anthology of Bangladeshi Writings in English. Professor Aali Areefur Rehman has been teaching at the Rajshahi University of Bangladesh since , and today, he is one of the most respected English professors of the country.

He refused to tread the usual track.

Professor Aali had joined the undergraduate programme in the Department of English at Rajshahi University in After his graduation from the same university, he went on a Commonwealth scholarship for another Masters in Shakespeare Studies from the University of Birmingham, UK. His literary pieces, short fiction in particular, reveal that he has good hands at creative writing too. However, he has not written much.

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In his own individual scholarly way he resisted this intellectual superficiality; he refused to fit in with this core culture in the current academia: the publication-obsession. He is interested in diverse branches of knowledge: history, philosophy, comparative religion and so on. He is also a keen observer of contemporary life and society, culture and politics, and is uncannily update on the recent developments in literary writings and critical scholarship. In this interview, he has made some predictions regarding what course this field may take in future, and has also suggested some directions regarding what course it should take.

For the interviewers this was clearly a hard-earned success when they were finally able to make this complete unwilling-to-be-published English professor succumb to interview-injuries for the first time in his more than four-decade long career as a scholar-writer. I think interviews make you feel more important than you really are, and in trying to live up to that importance you let your tongue run away with you and slip into inconsistencies and platitudes and affectation and what not — into infidelities, in short, to fact and reason that may come back to haunt you or blast your public image or, worse, prick the ego that you have spent years in nurturing.

Though of course we can think of not just English studies but our whole system of education as basically an English i. Our schools and universities, the subjects we study in them, the titles of the degrees we get from them, have been inherited from the British. I think we are only now beginning to emerge from these western ways, changing to newer ways — though I rather think that most educators of my age would see this not so much as simple change but as a regression or fall in standards.

The perception is that when we were more English or western in our ways of study, we had more rigorous standards. Most people of my generation will probably agree at the same time that there has been a very palpable decline in educational standards all over the world, even in western nations, and not just in our country. I think it is possible that English might very well NOT be with us as an international and commercial language.

Western countries are already beginning to learn some Chinese. Where we are concerned, we sell to the West — our exports go mostly to the US and to the EU — but buy , like the rest of the world, from China. Our businessmen are soon going to be demanding Chinese language courses. And they will be quite right to do so. China will soon be the new super power in all sorts of ways and we might be impelled to learn Chinese for the same reason that we learn English now.

But yes, joking aside, the English language in some form — though perhaps not as English studies — will indeed be with us for a considerable time into the future. For English has infiltrated, in bits and pieces, into Bangladeshi life and language to such an extent that it will be hard to reverse the process.

Almost all levels of society in our country use English words without being really conscious that they are using a foreign tongue. In fact, there is so much English in modern colloquial Bangla that it is needless to give examples. One of my favourite examples, nevertheless, of how English has been retained in Bangladesh is the names and sign-boards of Bangladeshi small shops and businesses and various kinds of offices. By far the majority among them are written in Bangla script that is actually transliterated English. Many other descriptive phrases in the language we speak today are unalterably English.

Imports and borrowings from English have actually grown since independence, although code-switching — using two languages together — is actually declining. Fewer people these days, it seems to me, begin a sentence in Bangla and end it in English, or vice versa, as used to be common when I was a student.

Code switching has declined, while the integration of English into Bangla in bits and pieces or words and phrases has grown, I think, because it is really English that has declined. It would be interesting to conduct research on this linguistic and cultural phenomenon, and I am sure someone somewhere is already doing it. Could you differentiate your experience as an individual user of this language, we mean English, from that of an academic practitioner dealing in it?

Bangla and Bengali culture dominate because this country is after all Bangladesh, almost a mono-cultural and certainly a mono-linguistic country. We do not, in Bangladesh, have a number of languages competing for ascendancy, as once was the case when we were part of Pakistan. English — the language as well as the study of its ancillaries — is of course subordinate to Bangla and the national culture. What I mean is, for everyone in the Bangladesh academy, it is the study of everything else relating to Bangladesh that is far more important than the study of English.

If English is at all important in the academy then it is as the language for the study of a host of other things and subjects, and I rather think it is more important in the sciences than in the humanities. In the other disciplines it is of course a mere instrument, a tool, and not much else.

And indeed that is how most of our academics use English; they learn the language only far enough to be able to research their topics and to produce a learned paper on the topic. What we call English Studies and I am here excluding language learning does not enter into any consideration at all. And I might add, perhaps, that a very little English is sufficient to produce a learned paper on other subjects.

How would I differentiate between using the English language as an individual and as a professional? Well, I suppose I do use English rather a lot. Most of my reading is in English, I write personal letters in English and enjoy doing so, I think I speak best in English I mean communicate, of course, and not my fluency , I switch to English whenever I am stuck for an appropriate word or expression, and I do a variety of other things in English.

Think, dream, curse and abuse, for example. Some part, though not all, of my prayers are in English. And oh yes, I can sing too — untunefully but bravely — in English. Clearly, as this short list shows, I have carried English a little too far in my individual or private life. The matter, however, as both Sherlock Holmes and Jeeves would have said, is susceptible of a ready explanation. My excessive dependence, let me call it, on English is due to the fact that my early education was in English medium schools.

Moreover, my educational career before my SSC was an interrupted one and somewhat unsystematic. I only attended school for around five years of my life, including a year of kindergarten, and as a result studied mostly at home, and mostly by myself without a teacher or tutor before taking my SSC as a private candidate. English became the language of the education I gave myself in my at-home studies and self-selected reading.

It was also the language that I picked up automatically from life around me: during my boyhood and youth English was heard and seen to a much greater degree than it is today, in public as well as in private.

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Thus it happened that much of my mental life, so to speak, is even now in English. In this, of course, I am not alone; many thousands of my contemporaries across all the countries of South Asia I would say are much the same. As part of the generation of the nineteen-forties and fifties, we are perhaps the last of the colonials rather than the first of the post-colonials, brought up and educated in the dying but not yet dead glow of Empire.

My use of the language in my professional field is as I described academic English earlier; it is a tool or an instrument in a particular discipline as well as part of the requirements of my employment as a university teacher.