One of my recent activities with students has been to communicate in emails. I assigned one student from each class to send  me three questions, and answered them in detail. Presented here are two of the questions and their answers.

1.  What are the crucial points to be considered in assessing a text critically?

Being critical has two dimensions. The first has to do with criticizing — showing shortcomings, disagreeing with certain aspects, indicating overstatements and understatements, or questioning the text. This is what you do in Critical Thinking while practicing the four levels of interacting with a text. In this respect, when you write criticism, you use negative remarks and questions such as: “Rushdie’s ideas may not be accepted even by Hindu fundamentalists,” or “Is it good to generalize that faith in gods and authority is a major deterrent to progress?”. The second dimension of being critical has a wider scope than just digging into questionable points. It has to do with showing more than what appears on the surface. You look for both closer and more distant connections of the themes, arguments, and characters. If you say, “In a deeper level of her narratives, Serena Nanda presents her belief that arranged marriages are more binding and permanent,” you are thinking critically. For yet another example of criticality, you can take this remark: “A Nepali reader would find Nanda’s narratives as reflections of the practices in Nepali society.”

A critical thinker tries to examine both implications and associations. Your knowledge of the context to which the text belongs enables you to find more contextual meanings. I want to remind you of two of my examples in the class. I told you that your familiarity with the story of the Mahabharata would shape your understanding of “Yudhisthira’s Wisdom,” and that you were likely to read it being based on your earlier knowledge on the characters of the Pandava brothers. I also told you that I did additional readings of half a dozen different convocation speeches in order to understand Rushdie’s text, and that this helped me see how he departed from the common graduation rituals.

2. What is your favourite novel and who is your favourite writer?

Thanks. Well, it’s tricky. I don’t cherish favourites and idols/ideals. Long back I read a novel by a Belorussian writer in Hindi adaptation, titled Pyar aur Patthar. I can guess its English translation to be “Love and Rock,” but this does not seem to carry the worth. I loved it so much even with my beginner’s Hindi. It was in 1990. I would love to read the novel again, but I have never gotten hold of it despite my searches. Thus, my favourite would be one which leaves me this passion for rereading. I read Lil Bahadur Chhetri’s Brahmaputraka Chheuchhau with the same passion. You may be wondering why I have not mentioned any English novel being an English teacher. I don’t in fact have any language-based preferences. I have loved most of the nineteenth century English novels like Pride and PrejudiceWuthering HeightsThe Scarlet LetterThe Mill on the Floss, Far from the Madding Crowd, Sons and Lovers…. I have read and read literary works of merit.

My favorite writer? Well, the above answer might define. But let me give more than one name: Laxmi Prasad Devkota, Lekhnath Paudyal, Premchand, Leo Tolstoy, D. H. Lawrence and Chinua Achebe. There are many more, though.

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By hkafle

I am a University teacher, with passion for literature and music.

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