Michelle Cliff’s novel ‘Abeng’set in post-British Jamaica, where the protagonist’s mother recalls that the only thing she learnt at school was “a silly poem ‘Daffodils'”. I was quite surprised by these remarks, but on a second thought I felt that there is some logic in what the elderly lady says, because the main reason behind the candid remarks was the stereotyped curricula that was based on texts by British authors. In this regard, I would like to share my experience as a student of English literature and Indian writings in English at the graduate level in the early 1950s. Besides the poem ‘Daffodils’, we studied Chandalika, Muktadhara, Jim Davis, Mayor of Casterbridge, among others. However, we had no liking for these works of the great masters of literature as we did not feel comfortable with the literary texts set in archaic English, which were as such difficult to comprehend, even though the purpose of teaching and study of English literature in original English was to instill universal moral values into the sensitive minds of young readers, no wonder, it had the effect of a scarecrow on their minds and they not only regarded a poem as “silly”, but also gave nicknames in jest to certain poets– Wrong Fellow for Longfellow, William Worthless for William Wordsworth, for instance. Even though said in jest, it did signify that we were capable of unbounded stupidity, however.
B. S Saini,