The IUP Journal of English Studies
Mapping the Trajectory of Power Relations in Academia: A Close Reading of Amitabha Bagchi's Above Average

Article Details
Pub. Date : March, 2020
Product Name : The IUP Journal of English Studies
Product Type : Article
Product Code : IJES52003
Author Name : Averi Mukhopadhyay
Availability : YES
Subject/Domain : Arts & Humanities
Download Format : PDF Format
No. of Pages : 22

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Abstract

Academia represents society at its microcosmic level where students, teachers, administrators, and parents across diverse regions, religions, classes, races, castes, and genders interact with each other. Camaraderie between students and students, faculty and students, faculty and parents, faculty and faculty, and students and administrators develop. This paper argues that the bonhomie existing between the major participants in academia is marked by the interference of power, whereby the one wielding more power by virtue of one's position, class, race, caste, or gender tries to dictate the terms of a particular relationship. A specific code of conduct regarding speech, behavior, dress, thought, writing, love, and life is laid down for all-from professors to students and administrators to parents. The paper calls attention to the fact that embracing fixed roles defined by ideological prejudices, hierarchical divisions, and oppression implies the birth of "power relations" as well as an acceptance of the same. The paper examines, in particular, the trajectory of "power relations" in the light of the course of action defined by power for everyone in academia. However, power in general serves not only to suppress the powerless but is also productive. The paper aims to show how in a specific location as academia as described in Amitabha Bagchi's Above Average, countering power with power creates a proper kind of resistance that blurs the difference between "power" and "resistance" in "power relations."


Introduction

"Academy," founded by Plato in Athens in Greece, is the first school of the Western world, and with the establishment and popularity of this institution, the Latin word "" came into usage. The English word "academia"-which has its etymological origin in the Latin term ""-was included in the English language lexicon sometime between 1945 and 1950, and signifies, according to Dictionary.com,1 "the milieu or interests of a university, college, or academy; academe." Academe is one of the world's most socially heterogeneous societies where students, teachers, administrators, and parents across diverse regions, religions, classes, races, castes, and genders interact with each other. The academic environment and community essentially concerned with the pursuit of research, scholarship, and education in colleges and universities, as such, has garnered a lot of interest in those outside the domain of academy as well as those who constitute that world itself. To suit the needs and tastes of the readers, a specific genre called the "academic novels," alternatively known as "campus novels," came into being in the middle of the twentieth century. As Shaw (1981, 44) says, the term "genre" is used "deliberately" since the academic novel-"that is, a novel partially or completely set against a University background, whose plot deals with typical academic activities, and having as its protagonist a University student or teacher-may be legitimately described, it is felt, as belonging to a specific literary genre." This genre, though relatively new, has precursors from the nineteenth century. Boys (1946), in an article, mentions that more than thirty novels describing life in the American colleges were published in the late nineteenth century. According to Boys (1946, 380), one of the first writers to wake up to the possibilities of the subject was Charles M Flandrau, whose Harvard Episodes (1897) and The Diary of a Freshman (1900) may have paved the way for the burst of novels about the American college in the twentieth century, the literary possibilities of which are slowly but surely being recognized. In fact, Harvard Episodes is considered to be the first attempt in America to treat college life honestly. Then, there are references of Oxford and Cambridge education system in the works of Victorian novelists like Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873), Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881), William Thackeray (1811-1863), Charles Reade (1814-1884), Anthony Trollope (1819-1882), George Eliot (1819-1880), Samuel Butler (1835-1902), and Thomas Hardy (1840-1928). Yet, academic novels, in the sense they are described above by Shaw, originated in America with Mary McCarthy's The Groves of Academe, published in 1952.


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