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Sri Aurobindo as a Critic

  • K. D. Verma

Abstract

Radhakrishanan has called Aurobindo “the greatest intellectual of our age.”1 Is this tribute meant to recognize the poet of Savitri, the prophetic mind of The Life Divine, the philosopher of The Psychology of Social Development (The Human Cycle) and The Ideal of Human Unity or the interpreter of the Gita? Indeed, Aurobindo is mostly known as a philosopher and a poet, but his stature as critic remains somewhat unassessed—and deeply undervalued—and perhaps overshadowed by the unsurpassed brilliance and originality of his work in other areas.2 Whatever the merits of the three long essays in Significance of Indian Art, this volatile document shows Aurobindo’s successful attempt to offer his interpretation of Indian art based on his theory of the expansion of consciousness and the Indian idea of rasa-bhava-ananda, derived from Bharata’s Natya Shastra.3 Aurobindo has used these ideas in The Future Poetry (1917–20) on a larger scale, but this time the subject is the English language and literature, especially poetry. One must say unhesitatingly that The Future Poetry is an important and unique document in literary history and critical theory. In the introductory essay, Aurobindo straightforwardly and candidly refers to his reading of James Cousins’s New Ways in English Literature, that possibly provided the imrnediate context to a series of essays in the Arya.4 Aurobindo admits that since his “departure from England quarter of a century ago” all connections with contemporary English literature had come to “a dead stop” and that he had kept abreast only with contemporary continental literature. His last discovery of a poet in English literature, states Aurobindo, was Meredith.5

Keywords

Critical Theory Indian Imagination Evolutionary Progress Eternal Truth Paradise Lost 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    Cited in D. MacKenzie Brown, Indian Political Thought from Manu to Gandhi (Berkeley: U of California P, 1958) 124.Google Scholar
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    See, for example, C. D. Narasimhaiah’s essay “Aurobindo: Inaugurator of Modern Indian Criticism,” Journal of South Asian Literature 24.1 (1989): 87–103 where he criticizes K. R. Srinivasa Iyengar for not paying adequate attention to Aurobindo’s work as a critic.Google Scholar
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    See Aurobindo’s introductory essay in The Future Poetry vol. 9 of Sri Aurobindo Birth Centenary Library Edition of Collected Works 30 vols. (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1970–72).Google Scholar
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    Cited in Basil Willey, Samuel Taylor Coleridge (New York: Norton, 1973) 15.Google Scholar
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    See Vinayak Krishana Gokak’s discussion in Sri Aurobindo: Seer and Poet (New Delhi: Abhinav, 1973) 107ff.Google Scholar
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    F. H. Bradley, in Appearance and Reality: A Metaphysical Essay 2nd ed., introd. Richard Wollheim (London: Oxford UP, 1969), notes the problem of “human-divine self-consciousness” in these lines of Shelley’s poem (396 n1).Google Scholar
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    Oscar Wilde cited by Laurence Binyon in his “Introductory Memoir,” Songs of Love and Death by Manmohan Ghose, 3rd ed. (Calcutta: U of Calcutta, 1968) 15.Google Scholar
  44. 57.
    See Terry Eagleton’s conclusion in Literary Theory: An Introduction (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1983) 194ff.Google Scholar

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© K. D. Verma 2000

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