REPORT ON PROF. LAKSHMI BANDLAMUDI'S LECTURE

Under the Occasional Lecture Series of the Forum on Contemporary Theory we organized a talk by Professor Lakshmi Bandlamudi, Professor of Psychology at LaGuardia Community College , City University of New York on 29 November 2010 on “Bakhtin on Aesthetic Vision and Carnivalized Consciousness.” Professor Bandlamudi has published several papers in reputed journals and has presented papers at several international conferences in the areas connecting myths, culture, history and consciousness. Her research work is grounded on the theoretical foundations of two Russian thinkers: the literary critic, Mikhail Bakhtin and socio-historical epistemologist Lev Vygotsky. She has compared the works of Mikhail Bakhtin with those of Sanskrit Grammarian and philosopher Bhartrhari, and with another philosopher of Aesthetics from India , Abhinavagupta. In all her varied works, her main focus and goal is to promote dialogic consciousness. Her latest book Dialogics of Self, ‘the Mahabharata’ and Culture: The History of Understanding and Understanding of History (Anthem Press UK , 2010) is an interdisciplinary work.

In all her varied works, her main focus and goal is to promote dialogic consciousness. Dialogic consciousness makes a polyvalent understanding possible while dealing with complex texts with multilayered and polyphonic narratives. She also discussed the carnivalesque spaces as sites for celebratory participation and argued that they are not purely Utopic. Carnival for Bakhtin is a context in which distinct individual voices are heard, paid heed to and intermingle. The carnival opens up the possibilities of situations wherein regular conventions are subverted or reversed, thus making genuine dialogue possible. To Bakhtin, laughter in carnival dissipates fear, encourages free enquiry, removal of pain understood as physical discomfort and mental anxiety. The carnival spirit, laughing on the public sphere, is not only radically democratic with freedom to participate by every citizen, aristocratic, but also healthy. Illustrating the role of grotesque humour and performativity of body in carnivalesque spaces, she pondered on the possible heteroglossic readings of the works of several writers mentioned in Bakhtin's texts. She remarked that ancient Indian texts are also open to a dialogic understanding and they need not be treated as closed narratives yielding to a particular kind of interpretation only. Her emphasis on the notion of answerability in Bakhtin was interesting and enlightening.  In the discussion, she addressed questions on Bakhtinian concepts like chronotope and the polyphonic nature of literary texts.