Critical lens for reading Dalrymple

Kali from
Kali from

Reflect on the discussion today on the extract from Dalrymple’s The Age of Kali and how the critical point of view  shaped the way you understood and thought about the text.

Post your reflections as comments to this post tonight.

Come back and read each other’s comments and reply to at least 2 other people’s comments by Sunday February 24 at 9.00 pm.

Author: alavina

Cognitive Coach and author. I simplify personal power so you can use mental resources and find pathways to your goals, be more productive and feel in control every day.

16 thoughts

  1. Today I have learned several points about point of views and the way I understand the text.

    First, I learned that I have to know who the author is and where they come from, and how are they related to the story that they are writing. For example, Dalrymple had almost nothing to do with the Babri Masjid dispute. He was just a writer who read the news and interviewed the Rajmata. He was not a Hindu or a Muslim. In fact, he’s an outsider and an observer. Knowing about the author’s context helps me to be aware of the thoughts that come across me when I’m reading this text. Since this is from an outsider’s point of view, I have to be more careful since I believe that sometimes, the people who experienced it have more understanding of the event that they are experiencing than someone who is just an observer.

    Since we were focusing on looking at this text through an Marxist’s point of view, I developed an idea about ideologies and the text. By making me look at this text through the Marxism theory, it makes me want to know more about the context behind Marxism. Because, for a lot of people to accept Marxism, they must be in a similar situation to do so. For them to accept Marxism, or to fall for a certain ideology, they must be in a similar context or have been through the same feelings in order to do so. the Marxism lens represents a point of view. Just as with the other point of views, knowing about the context of a point of view helps us to understand more about a certain situation.

    After today’s class, I have learned that I have to be aware of the word choices that the author has chooses to use. The words that the author chooses to use has a certain connotation to it and the right connotation to describe an event can have a significant effect on the readers. For example, in page 79 first sentence, the author wrote, ” What can one make of a naive and pious old woman who can close her eyes to the massacre of innocent people carried out by her own supporters? Who can willfully fail to make the connection between the emotions she whips up and the garroted corpse lying in the dirt of a narrow alleyway?” Notice that in here, the author uses the words based on his point of view such as “Massacre, innocent, supporters, and garroted.” These gave us a clear feeling that the Rajmata is doing a bad thing. The line is basically saying that the Rajmats allows the crazy killing against people who have done nothing wrong and harm them in ways possible. So, a technique here where the author puts his or her own thoughts into texts by word choices can help us understand the text in a better way since we will know what the author thinks about the situations and how we also agree or disagree with the authors.

  2. On Friday’s class, I have, through the discussion of the text, learnt interesting ideas about analysing a work and points of view. The most critical will have to be the importance of having the ability to understand the context in which the author is writing in. A piece of text does not appear out of nowhere, nor was the text written in a vacuum. That being said, there are influences towards the author’s various choices and decisions in the creation of the work, and it is essential to understand it. Understanding of the historical time period of the text can help understand the reasons why the author portrayed the situation through the used literary styles. The understanding of ideas predominant in the author’s work may also help, such as the philosophies the author may be believing in (republicanism, socialism, class-struggles, etc) as it may lead the author to certain political agendas or critical comments on the society. It was important for our discussion that we understood the situation of the riots in Bombay and the rivalry struggle between the majority Hindus and the minority Muslims.

    The point of view of the author was also critical in examining the text. As travel writing is in the middle of journalism and literature, there is the mixture between literary elements and the presentation of facts, through the bias of the author. In this situation, although the author is considered an outsider to the situation, it is unfair to say that the author has no bias. It was clear that the author had some sympathy in his tone towards the oppressed and that the author used his values and customs to deem the oppressors’ actions as unjust. Many seem to call the observers’ point of view as the “neutral” one. However, I do not believe in the presence of neutrality. An observer would use the customs and values not native to the setting to judge the situation, and that may prove to be unfair to one or both parties involved in a conflict.

  3. From the discussion during Friday’s class, the most important point that I learned was to what extent point of view affects the author’s perception of the event. Dalrymple was an outsider who was mostly neutral to the event he was documenting, yet in his work we could see he had an opinion on the matter. Although he was neither a Muslim nor a Hindu, from his own perspective, he sided with the Muslims. He could see the they were being abused merely because of religious differences and from this observation, we learned that the genre of travel writing is a blend between journalism (reporting unbiased facts) and memoir (which can be biased and tell one’s own version of the story). If Dalrymple was either Muslim or Hindu, for the matter, his account would have been rather different. This would be especially true if he were a Hindu, which shows another example of how greatly point of view affects the text. If Dalrymple had been Hindu and had taken part in the abuse of the Muslims, the text would be greatly changed- he would be in support of the event rather than in disgust.
    The other important point that I learned during Friday’s class was how to look through an event through a different lens- in the case of Friday’s discussion, it was through the Marxist lens. I thought doing this was eye-opening because it forced me to look at the text through an idea that was listed out on a piece of paper in front of me. My understanding of the Marxist lens was not very in depth, yet I was still able to use the ideas of Marxism to look at the text. We examined the text through political ideas, such as class struggle, rather than the emotional aspects of the text, which seemed to stand out the most when I was reading it through my own perspective.

    1. I agree with Charlotte’s idea on how the author’s point of view affects how the text is written. I agree that if Dalrymple was a Hindu, he would be supportive of the event rather than showing disgust about it. And, the text would have written differently with the goal of portraying how much he supported this event. I also agree with her that although my understanding of the Marxist theory was not very in depth, I was still able to use what I have understood about Marxist theory so far to help me understand the text

  4. From the discussion on Friday, I have learned how much a closed opinion or point of view can affect the way you look at something. If you look at a text through one window, as we did in class on Friday, and this is the only window you are able to look through, certain points in the text will stand out, while other points may seem irrelevant. This relates to real life situations in that people often look at conflict through their own lens: a lens that is formed from their own opinions, thoughts, beliefs, experiences, and culture. When you only see things through your own lens, and only your lens, you can become biased or close-minded. That’s why it’s so important to see things from other peoples’ points of view, as this closed lens has become quite common in society. For example, in the text, the points of view of the Muslims, the Hindus, and the journalist are all completely different, and in order to fully understand the situation, it’s important to look at every angle to understand the feelings and thoughts of everyone involved.

  5. I agree with Chelsea on her opinion that it is important to understand the feelings and thoughts of people through different angles. People do look at things through their own lens which is closely related to their context. So, it is important to be open-minded so that we can avoid being biased. To understand the situation means to look at it from different points of view because if you only look at it from a certain point of view, you only understood parts of the situation.

  6. From the class discussion we had on Friday, I have learned that thinking about something through a specific point of view can narrow down the way people see and think about things. This will lessen the possibilities of things our minds can inquire because we are focused on certain things. When people think in a specific manner instead of a general manner, the thoughts will result with more focus and depth into the topic. However, thinking through a point of view can make people feel forced since not everyone agrees with the perspective. It can be a challenge for someone to think through something they do not agree with.

    Context is also an important factor when considering travel writing. As we have discussed earlier, we learned that the environment shapes the individual which could definitely affect his or her works. The author’s perception has been gradually built up by the environment he or she lives in, and that causes the author to think in the way he or she does. Since author’s background can be a major influence to his or her writing, knowing the background could also help us understand the author is a totally different way. This may also be the cause of bias in the texts. Every author tries to convey the readers into agreeing with them, and sometimes he or she does that without even realizing. These travel texts are written through the author’s personal lens. However, viewing it with other lens, or even our own, may not let us truly understand what the author is trying to say.

    1. I can relate to Volk’s point that it can be challenging to be forced to think in a way we personally don’t agree with. Half the class said on Friday that it was difficult to think through the point of view Marxism because we all were not that familiar with it to begin with.
      I thought Volk’s other point, “travel texts are written through the author’s personal lens” is quite interesting because each person grew up in different environments, nurtured by different systems, and definitely has one’s own unique personality that affects every single decision one makes. This maybe why we, under some circumstances, may not completely truly totally understand a situation through an author’s personal point of view.

  7. Last Friday, we had a class discussion on using the lens of Marxism to focus on the extract of Dalrymple’s The Age of Kali. The whole experience taught me how point of view can change our response towards a text, though we may not like it. As a result, it may create a feeling of oppression in the reader towards the text by some extent. Still, reading a text through an opposing point of view can sometimes be a benefit. Since we often become bias towards our own opinions when we read, reading through something we disagree can create a more holistic picture of the whole context. It also will give us a wider knowledge of the text in different ways to look at. Which would result to a deeper understanding in a text.

    Using the lens of Marxism in order to read the extract also gave me a unique way of understanding the point of view of marxism itself. Since Marxism can come in many forms, we can artistically view it in many shapes. Before reading the extract, I only knew about Marxism from history class, where we learned about how Lenin adopted and practiced the theories in Russia. But after reading The Age of Kali, I begin to realize how Marxism does not just belong to Russia history, but could be improvised through different events in history and maybe even today. As a result, reading through the lens of Marxism also gave me a more thorough understanding of the point of view itself.

    1. I could also relate to how I may not like how a point of view (like Marxism) may oppress me to think in a way that I dislike. I agree to Pat’s point that disliking a point of view maybe beneficial as different perspectives can sometimes grant a more thorough understanding. I think it is also thought provoking that a point of view generated in one era can be repeatedly applied to events in history and those that are upcoming.

  8. Last Friday we had a discussion in class on critically looking at a text though a Marxist’s point of view which focused prominently on the social context of the author and the situation’s historical context. William Dalrymple, the author of the text The Age of Kali , was a foreign outsider towards this whole Bombay Riots situation between Muslims and Hindus. He was a part of neither of those groups but it was apparent in his writings that he had his own opinions regarding the situation that influence how readers respond to his text. This discussion was an experience of us looking through a Marxist’s point of view to view a text of situation through Dalrymple’s point of view. I learned that if we choose to take a stand on one perspective, then our focus would only be based on the nature of that perspective. For example, only economic aspects (social classes, inequality, poverty/wealth, etc) are registered in our minds when we take a Marxist’s point of view. This also means that other details of the same situation may be neglected totally if the nature of that point of view does not offer a large enough span.

    1. I agree with Naam’s point “if we choose to take a stand on one perspective, then our focus would only be based on the nature of that perspective.” When we look at something through one perspective, our minds would eliminate other thoughts that are unrelated. We would only be focused on the specific point of view we were told, and our thoughts will be less general and more specific. This practice is good because we would understand people more easily through their unique lenses.

  9. From the discussion on the extract from William Dalrymple’s The Age of Kali through a Marxist’s point of view, considering the fact that point of view plays a part upon shaping the individuals’ understanding about the text, through Friday’s discussion, I have learned that by adopting a point of view (e.g. Marxist), or by wearing another’s lens other than Reader’s Response Theory – allows readers to read the text from their own point of view – it forces the individual to perceive the text according to the lens the individuals adopt. Moreover, I have learned that by wearing a particular lens while reading the text rather than reading the text generally (individuals’ opinions toward text), it allows the individual to have a deeper understanding upon the text. For instance by taking a Marxist’s point of view, it forced me to perceive the text differently than I would have to and to be more aware of the social class (Marxist) aspect of the text – a limited perception. In addition, I have learned that the readers must be open-minded towards both the text and the lens or the point of view in order to be able to adopt it fully.

    1. I agree with Gaem’s point stating that looking at a text through different lenses make us have a “limited perception” on each text. The readers will automatically create different thoughts when reading through a lens and reading generally. I can also relate to being forced to perceive the text differently. However, this is challenging for me because it is not easy to be forced into thinking in ways I do not agree.

  10. From the discussion on Friday, we had a look of Dalrymple’s The Age of Kali with a new understanding, as we had more knowledge the article’s social context. Although as a reporter observing and reporting the Bombay riots with no relations to the situation, it is still quite clear as to which side he was on through his way of writing and what he chooses to present to the reader. From the discussion, I have learned that we should consider texts from a variety of angles to make the most out of our understanding. The first and automatic one is probably reader’s response, because it is usually how we respond to most things that we face in our lives – with our personal opinions. However, as we have access to knowledge, we come closer to knowing how other people think and where there opinions come from as well. With the Marxist’s way of viewing this text, I feel limited to what I am supposed to think of the text. Continuously being pushed into this point of view, however, opens a new way of looking at the text and is far from limited. This way, I can make connections to many more subjects, such as history and philosophy. More importantly, if I were to read it to my own personal response, this piece would not make me think as much as I did as compared to a Marxist’s lens. Even if I did not agree with the point of view, I have come closer to accepting it and I think that is the key to open-mindedness.

  11. We spent the past week studying point of views, and during last Friday’s class we applied the point of view concept into studying a text. We used a critical lens to study “The Age of Kali” by Dalyrimple, and we tried narrowing our perspective by only approaching the text through the Marxist point of view. This point of view focuses more on the social context of the text, which this includes analyzing the social and political events and problems going on. We then can evaluate and judge the text based on that context we found out. Through this method of thinking, we only focused on one specific point, which makes us think in only one specific way. This may both be a good and a bad thing, as we focus on only one aspect of the text, we can deeply absorb that understanding, but when we try to hard to think in one way it limits us from other possible opinions. As I have discussed in class, I did not really agree with the Marxist lense, or rather I did not fully understand it, so my first attempt in putting on a lens and reading a text isn’t quite effective. After today’s discussion I did learn about the class struggles and the social clashes in the story, so that is at least something I’ve learned through this point of thinking. When I am told to think a certain way, although it limits me from expanding my thoughts, I would know exactly where my head is heading. In other words, by having a fixed lens I am subconsciously guided to think in one way, and this can help me carry my thoughts until the end. Usually when I read or do something, everything is open-ended, and I prefer it that way. So for me, this is also kind of stepping out of that comfort zone and being efficient in another way. As we study different perspectives, I also realized that not only are our analysis affected by the different lenses we take, if we think about it as the author composes a piece of writing, they must be taking a certain perspective into thinking, so I can say that perspective is a very big part in both reading and writing.

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