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  • Aesthetics of Hunger: (In)fusion Approach, Literature, and the Other
  • Ranjan Ghosh (bio)

Such welcome and unwelcome things at once / ’tis hard to reconcile.

—Macbeth (IV. iii. 138–39)

Literature accommodates many kinds of knowledge…historical knowledge, a geographical, a social (colonial), a technological, a botanical, an anthropological knowledge…if by some unimaginable excess of socialism and barbarism, all but one of our disciplines were to be expelled from our educational system, it is the discipline of literature, which would have to be saved, for all knowledge, all the sciences are present in the literary monument.

—Roland Barthes (1996, 463)

Literature creates its own hunger, the desire to feed on the “other” and be fed upon. Hunger is created upon literature; literature is formed out of a hunger to explicate ways of human experience and engagements with emotions. It is anchored in a hunger which is its eros, its creative aesthesis, its power of sustenance and motivation. The inherent hunger of literature calls for at once imaginative ventures of cross-disciplinarity and understanding of human values born out of philosophic designs—both conceptual and experiential. Literature has the ability to operate beyond the point of a direct act of perception. This is what lends freedom to individual interpretive journeys, furthering intelligible aesthetic experiences. We encounter new “interpretive behaviours” with potentially realizable values springing out of a certain premise of inheritance, a “literary heritage” of ideas nourished by a certain intellectual climate, cultural and symbolic accumulation, and also some “unfulfilments” which keep literature alive from the subjugation of interpretive reification. Hunger satiated is hunger generated. Hunger attended is hunger possibilised. Hunger is experience realised; hunger is responsibility awaiting fulfillment. This paper argues out the various incarnations of hunger in our understanding of literature both at the level of the “aesthetic” [End Page 143] and the “post-aesthetic.” If literature has to matter, its existence is beholden to the dynamics of both the levels of sense-generation—the complex experience resulting from knowledge, non-knowledge, and silence.

(In)fusion and the Aesthetic of Hunger

The success of interpretation is most often a lie. The text in its reticulated existence brings the disenfranchised “others” to bear on its signification. For me, this “aesthetic of hunger” in literature is about forming, foregrounding, and fictionalising the “other.” This “other” is born out of an urge and need to feel out for a variety of discourses and thoughts across cultures and traditions. The literary critic as a disciplinary scofflaw, a Barthean “joiner,” appreciates the ineliminable hunger in literature to evolve greater modes of meaning and deeper enclaves of sense, and this “hunger,” integral to literature’s survival, leads us to the transcultural poetics of meaning and understanding. This “aesthetics of hunger” can be argued through what I have termed elsewhere as “(in)fusion approach.” Complicit in risk, romance, horizon-fusing, freshness, culture of dissent, and democratic criticism, (in)fusion approach has come to question the politics of “border patrol,” the logic of interpretive knowledge formations and “talking” across cultures, traditions, systems in our understanding of the other. It is through (in)fusion approach that one comes to acknowledge the scientific, moral, aesthetic, and religious claims of the text without the monadic conceptual matrix, the one theory jacket, single-concept strapping. Critical orientation need not be baggaged with commodified theory; rather, a deep understanding of conceptual paradigms can make our habitation with texts transgressive, mobile, transitive, and, sometimes, manifestly difficult. Reflecting on (in)fusion approach, John W. P. Phillips succinctly argues that

the political element in this motivated call to a renewal of our approaches to theory seems all the more urgent when one considers the institutional barriers to ways of thinking about how partitions, closures and exclusions arise. The institution, in short, has banned the combining of senses that would coexist in the new coinage, fusion (melting, liquefying by heat, and joining by, or as if by, melting) and infusion (the pouring of liquid over any substance in order to extract its active qualities). The Latin (fundere, fusum) can be either to pour (the warm water over the herbal mixture) or to melt (the wax before sealing a letter). The flexibly metaphorical lexicon that Ghosh has...


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pp. 143-157
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