Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Role of the Writer in a Globalized World: The Fiction of Haruki Murakami

The role of the writer in a globalized world is both European ideology and invention. It is ideology as specific bourgeoisie history and political freedom in Europe was transformed by the German philosopher Immanuel Kant through his “Cosmopolitan” essay (1784) into a world republic (weltrepublik). Kant’s abstract universalizing concept was actualized by the rise of the European novel and the spread of European colonization in the 19th century and the Internet in the late 20th century. Logically ideas connected to economy, politics, military and literature were constructed as totality project of a single globalized world. Digital connectivity, universalization of European values of freedom and reason have created a new global reality. Therefore the role of the writer in a globalized world is a European invention and depends on the moral values, aesthetic culture and literary taste of the ‘digitally connected” Anglo-American world. Therefore we need to imagine the role of the writer within this globalized and individualized world which is guided by capitalism and modernity. Within this context we must understand the role of Haruki Murakami. Murakami grew up during the idealism of the 1960s which brought people together; he grows old in a twenty-first century where the young feel everything will become worse and disintegrate (dystopia). Murakami wants to create a new idealism for the young who are pessimistic about the future. He believes that the work of fiction can give a “hypothetical axis” (kaso-jiku仮想軸)to the world which is spinning uncontrollably on a broken axis. 

Conclusion: Though Murakami’s fictional spaces are filled with intense passion and a longing to be loved there is a bewildering confusion at the heart of his fiction. People like the Sheep Man reject the constraining aspects of society and go into hiding from “war, civilization, the law, the system.” They find themselves “at the edge of the world” where “everything spill[s] over into nothingness;” only love redeems (Dance Dance Dance, 389). At the end, neither the writer nor his characters are in a position to pontificate about the efficacy or futility of the world they live in. Can we finally create a “universal civic society which administers law among men” as Kant wanted? When Tengo in IQ84 asks the question to himself, “What kind of world will be there tomorrow?” the wise Fuka-Eri reading his mind answers, “’No one knows the answer to that. Only time will tell.” 

Mukesh Williams, January 16, 2015

Time Trappers


We are the time trappers
Alert to paradigms,
Passing fantasies of the flesh,
Calibrating myths, metaphors and mood,
Measuring our hopelessness,
Our ennui, our love patterns, our anxieties,
Against our heartbeats,
Wanting to say this,
Stuttering to articulate that,
Weaving dark veils
Of language and vocabularies,
Fabricating worldviews,
Categories, moral cognates,
Whispering through the tick-tock of cogs
Into the insurmountable trilogy of time,
Ensnared in its palladian.

July 17 ,2010

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Academic Writing: Writing an academic essay

1. The topic sentence usually comes at the beginning of a paragraph. It is generally the first sentence in a formal academic paragraph. Not only is a topic sentence the first sentence of a paragraph, but, more importantly, it is the most general or all-purpose sentence in a paragraph. What does the term ‘most general or all-purpose’ mean? It means that there are not many details in the sentence, but the sentence introduces an overall idea that you want to discuss later in the paragraph. Remember that the opening sentence establishes your style and sets the tone of your essay. It should be direct, brief and punchy. Brevity is the soul of wit. If your opening sentence is short and interesting, it will pull your reader right into your experience or the idea you are presenting.

2. Since the topic sentence is both general and all-purpose, details should appear later it the paragraph. The second and third sentences are called supporting sentences as they support or explain the idea expressed in the topic sentence. Of course, paragraphs in English often have more than two supporting ideas. On an average you should have at least five or seven sentences in your paragraph.

3. In formal paragraphs you may come across a sentence at the end of a paragraph which summarizes the information that has been presented earlier. This is the concluding sentence. You may like to think of a concluding sentence as a sort of topic sentence in reverse. Therefore a topic sentence may either come in the beginning or at the end of the paragraph. In some cases it might also come in the middle to give you an idea of what happened before and after.

4. A common image used for teaching paragraphs to students is called the hamburger. Consider a hamburger that you can buy at a fast-food restaurant. A hamburger has a top bun (a kind of bread), meat, cheese, lettuce, other ingredients in the middle of the hamburger and a bottom bun. If you examine the hamburger carefully you would notice that the top bun and the bottom bun are very similar. In a way, the top bun is like your topic sentence and the bottom bun like your concluding sentence. Both buns ‘hold’ the meat, onions and other ingredients. Similarly the topic sentence and concluding sentences ‘hold’ the supporting sentences in the paragraph.

5. Whenever possible, you should include enough details in your paragraphs to help your reader understand exactly what you are writing about. Why are details important? Consider the example of the hamburger mentioned above. If the hamburger buns are the topic and concluding sentences, then the meat, the cheese, the lettuce and the sauce are the supporting details. Without the food between the hamburger buns your hamburger would not be delicious! Similarly without the supporting details, your paragraph would not be interesting. To further make your paragraph interesting vary the length of your sentences.

6. In addition to having a particular type of structure, academic paragraphs are different from ‘ordinary writing, such as letter writing, in that certain kinds of expressions are not commonly used. For example in formal essays, you should not use contractions such as don't or aren't. Instead you should write out the words in full for example do not and are not.

7. Also in formal essays you should avoid the first and second person. That is, do not use the pronouns I or you unless you are writing an autobiography. The pronouns we and us are sometimes used in formal essays in some major fields but in general you should not use these unless you are certain that they are customary in your field and/or your professor allows them. It is safer simply to use the third person and write in the active voice.

8. While sentences provide the meat of a paragraph, there are three concepts in paragraph writing that may be considered the sauce. These ideas provide the conceptual framework that holds all paragraphs together:
A. Unity: it means that you fully explain or prove one key idea or subject in a paragraph.
B. Coherence: it implies that you repeat one key idea from sentence to sentence until it reaches its full development in the conclusion.
C. Development: it means that you adequately explain, illustrate, and provide details or proof for each point in the paragraph.

If you take one key idea and state it clearly, then follow it up with a sentence for each detail or piece of evidence, and finally restate your idea, then you can write acceptable, clear paragraphs. Always check spellings and grammar before submitting your essay.

Here are some resources on the web to help you with paragraph writing:
The 5-paragraph essay at
Paragraph writing at
Video at

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Plato’s Republic

Though Plato was of noble birth and intellectually superior to most of his contemporaries he opted out of politics due to the injustices of a tyrannical oligarchy and the unjust execution of his mentor Socrates by the Athenian jury. After the Peloponnesian wars two powerful groups, The Four Hundred and Thirty seized control of the government turning Athens into a brutal oligarchy. Plato’s eccentric teacher Socrates was seen as a threat to the status quo and was falsely accused by a 500 strong Athenian jury of inventing new deities and not recognizing the state gods. Plato decided not to be a part of this corrupt political system but to continue the good work of his mentor. He founded an Academy in 387 BC, the first modern university in the west. Here students learned all sorts of things ranging from politics and law to medicine and philosophy. It was not an ivory tower institution but prepared students to enter different professions by teaching subjects relevant to life and society. The Academy lasted for 912 years.

Plato’s Republic does not pontificate, preach or poeticize but philosophize. It pays special attention to reason, order and the association of thought. A philosopher has not only thought about different subjects deeply but also attempts to explain the connections and possibilities. All philosophy begins with being critical and often arrives at conclusions which are quite surprising, what we often call reasoned truth. Unlike the social sciences, philosophy does not have a fixed subject; it deals with all forms of human knowledge. It encompasses ideas connected to morality, truth and being and much more. Often there are no fixed terminologies to guide our understanding. We should therefore follow inquires of a philosopher before we can understand his logic. Often understanding the logic of philosophers might be difficult as they express complex ideas in a convoluted manner. But when philosophy is simple such as Plato’s or other Greek philosophers it seems hard to understand.

The Republic begins with moral philosophy by asking the fundamental question of Greek society: What is justice? Justice was one of the overarching Greek values and fundamentally connected to the cultivation of virtues. Plato was interrogation the question of how to live well which was central to human nature, to the human soul. Once we could answer this question the best form of human life is possible. How should we define justice? How should it administered? How should it be realized in a given state? Plato therefore moves from a definition of justice, to just action and then laying it down as an ideal state policy, a model for existing societies of his times and the ones yet to come. Plato realized that the best form of human life was only possible in some sort of an organized community. The civic community was closely connected to Plato’s idea of the best order of human society. In The Republic Plato provides an ideal picture of the human soul. To the Greeks there was no separation between ethical and political functions in society. Similarly for an individual the ethical and political spheres were knit together into a single entity. There was no difference between the laws, custom and religion of a given society. To understand one was to understand all.

Plato often criticizes the prevailing social institutions and practices. He challenges opinions and questions rhetoric which is false. The Republic is not just philosophy but also a book about social and political reform. Often this leads to prejudice and differs in approach from Aristotle’s works.

Plato’s speculations are dialogical in nature following the tradition of Socrates which had to do with the prevailing literary climate of the time. Greek literature was more concrete, objective and impersonal than modern literature. Greek drama was less subjective. Take the example of Thucydides whose history lacks personal details and reflection. Often fictitious speeches are given to real characters thereby compensating for general reflection. The Greeks had not yet separated the exposition of ideas from the representation of characters as we have done. Plato used known persons to present philosophical ideas and opinions, something they did posses in actual life. Though such characters possess propriety and vivacity, they lack historical truth a feature of our times. Aristophanes also does not conform to historical truth. When we come to modern philosophers such as Berkeley we find that they use characters as character in philosophy rather than as real characters. Bunyan is the best example of the Platonic presentation of ideas. The Protagoras can be seen as a great philosophical drama and Euthydemus a philosophical burlesque. Most of Plato’s works, except the Laws and the Timeaus, possess a dramatic quality which is eschewed in modern philosophical exposition. If we see the Republic we discover that the dramatic quality of the book diminishes as it progresses but Plato often revives it

In the ten books of The Republic Plato demonstrates the superiority of living a just life in a moral world where the just are rewarded and the unjust punished not only in this but also in the next. The myth of Er in the 10th book takes us beyond into an afterlife through the return of the warrior Er who details his adventures in an absolute world.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Speaking Without Alibi

We live in a world of alibis,
Of having been elsewhere,
Of retreating in the shadows,
Of dragging our feet.

But to speak out compellingly,
To produce some effect,
Is to provoke the other and
Confront ourselves without excuses.

by Mukesh Williams